The future is female.
More than just a clever slogan from Hilary Clinton’s ill-fated campaign for the Presidency, this simple but deep mantra would appear to be Coachella’s philosophy for 2018 — at least with regards to hip-hop. No less than five women rappers graced four different stages Sunday at the packed festival, including Cardi B’s electrifying, frighteningly well-attended set on the main stage.
Dej Loaf, Kamaiyah, Noname, and Princess Nokia were all new additions to the 2018 lineup, performing for their first times to enthusiastic crowds, each representing a different but equally fascinating approach to hip-hop. From Dej’s straightforward, lyrics-heavy delivery to Nokia’s fiery New York trap, they each brought an element of both feminine energy and diversity to their stages, proving that women in hip-hop not only have a place at one of the biggest festivals in the US, but that they just might be the thing that keeps the show fresh into the next decade of its existence.
These female rappers — and to an extent, Beyonce and SZA, who heavily incorporate hip-hop attitude, themes, slang, and imagery into both their music and their live presentations — are the next wave of rap at Coachella and other festivals, bringing a different crowd than the ones the normally EDM and rock heavy festival would usually attract. More than that, though, they displayed a broad appeal; despite the fact that their music clearly deals with themes central to their respective demographics, fans of all backgrounds could be seen turning up to the songs that were ostensibly not for them, but that they still apparently enjoyed as much as the groups being specifically catered to.
You don’t need to be a queer, Boricua, brujeria from New York City to turn up to Princess Nokia. The crowd in the Sonora tent certainly wasn’t, running the gamut from Orange County white girls to Los Angeles-based singer Ty Dolla Sign, who I noticed chilling out near the outskirts of the crowd. Nokia, brash and confident, went from swaggering across the stage to leaping up and down with all the energy of the excited front row attendees to twerking along to her 1992 singles “Tomboy” and “Kitana” without missing a single step, proving herself to be equally adept at braggadocios, New York-style bluster as enthusiastic, house party dance demonstrations.