In life, there are winners and losers. You can’t always win, and you have to take responsibility for the losses. Rolling Loud's fifth annual music festival looked great on paper and included handfuls of Instagram-worthy moments, but spotty logistics and some abrasive guests also played a role in its day-to-day performance. Here are the winners and losers of Rolling Loud 2019:
Winner: XXXTentacion tributes. Love him or hate him, the controversial South Florida rapper who was gunned down last year had a bigger presence at this year's festival than any artist actually in the lineup. Artists from Ski Mask the Slump God to Denzel Curry and many others took time out of their sets to pay tribute to X by playing his music. Artwork memorializing the Plantation native, including photographs and full murals, was spread across the festival. On top of all that, DJ Scheme presented a full XXX tribute at the Audiomack stage on Saturday night, drawing a sizable crowd looking to experience the late rapper’s music from the Rolling Loud stage one last time.
Loser: Mosh pits. Is a mosh pit cool if the artist onstage has to beg the crowd to get it started? All weekend, rappers begged for mosh pits to open up, often to no avail. By my count, Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Yachty, Goldlink, Rae Sremmurd, Migos, Lil Mosey, J.I.D, and Lil Uzi Vert begged the most. Somebody needs to let these rappers know that's not punk, it’s just a manufactured photo op.
Winner: One-hit wonders. I’m looking at you, Sheck Wes and Lil Nas X. Two of the most viral rap hits of the past year made it to Rolling Loud’s main stage in 2019 and proved to be among the most filmed and talked-about highlights of the weekend. Neither artist seemed willing to let the moment pass without fully capitalizing, as Sheck Wes performed “Mo Bamba” twice, and Lil Nas X brought out Billy Ray Cyrus for “Old Town Road.” Though they didn’t squander their appearances on rap's biggest stage, one had to wonder whether they deserved headlining slots, considering some of the weekend’s more established acts were relegated to sets on the auxiliary Audiomack and Monster Energy stages.
Loser: Free water. The idea of free water always looks good on paper, but at festivals, you’re better off paying for it. Rolling Loud had two free water stations available to festival-goers that provided nothing but long lines and false hope once the warm water touched attendees' lips. Lugging around a container or a hydration pack almost seemed useless when the lines poured out into the crowds, making you choose between your favorite artist’s set time and thirst.
Loser: Artists' performance value. It’s safe to say Rolling Loud is one of the biggest hip-hop festivals in the world and one of few in Miami, so getting booked to perform is a blessing. Though artists can easily half-ass a recorded track in a studio, a live appearance requires rehearsal and dedication, which were inadequate at Rolling Loud 2019. Many of the artists lacked performance value. There was little stage presence, and some performed overmastered recordings. Artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Denzel Curry, Lil Baby, and 21 Savage took the time to plan their sets by adding either live music or dancers. They put the e in "entertainment" by providing the energy the crowds needed as they stood for hours awaiting late sets. When performers don't invest time in their sets, it shows. Artists like Blueface and Sheck West delivered subpar appearances, making many question what truly goes into a rap performance.
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WInner: Art activations. While Rolling Loud is known for booking the biggest acts in hip-hop, there should be more to do around the festival than just listen to music. Organizers took the time to curate activations and art installations along with games and rides. The grounds included a skateboard ramp by Monster Energy, an interactive wall to celebrate Five Years With Rolling Loud, a live photo booth, murals of your favorite late rappers, and live paintings.
Winner: Florida talent. Not only do organizers save money on flights and hotels when they book local artists, but they also give the artists their moments to shine. Rolling Loud was birthed in South Florida, so it was only right to place the stars of the city on the bill. Recognition matters. Bigger artists like Denzel Curry, DaniLeigh, Zoey Dollas, Brianna Perry, Ice Billion Berg, Rick Ross, Ski Mask the Slump God, and Sylvan Lacue represented Florida perfectly. Smaller artists and collectives including Gat$, Members Only, Danny Towers, and more also put Florida on the map.