For the essential selection from this year’s recommended artists follow us on our new Spotify and check out our HIP HOP GUIDE TO BOOMTOWN 2019 playlist!
Amidst some of the hottest days the UK has ever seen, as sweaty-bodied, sunburnt Brits all across the country pant, searching for shade from the terrifying, beautiful, there’s-an-apocalypse-looming temperatures… A fair few of those same people are going about their business knowing that we’re fast approaching the start of what is arguably one of the most exciting events English summertime has to offer: Boomtown Fair. As we move into the second decade, and therefore the eleventh chapter, of Boomtown’s ever-evolving storyline, we take a look at what one of the most musically diverse festivals on the British festival roster has on offer for hip hop heads this year.
With recent years having seen acts from the likes of Cypress Hill, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and Pharoahe Monch, it’s no question that hip hop has always been an integral part of the Boomtown universe. While proudly boasting over 25 main stages and 80 Street Venues, with an endless world for each festival-goer to discover, there’s one stage that is dedicated almost entirely to hip hop. Poco Loco, Boomtown’s chief hip hop stage, opened six years ago and has played a key role in showcasing a wide range of hip hop, both from the UK and overseas, ever since.
To be found in the Barrio Loco district, Poco Loco (which, according to Google, translates to ‘little crazy’ in Spanish) will open on Thursday with an all-day takeover by none other than BBC Radio 1Xtra. The takeover will feature Tiffany Calver and Jamz Supernova: the DJ’s and radio presenters who have been developing into some of the most important tastemakers in the UK’s hip hop, grime and r&b spheres. It’ll also see appearances from South West London’s Che Lingo, who bust onto the scene a couple of years ago on a lyrical wizardry tip for a COLORS show; Joel Culpepper, the soul/R&B vocalist responsible for one of the sexiest COLORS show performances to date; and Alicia Harley, the Kingston-born, London-based dancehall artist who draws influence from a multitude of other genres including r&b and hip hop.
While the 1Xtra takeover will be the first of its kind for the stage, there will be some heads making a return for the eleventh chapter. Amongst those set to grace stages across the festival for the second, third or fourth time is High Focus Records, returning to shut Poco Loco down on Sunday. Encompassing some of the most important names in the UK right now, the takeover will see acts from The Four Owls (comprised of Fliptrix, Verb T, Leaf Dog and BVA), Dirty Dike, Jam Baxter, Dabbla, Onoe Caponoe, Ramson Badbonez, CMPND (Vitamin G, Wundrop and Kemastry), the legendary DJ Sammy B-Side and Molotov. If you needed any more convincing that this is not one to miss, man of the moment slowthai will be making a special guest appearance. This is gonna pop off.
Sandwiched between those two takeovers you’ll be able to catch Blackalicious making an appearance surrounding multiple headline shows in the UK; the incredible Little Simz who, after smashing it for years, has finally been getting mainstream recognition as one of the most skilled, dynamic artists in the UK right now; Swindle, who’s been making waves with a jazz and funk influenced hip hop/grime sound is another one to make sure you don’t miss. Eva Lazarus, who collaborated with Swindle on his recently released album No More Normal,will be donning the Poco Loco stage amongst various sets both solo, and with long-time collaborators Mungo’s Hifi at Lions Den. Another artist who features on that same Swindle-produced album, one of grime’s prime figures, the legendary D Double E will be showing face at Poco Loco, no doubt the place will be jammed for that one. On another genre-bending note is PENGSHUi, fronted by Illaman, who, as well as being signed as a solo artist to Potent Funk Records, has crafted a mad blend of punk, grime, metal (and then some) alongside musicians Fatty (founding member of Submotion Orchestra) and Pravvy Prav—these guys are not to be missed. Over the weekend Poco Loco will also be host to the likes of heavyweights Ocean Wisdom, Inja, DRS & Pitch 92 and Dr Syntax & Pete Cannon.
Testament to the fact that at Boomtown you really can find anything anywhere, there’s even some absolute gold for hip hop connoisseurs hiding in AREA 404; a new district allegedly dedicated to house and techno. The idea of finding any sub-genre of hip hop on the same stage as house and techno DJ’s might be a bit of a strange one, but that sense of strangeness is lessened knowing that the district’s mission statement is ‘paying homage to the roots of rave culture’, and that the act in question is none other than Rodney P and Daddy Skitz. Both godfather of UK hip hop Rodney P and the legend that is Skitz have done more than their share of establishing the style as a force to be reckoned with, while also pushing the boundaries of hip hop into numerous party starting sub-genres. Neither are strangers to Boomtown either; expect this one to go off.
For other districts that may not seem like the intuitive choice; a look through the Town Centre line up reveals that two of the first-noted females within hip hop, Salt N Peppa, will be showing face on the old school tip that Boomtown has always managed to maintain. Gracing the Town Centre will also be Dizraeli with his live band amongst a series of shows touring his new album The Unmaster. Boomtown’s bourgeoisie district Paradise Heights has a couple of surprise selections as well. Make it across to the ‘gold plated community’ and you’ll be able to catch Afro Cluster coming through from Cardiff with a hip hop, Afro-funk fusion. On a different wave, but with those same head bouncing, body grooving affects, if gloriously old school hip hop is your jam, you’ll be able to catch Soup aka Fullee Love (formerly of Jurassic 5) making an appearance.
The Lion’s Den stage has long been one of Boomtown’s forerunning stages. While mostly its musical bread and butter is (at least loosely) reggae or Caribbean influenced in some way, historically it’s played host to some genre straddling headliners (last year Gorillaz topped the bill on the Saturday) as well as some bass heavy hip hop. This year you can catch Mike Skinner performing his unique style of rap-meets-pub-dialogue with The Streets or seasoned multi-discipline microphonist Ms. Dynamite no doubt tearing down the stage for her set. The absolute must see on this year’s stage for golden era fans however, is a rare performance from Ms. Lauryn Hill which has the potential to be one of the those moments that goes on to be the stuff of legend in Boomtown history.
Far afield from the Caribbean influences of the Lion’s Den stage is Copper County; an old-aged district where, despite its focus revolving around sounds of Folk, World and Americana music, an unexpected roster of hip hop influenced acts can be discovered. Popping up across the weekend will be Traxx—frontman and founding member of the punk/grime unit Astroid Boys; Fernquest, the South Wales based grime emcee returning to the the Radical City for the fifth time; Cardiff’s Local; The High Breed; and Brighton-based punk/rap duo Para Fiction, with sneak appearances from fellow seaside heads Nokia Mansion as well as a few more of their Yert affiliates.
Make it across to the Forest Parties district, an area centred on psy-trance get togethers, acid techno and roots reggae sounds, and you’ll find yourself amongst some mystical woodland spaces where there will be performances from the likes of Laid Blak; Tom Spirals; as well as Daddy Skitz making a second appearance alongside the always politically switched on, roots influenced lyricist Joe Burn. Another one we definitely won’t be missing. Last but not least for districts host to acts on the Ukhh radar is Whistlers Green. Composed in such a way that offers endless nurture to Boomtown’s many exhausted festival fumblers, Whistlers Green is home to many workshops, talks, hot tubs and holistic healing sessions. An essential element of the relief this place provides to those who pass through is the nourishing, wow-this-is-good-for-my-soul music it hosts. While there will be a mad selection of jazz, world fusion, funk, soul and roots on offer throughout the weekend, the two acts we’re especially keen to journey to the district for are Nine8 Collective’s fast-rising Lava La Rue and the incredible Kate Tempest—the spoken word artist who, finding her roots in hip hop, has been inspiring a new generation of writers and lyricists with her work.
Beyond that insane lineup of hip hop, for anybody keen to broaden their horizons, there’s an endless universe to discover. Roam around the Radical City and you’ll find almost any musical genre you could imagine, all tied within a second-to-none storyline, Boomtown really is a world to get lost in.
With just 8 days left until the gates open and the next chapter of the story begins, if you’ve not got yours already, there’s still time to grab tickets. Come join us in getting lost amongst the madness of one of the most mind-blowing festivals out there, get your tickets here. See you in the City.