Future, visionary of the Southern trap music that is so often described as the sound of our generation, shut down Rolling Loud 2019. Known for his inventive use of autotune to produce the lean-infused, gritty sound that laces his music, Atlanta-based Nayvadius Wilburn is one of the single most recognizable rappers of the century. His insane work ethic and ear for hit singles have led to album after album of chart-topping music. In fact, Future made history by debuting at No. 1 on U.S. charts in back to back weeks with a self-titled album and Hndrxx in 2017. Future’s sound is consistent across his breadth of releases, and he gave the audience exactly what they know and love for a great end to day one of Rolling Loud.
Future came out in a color-blocked windbreaker and he didn’t disappoint fans who are used to hearing him rap about his wealth by wearing a diamond chain with a cross hanging across his chest, a tribute to his Christian faith. He paid homage to his rise to fame by performing “Racks,” which he co-wrote with YC back in 2011 and was one of the first singles to put him on the map. From there, Future sped through hit after hit from his decade of reigning over the trap scene. He gave the audience a great performance, riding on a wave of energy that was surprising given the rough, dark sound of his music. He interacted with the crowd frequently, introducing each song with a pun while smiling coyly at the audience as if letting them in on a joke only he knew.
When Future performed “F— Up Some Commas,” his certified double platinum hit from 2015’s DS2, he hyped up the crowd by having them put their middle fingers in the air as he rapped about his rise to fame and wealth. In moments like these, in which the crowd paid tribute to Future by chanting his lyrics alongside him and thrusting their middle fingers in the air, Rolling Loud really came to life. Future’s set and the sheer number of hits he played was a reminder of his enduring prominence in the rap scene. Fireworks filled the sky in the last moments of Rolling Loud day one, but Future outshone them as the cheers of the audience filled the arena long after he left the stage.
Highlights of the set: “Thought it was a Drought,” “Bugatti,” “F— Up Some Commas,” “Stick Talk”
— Roshni Rawal
SOB X RBE
The Bay Area holds a special place for its own. While rappers such as E-40 and Mac Dre spent years developing the Bay’s trademark sound, SOB X RBE has been able to bring melody to it, which is the key to today’s modern hip-hop setting.
The fresh, young rappers of SOB X RBE began their musical endeavors, they used whatever they could to make music, even recording on their cell phones. After much practice, the group steadily released music online, culminating in the release of their first gold single, “Anti.” With the inclusion of their track “Paramedic!” on Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther: The Album, SOB X RBE saw unprecedented amounts of success, bringing a resurgence to the trademark Bay Area hyphy sound, putting the previously unknown rappers on a national map.
Their sound is unique and undeniably fun — the perfect music for bopping to. This was evident during their Rolling Loud set. The Vallejo residents brought their zaniness to Oakland with a crew of hoodlums decked out in ski masks trailing out behind Yhung T.O. as he crip-walked to the center of the stage. The addictive xylophone melody played, and the crowd went ballistic as a crash of electric guitar completed the “Calvin Cambridge” harmony. Fans tried to spit every word at them but instead ended up mostly spitting on each other, while puffs of smoke arose from the crowd. As an unexpected surprise, SOB X RBE brought out the Los Angeles rap crew Shoreline Mafia to perform their song “Bands.”
SOB X RBE ended their set with Slimmy B, dedicating the performance to a friend who was murdered. But SOB X RBE didn’t leave the audience this way. Rather than ending on a sad note, the group performed an encore of their biggest hit, “Paramedic!,” to the praise of the crowd. Their collaboration with whom many consider to be the greatest living rapper shows that SOB X RBE has much more experimentation to do in the future, and the potential to further the hyphy movement as a whole.
Highlights of the set: “Calvin Cambridge,” “Anti,” “Paramedic!”
— Zach Cruz
Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage was unapologetically himself this Saturday at Rolling Loud, sporting a black Amiri hoodie and black skinny jeans. He came out standing atop a set of stairs on stage and gazed down at the crowd, the recognizable dagger tattoo between his eyes pointing down as well. 21 Savage’s music is filled with references to his life, which has been full of bloodshed, and these references rang clear in the lyrics of his songs as well. Still, angst didn’t define his performances — in fact, there was an element of humor that delighted the crowd and let them know that 21 Savage was there for a good time.
21 Savage was a relaxed and confident performer and when he broke into “Red Opps” off of the 2015 album Free Guwop the audience proved they were fans from day one. As they rapped the hook, repeating, “I’m on that Slaughter Gang s—, Murder Gang s—,” the crowd was filled with exuberant and raised hands.
Videos on screens on the two sides of the stage broke up 21 Savage’s rapping with content that mirrored the trauma and tragedy he described with his music. He opened his set with a tribute to Tayman, his younger brother who was shot and killed in a botched drug deal. Later, a montage depicted 21 Savage’s recent arrest and subsequent detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, for allegedly overstaying his American Visa on his UK citizenship, which was an event that broke headlines earlier this year just a few weeks after his chart-topping album release of I Am > I Was. The audience rallied as he launched into the hit single “a lot” off of I Am > I Was just after the montage, singing alongside him.
21 Savage’s set was marred by skipping tracks, with the crowd booing when he stopped rapping and exclaimed, “This s— finna piss me off,” blaming Rolling Loud for the technical difficulties. A couple of songs later, 21 Savage thanked the crowd and walked off, ending his set early despite the audience’s chanting for him to come back on. Although short, 21 Savage’s performance made it easy to see why he was able to break out of the underground Atlanta scene into the mainstream. His lyrics are rivetingly authentic and the ease and tone with which he delivers them is refreshing and fun, despite the heavy subject matter.
Highlights of the set: “Red Opps,” No Heart, “Bad B—— Only”
— Roshni Rawal
Megan Thee Stallion
Coming off the heels of 2019’s “Hot Girl Summer,” Megan Thee Stallion took to the Rolling Loud stage and flexed her status as a new hip hop powerhouse — forging a path for female club rappers. Megan Thee Stallion has rapping in her blood, with her mother bringing her to recording sessions instead of day care, and it showed in her ability to glide over her slick production. Her performance was the perfect venue for her party anthems, tailored specifically for twerking, to play out.
Megan appeared onstage seemingly out of nowhere, similar to her sudden appearance on the rap scene, but commanded attention immediately. The rapper strut out in all pink and demanded that the “hot girls” in the crowd “turn up.” Meg roared her signature explicit lyrics accompanied by groovy 808 basslines and bouncy drums.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Megan Thee Stallion released a slew of mixtapes, finally breaking through with her Billboard debut “Big Ole Freak.” She brought the heat with “Fever,” refining her musicality to an updated classic Houston sound through her work with legends like Three 6 Mafia’s Juicy J. Her latest success has been her placement on XXL’s cover for its Freshman Class of 2019, where Megan Thee Stallion impressed the masses with her sharp wordplay and rousing flow.
She brought that same tenacity to her live performance with her boisterous attitude and scantily clad background dancers shaking their rump alongside her. Nude bodies covered her screens as she pranced around chanting to the distorted 808s of “Fever’s” biggest hit “Cash Shit.” Megan Thee Stallion finished off her set with her fiery theme song “Hot Girl Summer,” an ode to women everywhere — celebrating the introduction of a new generation of female rappers to the modern rap scene. Megan Thee Stallion has led the charge in a new wave of trap and her dominance has secured her legacy, not only within the scope of female rappers, but in the culture of rap as a whole.
Highlights of the set: “Cash Shit,” “Hot Girl Summer,” “Big Ole Freak”
— Zach Cruz
Contact Zach Cruz at [email protected].