Shaun White’s Air + Style Raises The Bar For Music Festivals By Tying Competing Cultures Together

Hip-Hop Editor

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Shaun White is very excited to show me his phone.

More specifically, he’s excited to show me a photo on his phone. It’s a selfie shot of a particularly grisly injury he sustained a few weeks while practicing for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, which he just qualified for. After a gnarly fall, he received a largish gash through his lip, running up his face along his nose. There’s almost no trace of a scar, but his face is split into a wide grin as he discusses the bloody wound, probably in response to my own reaction to the gory sight.

We’re in a tiny office at Big Bear Lodge to talk about the upcoming Air + Style Festival White has been organizing, but his energy, mischievous and infectious, leads the conversation all over the place, from music to snowboarding, to pop culture as a whole. He’s visibly excited as we bounce from subject to subject and he explains how he, an extreme sports athlete, came to be so heavily invested in a music festival.

That excitement translates to his execution so far; Air + Style has consistently been one of the west coast’s most successful festivals each season. With its peanut-butter-and-jelly combination of wildly varying musical acts and exhibition snowboarding — the festival brings snow machines to Exposition Park in Los Angeles, allowing for a mountain feel even in the lower altitudes favored by the majority of Angelinos — it truly has something for everyone.

This year’s lineup includes performances by electronic wizards Zedd, Griz, and Phantogram and indie-pop favorite Phoenix alongside Southern rap legend Gucci Mane and eclectic trap-soul crooner DRAM. Prior festivals have included names like Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Chromeo, Flume, YG, and Major Lazer, underlining the diversity of not just the festival’s “everybody in the pool” ethos, but Shaun White’s personal taste. He says he’s highly involved in the lineup selection process, and his exuberance when he receives confirmation that Gucci Mane will be available for the headline performance is palpable. He doesn’t just live this, he loves it, every minute of it, and that’s why he made the shift from simply being the talent to the organizer.

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