Live Music Is Back: 3 Key Moments From Rolling Loud Miami 2021

Rolling Loud

Two weeks later, Rolling Loud Miami 2021 remains the talk of the town. Live music is back, and the largest hip-hop festival in the U.S. came bearing controversy, massive pickpockets and so much more. 

For almost two years, “ragers” and mosh pit leaders alike have been deprived of human interaction and live performance. Despite the ongoing pandemic and mask mandates in effect, tens of thousands of people gathered in Florida for a music-filled weekend unlike no other. Hard Rock Stadium was deemed sacred ground, home to 75,000 screaming fans and a 130-artist lineup. 

I was in the Yams to cover the first major music festival since the pandemic – and to my surprise (really, but not really) there wasn’t a damn mask in sight. I’m not a native Floridian, so maybe I didn’t get the memo, but the phrase “we outside” was clearly defined during Rolling Loud weekend. For three consecutive nights, thousands of people – laced with clear bags and hydration packs – flooded Don Shula Dr. for hours at a time. Whether it was the inevitable price surge by America’s favorite ridesharing company (Uber, Lyft) or the influx of counterfeit wristbands being sold on-site in route to the general admissions line, Florida’s humidity challenged festival goers patience: as long as your wristband scanned green and you made it to the other side, nothing else matters – you’re in. 

With two mainstream acts on the bill (Playboi Carti and Travis Scott) donning mesh facemasks – courtesy of Kanye West – during their respective performances, a rumor began to circulate that Ye would make a last-minute appearance for Sunday Service at the festival. A rumor that was quietly laid to rest with a few swift clicks of the keyboard, via Billboard.

Admittedly, this speculation did contribute to the intensifying buildup of energy amassed from years’ of suppressed excitement, but that’s merely one of the many moments that made Rolling Loud Miami 2021 unforgettable. In an effort to narrow the scope on key takeaways from the first major festival since quarantine, here are my three biggest moments. 

A$AP Rocky - Rolling Loud Miami 2021
A$AP Rocky – Image via Rolling Loud / @snap_ll

DaBaby’s Rolling Loud Controversy 

In the aftermath of DaBaby’s controversial Rolling Loud performance, the self-proclaimed “Live Show Killa” has since been introduced to the internet’s favorite pastime, cancel culture. During his set, the Charlotte upstart brought the “c” in controversy to Hard Rock Stadium. Not only did DaBaby bring Tory Lanez (Meg Thee Stallion’s alleged assailant) on stage to perform “SKAT,” but he also made remarks towards the LGBTQ+ community and those affected by HIV/AIDS.

“If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cell phone light in the air,” he said. “Ladies, if your pussy smells like water, put a cell phone light in the air. Fellas, if you ain’t suck a n***a dick in the parking lot, put your cell phone lights in the air. Keep it fucking real.”

The court of opinion has swayed heavily against DaBaby. Lollapalooza, The Governors Ball, and Day N Vegas have all rescinded their performance invite for the Billion Dollar Baby, citing to have a no tolerance policy for hate or discrimination. Moreover, the toxic fallout has even translated to commentary from music industry tastemakers like Elton John, Madonna, and surprisingly Dua Lipa (who recruited DaBaby for the highly successful “Levitating” remix).

Since the controversy, festival curators and many of his peers in music have silenced any chance of DaBaby offering the appropriate apology – for now at least.

Year of the Pickpocket

After multiple delays and reschedules, Rolling Loud Miami is finally here. Christmas came in July this year, but instead of a giving spirit, patrons were greeted with thieving hands. Day-of-show, when the floodgates finally opened, thousands of bodies piled into Hard Rock Stadium’s muddied grounds in hopes of acquiring a space towards the front railing near the stage.

At the intersection where the Audiomack stage ends and the Ciroc stage begins, somewhere in the mix, there’s a kink in the natural flow of traffic. Maybe it’s the concession line, Cacti activation, or never-ending wait for merch, but there was a sense of urgency that ran amok amongst everyone. Almost like rush hour traffic, for people. In the midst of the mayhem and dehydration, the battle of wits between the vaccinated and unvaccinated ensued.

Anticipation is high. There’s an exhilarating feeling that we can finally coexist with live music yet again. So, you reach for your phone to document the experience in hopes of capturing a moment in time, double pat your pocket for good measure, look left (and right) before the disbelief sets in. You exhale deeply and come to terms with the fact that you’re slight irresponsible. All hope is now lost. That dreaded walk of shame towards the lost and found is what lies ahead. And just like that, you’re now a part of a growing Reddit forum, forewarning onlookers about the impending doom of shoulder to shoulder contact with strangers in what’s considered unfamiliar territory.

Imagine that, waiting two years to attend the largest hip-hop festival in the U.S. with little to no evidence of attending, other than mixed emotions, a super-tight wristband, and faint flashbacks of what happened.

The Future is Female

Representation matters, especially at the world’s largest hip-hop festival. This year’s Rolling Loud bill featured a massive 130-artist lineup. Heavy-hitters like Megan Thee Stallion, Rico Nasty, Young M.A, and Latto graced the stage (as undercards); newcomers such as Flo Mili, Mariah the Scientist, Kayykilo, Rubi Rose, TiaCorine, Kali, Ken The Man and others made their first festival appearance one for the books. However, an estimated 21 out of the 130 performing acts were female artists, accounting for less than 17% of Rolling Loud talent.

Although the music business is often considered a “male-dominated industry,” women understood the assignment during RL weekend, going above and beyond the standard performance. Here’s my perspective, the condensed version: the future is female. From Rico Nasty’s genre-bending rage and justifiable moshing, to Mariah the Scientist’ R&B croons about life and love, the ladies brought range, looks and showmanship to the festival.

A big component of performance that tends to go unnoticed is lighting, set design, and appearance. While one-third of female talent (7) was hand-selected to perform on the Ciroc stage (the biggest platform available on-site), the women of Rolling Loud didn’t disappoint. Platform heels, thigh high boots, guttural undertone, and toned bottoms commanded the attention of anyone under the sound of music, near and far.

Women deserve more respect. That’s it, that’s the sentence. If you weren’t blown away by this year’s medley of stellar performances…were you really even there?!

Rico Nasty - Rolling Loud Miami 2021
Rico Nasty – Image via Rolling Loud / @baeth

Special thanks to the good folks over at Audible Treats and their incredible team. This review wouldn’t be possible without you! Until next time.

Rolling Loud Miami 2021: Photo Gallery

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