The first music festival I ever went to was Rock The Bells. In 2004, A Tribe Called Quest was on the first of their reunion tours, and I excitedly determined I had to go. I wasn’t disappointed. However, Rock The Bells is no more. It was discontinued in 2013 along with its sister festival, Paid Dues, due to low ticket sales. At the time, the lineups were stressed to their breaking points by a growing divide in hip-hop along generational lines. Older fans groaned at the inclusion of newer artists like Kid Cudi and Wiz Khalifa, while younger fans were turned off by the relatively staid, ’90s-centric headliners performing albums that had come out when they were still babies.
Fortunately, the schism has since been bridged as more artists have begun to create their own festivals like The Roots Picnic, where they can better market to their existing fanbases who are more receptive to their favorite artists’ curation. More promoters have learned from the mistakes of Rock The Bells and Paid Dues to better serve the splintered market — rather than booking niche indie artists like Atmosphere and Deltron 3030 alongside more current artists like 2 Chainz and Mac Miller, newer festivals like Rolling Loud are curating Soundcloud standouts with local rising talent to keep vibes fresh and fun. These are the best festivals for hip-hop fans of any generation.