By Victoria Merlino
Over the thump of the bass, the crash of the percussion and the screams of the crowd at Citi Field last weekend, one mantra, repeated over and over, came through loudest of all: “Open the pit.”
Rolling Loud, the traveling hip-hop festival that’s melted faces from coast to coast for the past five years, made its New York debut last Saturday and Sunday in all it’s ugly-cool-glossy glory. As rap continues to dominate the Top 40, radio stations, stereos and playlists, rappers have morphed into rock stars of their own design.
Hip hop stars like Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug and Playboi Carti lit up the festival stages with their eclectic mix of sounds, fury and truly punk posturing. You could feel Carti’s set before you could hear it, the bass of songs like his breakout hit “Magnolia” hitting you in the chest before hitting your ears. In the grand New York tradition of CBGBs and all that is punk, artists like Blueface, Lil Pump and DaBaby commanded the faithful to face the yawning pit and mosh like their lives depended on it.
The climax of the two days came during the headlining set by Travis Scott, where Scott, spasming in time with “Butterfly Effect,” fell backward and injured his knee.
“I ain’t gonna lie, I think I just broke my knee right now,” Scott told the audience. “But this show cannot stop.” He limped his way through the rest of his set.
Noticeably absent, however, were the five New York rappers who the NYPD requested not to perform because they were allegedly “affiliated with acts of citywide violence,” according to an official letter sent to festival organizers and obtained by media outlets. Between sets, DJs played booted rapper Pop Smoke’s “Welcome to the Party” constantly, the rapper’s voice blaring across the festival as a ghostly reminder of his absence.
It can be easy to dismiss the KITH-wearing teen crowd and the internet stars — like Springfield Gardens’ own Lil Tecca, with his 300+ million streams on his song “Ransom” — propeled to the forefront of pop culture on Tik Tok plays, Spotify and sheer will. But they probably wouldn’t be able to hear the criticism over the thrashing beat.
Warped Tour is dead. Long live Rolling Loud.