Two days of SXSW had depleted us, and we knew Saturday would be the craziest day yet. Luckily, Austin gave us pristine weather for our final day, and we were glad to soak up the blue skies and sunshine before our painful return to New York the next morning. Our press day began across the river at the secluded lizard-shielded Airbnb being rented by the Pivot Gang. We kicked it with present group members Saba, his brother Joseph Chilliams, Squeak, and Dam Dam and got to hear the young Chicago crew’s fascinating genesis story.
Back in town, we tracked down a few artists we’d been trying to catch up with — Roc Nation signee Rapsody, the young phenom Kodie Shane, and We The Best’s Kent Jones, who told of us his aspiration to become the next Quincy Jones.
We then drove out of the city and into an affluent hillside neighborhood, where a palatial mansion was being rented out by Blac Youngsta and at least 10 of his friends and business partners. We watched him arrive, descending from a few floors above, via the house’s glass elevator, and he lethargically entered the main floor with a styrofoam cup full of his signature orange beverage in hand. After a few sips, he would give us the most enjoyable (and thought-provoking) interview of the week. He led us up to a pool that overlooked the Northwest Hills and the Colorado River, and in front of the immaculate backdrop, he ditched all professionalism for sheer buffoonery. The man is a one-of-a-kind entertainer.
Finally, we had some time to get inside the ever-exclusive Fader Fort, and we would be treated to the week’s best lineup. The crisp vocals of BJ The Chicago Kid ushered in the sunset ever so nicely, and the evening was underway when Young M.A took the stage after him. Though her style evokes the spirit of classic New York street rap, her bruising attitude is what allows her to be performing alongside — and upending — some of the hottest talent from the South.
Next up was Mike Will Made-It, who greatly revved up the anticipation for Ransom 2. He dropped a handful of tracks off the upcoming album, including “Gucci On My,” the just-released “Hasselhoff,” and the not-yet-released “Perfect Pint,” a dream collab involving Gucci Mane, Kendrick Lamar, and Rae Sremmurd.
He would hand over the stage to his good friend 2 Chainz, who began his headlining set with “Big Amount.” Ensuing renditions of “Birthday Song,” “I’m Different,” “Watch Out,” as well as an unreleased (and totally bonkers) collab with Mike Will — who jumped back onstage — were a reminder of the soaring trap man’s legendary status.
We had just enough left in the tank for one final party, and that would be the Worldstar x Opposition rooftop showcase, headlined by 21 Savage and T.I. We arrived in the middle of a high-energy performance from O.T. Genasis — whose onstage passion helps explain all of his hit records. CMG then presented us with MoneyBagg Yo, followed by our man Blac Youngsta, who’s got a real crowd pleaser with his new single “Hip Hopper.” Less impressive was Lil Yachty, whose uninspired performance gave credence to the “no energy” dis that got him so upset earlier in the day.
Nearing the end of the week, no artist was performing at 100 percent. The fatigue was more than understandable. But some of these guys have gotten so big that they have got to back up that stature every time they step onstage. This was not accomplished by 21 Savage, whose presence wasn’t worthy of a headlining slot. Right before him, Young M.A gave us everything she had during her second show of the night, even as her voice was audibly broken from exhaustion. She went all out for her body-blowing Jay Z freestyle (“Kween“) as well as “OOOUUU” and “Hot Sauce,” her next big hit.
With more energy than all of the youngsters that preceded him, T.I. crashed the stage with the rest of his label for the final performance of the night. He ran through some of his classics — “Rubber Band Man,” “What You Know,” and “Live Your Life” — but he devoted much of his set to his teammates, including London Jae, RaRa, and the veteran Trae Tha Truth. They each proudly represented the Hustle Gang logo printed on their chests, and the Grand Hustle finale was well-received, as T.I. and his reps relayed the type of family spirit that’s needed to make it through such a mad week of musical mayhem.
Find our other two recaps and photo diaries from this year’s festival below.