Somehow, SXSW is always a learning experience. In spite of the irrational amounts of consistent drinking and overall wear deliberately put on our bodies while attending, we always leave the Austin extravaganza with more game than we came in with and feel the need to share. What can we say, we’re just those kind of people.
Whether you made the trip to Texas or not, soak up these 10 specific takeaways from TSS Crew’s most recent excursion together, which consist of everything from style insight and show secrets to life lessons and artists who left a lasting impression.
1. If You’re Rocking 6th Street, Rock 6th Street Right
In the past five years of heading to Austin, we’ve seen countless artists performing in the middle of the streets, but this time out Raz Simone officially raised the bar on pop-up shows.
Although most of the impromptu sets on bustling thoroughfares like Congress and especially 6th Street are rarely beneficial for anyone, this year’s festivities saw one of our most anticipated performers rocking numerous sets in the middle of 6th with a full live band, leaving every race, color and creed from the melting pot in awe of his passionate raps. At the set we caught, the only reason Raz stopped his seven song set was because the cops literally pulled the plug.
That’s how you leave a mark at SXSW.
2. Strange Music Never Messes A Beat
By now, we’ve reiterated Tech N9ne’s stage prowess enough where most should know he’s one of the illest live MCs you’ll ever see. However, what we found out in catching the sprawling Strange crew at numerous SXSW sets is that it’s not just Tech and Krizz Kaliko that can hold down a stage.
After seeing multiple sets from Rittz, ¡MAYDAY! and their latest signee Murs, every one of their members is just as engaging and syllabically magnificent as their face-painted boss.
3. Trap Rap Is Better In Person
Before SXSW, Que’s “OG Bobby Johnson” and Migos’ entire catalogue got the cold shoulder from my stereo. Yet, by the end of the trip, No Label 2 was cranking from my car windows and every sentence coming out of my mouth started with, “Word on the streets.”
With hit singles at hand and packed crowds waiting to erupt, these seemingly one-dimensional acts shut down all their performances with emphasis, using their chant hooks and bottomless 808s to turn wood floors to trampolines and non-believers into appreciative conformers
4. 100s Is Our New Favorite Rapper
It started when Beware had IVRY on a CD for us to bump in our rental car; the Oakland emcee put out what has to be considered one of the most complete projects of this still-young year (I definitely haven’t heard anything better), and we wanted to soak it in a bit before we saw 100s in person.
After seeing him perform the mixtape in its entirety at several different venues, we can confirm that our rap crush is absolutely justified. 100s is the real deal, his funky, hypnotic sets offering a breath of fresh air in a sea of deep, ominous trap beats. I won’t lie and say that everybody in attendance was grooving – one show in particular had people checking their damn cell phones every five minutes – but we were obliviously having our own mini-dance party and that didn’t phase us one bit.
Assuming the mainstream ever falls out of love with trap, 100s will be a huge reason why.
5. Don’t Miss Dirty Glove Bastard x Livemixtapes Shows
I’ve been saying this ever since I went to SXSW three years ago and went to their first #BoutThatLife show.
The prevailing rumor this year was that Lil Boosie would make his triumphant return, and even though he didn’t, that was far more believable than Rick Ross bringing him out at Fader Fort. Part of the intrigue of the show, though, was that even the guys putting it on didn’t know if Boosie would make it or not. Regardless, it was still a dope show.
So many artists came through, it was mind boggling. I didn’t recognize a fair amount of them. In no particular order; K Camp, Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, Lil Bibby, Kevin, Rich Homie Quan, Peewee Longway, Rich The Kid, Jose Guapo, Johnny Cinco, Que, Young Dolph, Zach Farlow, and Cap-1.
I almost spontaneously combusted when I was standing within a mere 10 feet of Kevin, and surprise guests 2 Chainz and Future. It was unreal. Future proceeded to do an entire set, and brought out Trae Tha Truth, while 2 Chainz served as Cap-1’s hype man and gave an impassioned speech about the SXSW festival.
6. Best Bring Your Sweats
Gosh, who to thank for this one? Kanye? A$AP Rocky? Jeff Lebowski?
Whoever you want to point at as ground zero, jeans are out, khakis are out…and athletic attire – from leather Versace sweatpants to adidas soccer warm-up pants – is very much in. As someone who would rather wear sweatpants and basketball shorts over just about anything, I approve, but something tells me that my Fruit Of The Loom-brand pants would disqualify me from any hip-hop fashion show. Dahh well.
7. Fool’s Gold Throws One Hell Of A Party
Danny Brown? Check.
Low Pros? Check.
Migos, Travi$ Scott, Young Thug, Que? Check.
A-Trak’s Friday Night Fool’s Gold showcase was on-point, blending some of the label’s biggest names (with one major omission) with most of the people that everybody already wanted to see. The house was brought down.
Post-game also provided some theatrics, with YG and Young Thug putting on a street show for everybody in attendance (and giving me a minor heart attack). What began as some taunting and name-calling escalated into YG heading to his all-black Escalade to grab the proverbial “something.” That turned out to be a bottle of water, which was then thrown at Thugga’s all-white Escalade. YG and crew fled the scene shortly after, and it took a solid 12 hours for the reality of the situation to really set in: everybody on that street had been trolled. Myself included.
DAMN YOU YG AND YOUNG THUG.
8. A$AP Rocky Started A Movement
As previously stated, Flaco could be responsible for the sweatpants craze. But, he’s definitely the one who started the Hood By Air, black-white-and-gothic-all-over graphic tee fad, which could be spotted on everybody from A-List rappers to Joes in the street at SXSW.
Plus, he deserves his share of credit for making trap rap into the dark, bleak and almost grungy state we see today. Although A$AP didn’t make much noise himself in Austin this year, his presence was felt everywhere we went.
9. Talking About The N-Word
Considering Hip-Hop’s infatuation with the word and the fact that most (not all) of the SXSW crowds featured a healthy diversity ratio, the subject of “what the hell should white people say when rappers drop an n-bomb?” was brought up. A lot. Different rappers had different takes on the matter.
YG wanted everybody in the crowd to sing along to “My N***a,” race be damned, while another rapper – Futuristic – made sure that white people never use the word, replacing it with “playa.” This last moment was a bit awkward, and included a callback that completely lost the crowd: “Now white people, when I say n***a, ya’ll say playa.”
That particular moment was a train wreck, but on the whole, it has to be good that the subject’s at least getting discussed, right? Not that YG would find his name on a list of people best-equipped to discuss race relations, but considering the amount of suburban kids who know little about the streets that their favorite rappers are shouting out, these things need to be discussed.
10. Everyone Is Somebody, So Treat Everyone With Respect
After coming out of an impressive show of up & comers from the A3C team, I was standing smack dab in the middle of a jam-packed 6th Street, waiting for AJ to bum/smoke a cigarette. Upon doing so, I noticed an obviously distinguished veteran of the festival pulling out some imaginative contraption from a bag, which unfolded like an umbrella into a full-on bike. However, what drew my attention even more was the Tommy Boy band on his press pass.
Although I couldn’t see his name, my fondness of Treach and his Naughty By Nature crew has always left me inspired by the label’s longstanding prowess and I struck up a conversation, offering TSS as a potential bridge. Although the gentleman’s name didn’t immediately ring a bell, we had more in common than either of us probably anticipated and I walked away feeling positive about what sounded like a mutually-beneficial connection.
Four days later, a little research unveiled the future rider was Tom Silverman, founder and CEO of Tommy Boy and the long-time vice-president of Warner Bros. Thanks Wikipedia, I had no idea.
This chance connection reinforced a life lesson for me. When you offer your handshake to someone for the first time, make it firm and welcoming as possible – no matter who it might be. Respect is earned, not expected, at every rung of the ladder.