In a very recent interview with the Press Enterprise, Guerilla Union/Rock the Bells boss Chang Weisberg said “I think all of the acts on this bill are making a contribution to the fabric of hip-hop culture in their own unique ways.” And, though it may sound like the usual pre-show pump-up a head-promoter would utter in his press run prior to his biggest show, the statement rings true. For the most part, every manifestation of hip-hop that exists today is represented at this year's Rock the Bells, and each artist brings something wholly their own and different to the hip-hop festival experience. Whether you want to “turn up,” zone out, nod your head enough times to receive whiplash, or mosh like the heyday of 80's metal just came back, it's all there for your enjoyment. As always, though, there's a handful of artists that shouldn't be missed, and we've cut out the guess-work for you and gone ahead and compiled a list. Email us your thanks on Monday morning.
5. Bodega Bamz
Spanish Harlem's Bodega Bamz is part of a small cadre of Hispanic rappers currently making really good music and constantly giving energetic, sweat-inducing performances, and he's already staked his claim for where he believes his career is destined. In the recently released “Mi Casa,” a record from his upcoming project Dear Non Believers he emphatically states “They saying I'm the successor to Christopher Lee Rios,” alluding to being the heir to late Bronx legend Big Pun's throne. It's a nearly unimaginable spot to fill, considering Pun's reputation as one of the best, most dexterous lyricists to come out of Bamz' hometown, but if Bamz continues to fine-tune his acrobatic, passionate bars, it's a position that could be in his grasp in the future. He's already aligned himself with some of the brightest upcoming artists, such as fellow successful New Yorkers ASAP Ferg and Flatbush Zombies, and continues to put an emphasis on mixing progressive production, lyrical ability, and his own Hispanic heritage.
4. ASAP MOB
At this point in time, the size of ASAP Rocky's ASAP crew and its roster is on the path to becoming the jangled mess that constitutes the Wikipedia page for Wu-Tang affiliates. But, thankfully the ASAP Mob is quite talented, and we've narrowed it down to about five members that we assume will perform on Sunday. They are as follows: ASAP Rocky, ASAP Ferg, ASAP Nast, ASAP Ant, and ASAP Twelvy. Chances are, some others will be added into the mix, but those are the core five we're looking at right now.
As of this moment, ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg are the most noticeable and noteworthy. They are dynamic, versatile wordsmiths that together can probably flow in about two dozen different ways, and have released albums that are fantastic representations of their artistic selves and do a great job at showing how talented they are when it comes to constructing a coherent, concise piece of music. As a duo, these two are equal parts charisma and vibrant, youthful energy — they're like rap game crosses between politicians and Olympic stars. They can both constantly switch their style up lyrically and both have the vocal ability to make every verse sound cinematic. Together, they have more than enough vigor to supply a a whole new ASAP crew.
3. Flatbush Zombies
By the time you fully recover from Rock the Bells, Brooklyn psychonauts Flatbush Zombies will have released their sophomore project. On September 11th, the Zombies' will follow up their 2012 debut by unleashing the reins on their newest body of work, Better Off Dead. Judging by their guest verses and and their most recent song “MRAZ,” this will be another step in the creative evolution of FBZ members Meech, Juice, and Erick Arc Elliot. Except more acid-dipped takes on the usual hip-hop topics, with some spirituality sprinkled on for good measure, and expect more well-matched production courtesy of the Zombies' solid ears for beats their voices sound good on.
If the small discography being expounded upon by FBZ has yet to sell you on their psychedelic sound, you can still put their recorded output aside and engage in the sheer amount of enjoyment that is a Flatbush Zombies show. At this year's Paid Dues, they showed us they're capable of performing and engaging their audience like main-stage headliners and captivating large crowds, and the live show they put on packs enough punch to make Waka Flocka re-evaluate his approach. Even if you've never dabbled in any field of substances in your life, Flatbush Zombies provide their own type of high with their larger-than-life, high-powered stage presence.
2. Freddie Gibbs
Gary, Indiana's Freddie Gibbs has the scariest, most intimidating flow in the game, and it's not just because it's very likely that the threats contained in his raps could very well escape from the booth to your backyard. The main reason is that he just burns through bars so well he makes other rappers and other songs seem so soft and frail in comparison. As time goes on, Gibbs' artistry seems to continue to improve by the year as well. There's not a single sign pointing to him settling down or taking any steps back anytime in the foreseeable future.Freddie Gibbs' most recent release, ESGN, was released after a not-so-amicable fallout with Young Jeezy and his CTE label, and finds Freddie Gibbs at a venomous peak.
1. Danny Brown
Detroit's Danny Brown is "the demon with no tooth,” who is sort of like "Neo with the matrix code.” For days on end, he pops pills, writes raps, drinks a lot, and smokes a lot. He's the "black Brad Pitt” and has coke-fueled orgies with married women and vacations in Maui with Molly. He's psycho, crazy, and deranged, and might "go out like Sam Cooke” because of it, but at the very least we're certain joining him on at least part of his journey will be more fun than anything else we could be doing at the time. When faced with the opportunity to see the show of someone like this, why even care about witnessing a computerized specter of a performer when you could witness someone perform who has more life in them than most bands do?Danny Brown has the September 30th release of Old –the follow-up to his critically acclaimed albums The Hybrid and XXX— on the horizon, and the tracks he's unveiled sound incredible so far, but fortunately the skills he has a performer match the quality of his recorded work, which is a feat in itself.