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10 Unmissable Acts at Rolling Loud 2018

Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography; Ritchie with A T and Stepa J Groggs of Injury Reserve at Toad's place in New Havem Conn.

 

Rolling Loud 2018 promises to be one of the biggest gatherings in the history of hip-hop culture. It’s building up to be an intergenerational lineup of contemporary sounds and legendary emcee’s. While damn near every act is a proverbial can’t miss, there are a few that are just a little more unmissable than the rest. This is my top 10 unmissable acts at Rolling Loud, broken down by day;

 

Day 1

Young Thug

Atlanta’s own Young Thug is on a level with the likes of Kanye West for his ability to influence hip-hop culture. He may not have the presence to direct the entirety of mainstream culture the way Yeezus does but that skill will come in time. Since dropping his first release on Gucci Mane’s 1017 imprint Thugger has had the hip-hop world by the ear and since he first began to truly let his eccentric style shine through he has had the hip-hop worlds eyes as well. His live performances are second to none in the world of rap and with the entire rap world looking at Miami Young Thug will indubitably put a show worth talking about to secure the hearts and minds of the greater hip-hop nation.  

 

Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography
Cam’ron of The Diplomats at Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck, New Jersey.

The Diplomats

The beef is finally settled and New York hip-hop legends The Diplomats are back in the game killing stages like only Killa Cam, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, and Freekey Zekey can. The slick talking, pink wearing, Harlem natives have been appearing around the country sporadically including a much-hyped show in New York City sponsored by Rap Caviar with Harlem heir apparent A$AP Mob. But The Diplomats in 2018 are still The Diplomats so look for them to provide one of the signature sets of the 2018 festival. This is also one of the sets primed for a special guest, could Weezy show up for a rendition of “Suck It or Not”? Will Hell Rell, 40-Cal, JR Writer or any of the former Dipset affiliates be in attendance? Dipset always balled hard in Miami in their heyday so it stands to reason that they will be lighting it up in their home away from home.

Soletron Fresh
NOLA based emcee Curren$y

Curren$y

Curren$y may not be a name with the level of cache as his NOLA contemporaries like Weezy but he has nonetheless built himself a formidable reputation as a rapper with his own vision of the industry. The Pilot Talk series is a great landmark for an emcee who has so obviously influenced the newest crop of rappers while still being influenced by them. He’s a rapper’s rapper who is undeniably responsible for so much of the aesthetic in both mumblecore and weed rap right now.

 

Day 2

Cardi B

I put Cardi B here with the caveat that the Bronx based emcee may wind up sitting the festival out to prepare to give birth as was announced on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. But if the former stripper is there the fact this could be one of her last shows for quite a while certainly ups the stakes on catching the set. Cardi B has built a name for herself by being unadulterated and completely real. She may have sprung up out of reality TV but the reason we know her name after leaving that world is that she gave is something more. She without out a doubt the most relevant female emcee in the world today and if her trajectory stays consistent it will be nothing but arena shows and festival headlining slots in the future for Cadi.

 

Jason Perssen
Gucci Mane performing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Gucci Mane

Everyone knows it’s been a whole different Gucci since he got out of jail but regardless of which Gucci you get you’re still getting a visionary Atlanta hip-hop star who puts an onus on giving his audience everything he’s got. Gucci is walking a different path then he was previously to his incarceration but the Trapstar that gave us iconic catchphrases like “Burrrrr,” and “Well Dayum” still has plenty to give performance wise. Miami and Atlanta are two cities with deep ties that bind so Gucci will definitely bring it to the masses like it’s a hometown show.

Trick Daddy and Trina.

Trick Daddy and Trina

Seeing Trick Daddy and Trina may not be quite the same as catching the On-the-run tour but that doesn’t mean that these two aren’t legends in the game and even more so in Miami, Florida. What Trick and Trina lack in transcendent hit records in the mainstream they more than makeup for with undeniable street cred and distinguished raw talent. Trina is without a doubt one of the greatest female emcees of all time and together with the T double D they have successfully put Slip-N-Slide Records and Miami hip-hop on the map. While neither has put out a hit record recently there is little doubt that they will want to put their stamp on the biggest hip-hop event to ever hit Miami.

 

Day 3

Ben Garcia
Lil Wayne in Scottsdale Arizona, 2013.

Lil Wayne

There was a time in hip-hop history where Lil Wayne’s name was smack in the middle of the conversation for greatest rapper alive. The Carter series, The Drought Series, and the standalone mixtape No Ceilings put the New Orleans rapper’s lyrical prowess and use of metaphors into the greater lexicon of the American psyche and had serious hip-hop heads and casual listeners alike agreeing that Lil Weezy had bars. The greatest alive heat has probably cooled for the former child prodigy but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still one of the best to do it and a true legend of the southern hip-hop movement. While it may seem like Wayne must be getting up there in age considering he has been releasing hit records since 1996 the fact that he first started rapping at the tender age of 9 has the Louisiana superstar entering his prime as a musician so it’s likely his set will be something to “Phone Home” about.

Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography
Action Bronson at Camp Bisco 2017.

Action Bronson

Though only 2-years younger than Lil Wayne Queens-born rapper Action Bronson represents a whole different generation of emcee then Weezy. With the release, late 2017 release of his second studio album Blue Chips 7,000 and the unyielding success of his television ventures Mr. Wonderful has built himself one of the most devoted fan bases around. Like Riff Raff, Bronson combines his hip-hop persona with a personality somewhat akin to a professional wrestler to get the fans behind him at a more visceral level than just respect for his bars. But unlike Riff, Action actually has bars with which to hang his hat on. Bronson has a clear love performance that he exudes at every live performance and he truly is one of the most charming, albeit aggressive acts traversing the hip-hop circuit today.

Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography
Hartford, Conn. Injury Reserve fan Drew Moran is so impressed by the Phoenix-based 3-piece that he got the name of their second album tattooed on his wrist.

Injury Reserve

Anyone who reads me knew Injury Reserve was going to make this list. I have been following their career since they were playing house shows in Tempe, Arizona and now that they have broken out on the national scene I’m going to toot my horn about it. Ritchie With A T, Parker Corey, and Stepa J Groggs represent the next step in hip-hop’s evolution mixing all the lyrical and production ability of their hip-hop forefathers with the nihilistic sensibilities of this current crop of hip-hop stars. Injury Reserve is the sort of hip-hop group that can speak for a generation and I for one think that by the time they hang up their microphones in one way or another they will have. They put more energy into their live shows than any other rapper I have ever seen an I have seen all the great ones. Of all the acts on this festival, Injury Reserve is the most likely to find themselves with their photo on the cover of The Source as members of next year’s coveted Freshman Class.

Jeff Schaer-Moses

Jeff Moses is an experienced music journalist with more than 1,000 bylines under his belt nationwide. From the world's biggest rock stars to underground musicians living in your very own backyard he has interviewed them all with clarity and integrity. While some people think a great story needs a little journalistic spin, Jeff believes the best stories tend to tell themselves. For him covering big festivals is always big fun, but finding that band that is a diamond in the rough just itching to get their tunes out there is the greatest thrill in life.

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