Rolling Loud hit a little differently this year. The air was different. The way we moved about the festival grounds was different.
Less than a week before the touring hip-hop festival was slated to hit Los Angeles’ Banc Of California Stadium for the second year in a row, the unfortunate news that co-headliner Juice WRLD had died after suffering a seizure in Chicago’s Midway Airport. He was only 21 years old and the news shook the music industry. The Rolling Loud veteran’s Saturday set was changed to a Sunday tribute in celebration of his life and everywhere I looked his presence was there. From the artwork on the walls to fans rocking their favorite Juice WRLD tees and performers dedicating portions of their sets to the “Lucid Dreams” rapper, Jarad Anthony Higgins owned Rolling Loud Los Angeles 2019.
Day one of the two-day festival, like most first days of a festival, had some minor kinks to get through until the perfect groove was found for Sunday. The signs directing where the Zen Stage, Verizon Stage, and the High Hemp Stage were very helpful. There was plenty of ground space to walk around and I could even dance a little bit while walking to catch as many sets as I could including Young Dolph, Blueface, Mozzy, Trippie Redd, Dom Kennedy, Chance The Rapper, and Young Thug. Lil Uzi Vert, who was set to perform earlier in the night, wound up closing the first night due to flight delays (an expected occurrence for Uzi at this point) and had the entire stadium doing the Futsal Shuffle as fireworks went off in the sky.
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By Sunday, I could navigate the festival grounds like a pro. Sunday’s lineup included NLE Choppa, Key Glock, Lil Keed, Chief Keef, Gunna, DaBaby, Megan Thee Stallion, YG, Playboi Carti, A$AP Rocky, and Future as my top picks. Meek Mill was scheduled to perform but was replaced by The Game.
Seeing the growth of Megan Thee Stallion’s stage presence since the beginning of this year was incredible. The Houston Hottie made the most of her set by actually performing instead of just talking to the crowd as a way to run up her stage time. DaBaby’s stage presence, while it has always been energetic, seems to have improved as well since he isn’t running out of breath as quickly and had the capability to keep up with his own songs instead of just letting the crowd sing his songs for him. Usually, his inflated babies serve as great distractions from this, but at Rolling Loud, DaBaby himself was the lead. It was dope to see two of 2019’s most prominent hip-hop acts grow into their own, especially knowing that this is only the beginning.
Future’s set, which I happen to know by heart, changed up a bit too. Usually, when he does “F*ck Up Some Commas,” he brings out his dancers Meechie and Toosie for a dance break — and that’s as much dancing as we get out of a Future set. This time around, as Super Future began to perform “Sh*t,” a lineup of female dancers emerged. The ladies did their thing, seductively dancing to “Low Life” and “Relationships.” Future also took the time time to honor Juice WRLD. The two previously collaborated on the 2018 project WRLD On Drugs and since news of his passing Future had been mostly silent.
“Put your lighters up right now we about to turn up,” he commanded the crowd as their song “Fine China” began to play. “We about to sing this for Juice.” Future’s voice nearly cracked as the song went on, highlighting how emotional the moment was for him and the audience.
The Juice WRLD tribute on the High Hemp Stage was an emotional and celebratory event in itself. It seemed the entire festival came out to remember the young rap star’s life. His DJ introduced everyone he knew and worked with to the stage including G Herbo, YBN Cordae, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Lyrical Lemonade’s Cole Bennett. The most heartbreaking part of the tribute was watching Juice’s girlfriend Ally Lotti bravely come out on stage and share a positive message with his fans.
“Jarad loved every single person that he helped on this earth,” she said to the sea of 40,000 Juice WRLD fans. “He literally loved every single one of you guys. There was not a time that he showed me a different love than for you. He wants everyone to know to take any negative thing in your life and he would tell you any time he saw you to change that into a positive situation. Change that to 999. You gotta keep that in your heart.”
The tribute ended with the entire crowd singing “Lucid Dreams” in unison, security guards, and festival handlers included, showing just how many lives he touched. Last year, Juice WRLD was one of the fest’s most electrifying performers. This year, Rolling Loud attendees had to pay our respects and say goodbye. The situation reflected the 2018 fest, which was also troubled by the memory of the late XXXTentacion, who had been killed just months before.
Overall, Rolling Loud remains one of the best festivals for hip-hop fans. It understands the culture of the youth and what means the most to us. Security was less aggressive than they were last year and a lot more helpful and despite it being freezing cold, fans, including myself, enjoyed themselves. It makes you wonder how much more fun we would have had with Juice WRLD around to perform, rather than having to once again share a tribute to a star that fell too soon.