As we dive further into the digital era, concertgoing has become as a la carte and listener-perfected as music consumption itself.
Albums are being ditched for curated playlists, and one-off concerts are increasingly taking a backseat to incredibly successful, corporatized festivals across the world. Instead of waiting to see Kendrick Lamar or Lil Wayne perform solo, you can now see both of them along with 40 or so other artists in the span of one weekend for not much more than the cost of good seats to see each of those two individually.
That’s exactly what Dope Entertainment, a Florida-based hip-hop promotional company, is offering to anyone interested in making the trek to Miami this May for the 2017 edition of the Rolling Loud Festival, whose lineup boasts a venerable who’s who of current hip-hop buzz-hounds.
Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Future, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Migos, Lil Yachty—seriously, the lineup is insane—are just but a fraction of a performance bill so overwhelming that all I can think of is the amount of incredibly difficult scheduling decisions I’d be forced to make if I end up attending.
There is, however, one thing missing from their lineup: a female presence.
Of the 51 performers listed on the festival flier, only two are female—Harlem-based singer Polly A and adult film star Uma Jolie, who will be doing a DJ set, apparently. Obviously, this is great for those two women, but not exactly a thorough representation of the wealth of talent to be had from rap's current female contributors.
I know I’ve made the argument against singling out the gender of female emcees, and from a quality perspective I don’t agree with diversity for the sake of diversity, but that’s exactly my point. There are plenty of popular, fantastic female artists that are plenty deserving of a spot on this lineup... they’re just not there. And it’s not due to a lack of suitable talent to draw from, that’s for sure.
I don't think the festival's organizers made a conscious decision to leave names like Kehlani, Jhené Aiko, Rapsody, Young M.A and countless others off the bill, but when there are over 50 performers booked and less than 5% of that total represents roughly half of the world’s population, there’s a clear disconnect in representation.
With a lineup like this, Rolling Loud has staked its claim as the premiere hip-hop festival in the nation—I can’t think of a festival since Rock The Bells retired that even remotely comes close—but with that distinction comes a responsibility to ensure a broad representation of the culture. It's not like adding Kamaiyah, Princess Nokia, Tink or Dreezy would have turned festivalgoers away from purchasing passes.
As far as the range of sounds and styles incorporated in the festival lineup is concerned, the promoters should be commended. But when it comes to fair (or even realistic) representation of current artists from a gender standpoint, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Rolling Loud