Another year of SXSW has come and gone, and another round of artists have put their talents on display for the world to see.
The beauty of SXSW is that it is an opportunity for artists who have been grinding all year to prove themselves in front of a large audience, and it’s time to put up or shut up for artists who generated a buzz for themselves on the internet. At the end of the day, being a musician is about being a performer, and SXSW is where you’re supposed to shine.
These are the artists who lived up to their hype, proved they deserve more hype, and showed that they deserve to be put back on the 2017 shelf.
Look Out For:
This rap duo, consisting of Zeale Rapz and Phranchyze, are local gems to Austin, TX, and deserve to break out internationally. Not only is their music full of kinetic energy and bounce, and produced by Gary Clark Jr., their live performance is absolutely insane. Chemistry is everything in a rapper duo, and these guys came straight out of Walter White’s lab. Their routine is air tight, never stumbling over each other verbally or physically, and they play off each other’s energy which causes a chain reaction with their audience, resulting in epic pandemonium for the finale of their set.
We may be a little partial to G because he hails from our part of the state of North Carolina, but the guy is a certified beast on the mic. He spits with a traditional style flow in a way that gives him the ability to express himself powerfully and succinctly, putting his skills as a champion poet on display. G is already well on his way to international greatness having recently spent a stint of time in Japan, mingling with Tokyo’s rap scene, and currently is on the U.S. west coast leg of Dumbfounded's "The Yikes! Tour".
Bobby Sessions blew everyone away at Mass Appeal’s “Live at the BBQ” event on St. Patrick’s Day, even DJ Statik Selektah who praised his performance as the best of the openers, promising to work with him soon. The praise was well deserved. Bobby, a Dallas emcee, is a new signee to Def Jam’s roster, and has a no-frills style that cuts to the bone. He raps about real life, not chains, cars, and money, and his work ethic as a hopeful rapper who left his full time job with only $50 in the bank to pursue music a couple years ago, shows in his air tight stage presence.
Honorable Mentions: Valee, Bad Gyal, Eearz
Keep Paying Attention To:
Maxo’s new album Punken is a little more toned down than his previous projects, but his live show absolutely is not! Another standout from “Live at the BBQ” Trigga Maxo was literally everywhere at SXSW, putting on live performances that sent audiences into hysterics, keeping the energy going throughout his set lists. Call a promoter and get him to your city ASAP, because no matter how hard the track “Go” sounds through your headphones, there’s no comparison to how Maxo performs it live. With energy like his, and an ability to connect to an audience the way he does, Maxo isn’t just a sensation, he’s got more to accomplish in the rap game.
Smokepurpp’s lo fi simplicity makes him a dividing force in modern hip hop, with fans of lyrical rap and highly technical production calling his music too dumbed down, and Soundcloud rap fans connecting to his DIY, “every man” approach. At the end of the day, it’s what you can do on stage that differentiates hype from skills as an emcee, and Smokepurpp can move a crowd. He hit the Pandora stage on night 2 of SXSW Music in front of an audience that was already annoyed by major delays in the show schedule, a lazy two-song performance by YFN Lucci (because of the delays), and a no-show from Lil Xan, but turned the crowd into a mosh pit. The defining factor of his effectiveness as a performer is that he genuinely has fun on stage which is infectious, and if his positive attitude persists, we will probably see a lot more from the Miami rapper/producer.
Another North Carolina emcee we may or may not be partial to due to hometown alliances, but Rapsody’s body of work has proven itself -- with Grammy nods and cosigns by virtually every notable player in the rap game – Rap is more than hype. She’s the full embodiment of an emcee, and her grip on her audience is tight. What makes Rapsody stand out is that her presence is undeniably strong and feminine, but not pushing the envelope too far to either side. She’s incredibly balanced, which is what gives her the ability to declare to her audience as she did on St. Patty’s day to a packed crowd: “Don’t call me a female emcee, don’t call me a ‘femcee,’ none of that. When you talk about Rapsody, you say, ‘that motherfucker is a beast!’”
Look out for new Rapsody music as she reunites with Kooley High on their album “Never Come Down,” produced by 9th Wonder, and her episode on the new Netflix series "Rapture" releasing on March 30th.
Honorable Mentions: Wifisfuneral, Cuz Lightyear, Slim Jxmmy
The 21 year old called Pac's music boring and almost got jumped in a fast food restaurant parking lot by a bunch of high school kids for it. All of this while he was supposed to be performing at SX. Look, we get it. Sometimes business deals pop up and you must cancel shows – King Mez cancelled his SXSW 2016 shows because he cruised the Mediterranean on Dr. Dre’s yacht instead. Totally understandable. But Lil Xan trashing one of hip hop’s most sacred fallen pioneers on some young vs old nonsense, then getting chased by a bunch of kids younger than him for his blasphemy, is laughable to the point that we need to just put his ass back on the shelf. That ain’t hip-hop and we guarantee we’ll find a more interesting Soundcloud sensation soon.
All photos taken by Charles Morse for Dopecausewesaid
Charles Morse is a music journalist and DJ based in Raleigh, NC. Follow his photography on IG @ironlense.