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Concert Experience

Keeping Hip-Hop Alive In Texas

May 6, 2018

Written by: Gavin Ruutledge Photos Courtesy of: Gavin Rutledge

Going into Fortress Fest, I was obviously very excited to see big acts like Courtney Barnett and Father John Misty, but I was equally excited to see all of the rap/hip-hop artists that were set to perform on Saturday. Before this weekend, I had never been to a rap concert before, so I felt very lucky that I was going to be able to see so many artists that have had such a large influence on the genre for my first experience. Unfortunately I didn’t really get to see a lot of A Cure for Paranoia (apparently they are opening for Nas in Dallas which is really cool), but I loved every other artist I got to see!

One of the most positive and uplifting artists at the festival was Rapsody. Having verses on albums like Kendrick’s

To Pimp a Butterfly

and Anderson Paak’s


has definitely strengthened her career recently, but that isn’t to say that she’s not a strong album artist in her own right. On her most recent (Grammy-nominated) album,

Laila’s Wisdom

, she preaches heavily about self-love and hard work against impossible odds, and these themes definitely carried over into her set. She spoke a lot about having the strength to do what you believe in, specifically calling out all of the women in the crowd to encourage them before playing “Black and Ugly,” one of my favorite songs on Laila’s Wisdom. It was a great song for her to play because it is very inspiring and deals with overcoming self-esteem issues caused by cultural standards. Rapsody’s infectious positivity made her set incredibly enjoyable.

RZA was also insanely good. I was kind of obsessed with Wu-Tang Clan in high school, so it was really cool to get to see one of their most integral members perform live. He had a crazy amount of energy on stage for someone who has been performing for nearly thirty years. RZA performed with Stone Mecca, which was a great pair because he obviously had a lot of respect for Wu-Tang Clan and the legacy that they have. Stone Mecca was great on the guitar and his backing band also brought a lot of energy to the table. RZA stopped the show at one point to talk about how much his cousin, Russell Tyrone Jones (Ol’ Dirty Bastard), meant to him which I thought was pretty heartwarming. He then covered “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” which is one of my all time favorite songs, so it was amazing to see that live. His whole set was very raw and angry and it was obvious that the crowd really loved it.

My time was cut short with both Shabazz Palaces and De La Soul (we had to get good spots for The Voidz right after De La Soul started), but I was still happy to see a few songs from each of them. Shabazz Palaces’ trippy production and vocal delivery translated really well into their live show. It was really cool for me to get to see Ishmael Butler in person because Digable Planets is another one of my favorite rap groups, and his music means a lot to me. Later on in the night, De La Soul came onto the main stage ready to go crazy, but they got upset with all of the photographers in the front that weren’t digging the music and were just trying to take pics (which was a little awkward, but I totally understood where they were coming from). After that was settled, they put on a really amazing show. They had a big focus on introducing the younger people in the crowd to old school hip-hop while also playing songs that the older people in the audience already love.

All in all, Fortress Fest had a much better selection of hip hop artists than they did last year (Run the Jewels and Flying Lotus are great, but other than them there really wasn’t anyone else). The ACL lineup was just announced, and in my opinion the rap/hip-hop section is a little bit lacking. They have some big-name artists, but they don’t really have any legacy acts, so Fortress kind of has an edge on them this year in that regard. Fortress Fest did a great job of getting a bunch of rap legends together while also gathering some new ones that carry the same kind of passion and energy that their predecessors had, and I hope that they continue to bring in more great acts in the future.

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