Of the seemingly boundless range of performance spaces Boomtown has to offer—from mega-stages to micro-venues and everything in-between—Poco Loco is renowned for hosting one of the finest selections of hip hop on the UK’s festival roster. With just one month left until the highly-anticipated opening of Boomtown’s festival gates, we had a chat with the music programmer for some of the most exciting districts about what’s in store for hip hop heads this year, and what goes into making it all happen. 

Hello Boomtown! Thanks so much for your time—HQ must be mad busy right now. Firstly, it’d be great to know a bit about you—what’s your name, what’s your role, and how long have you been involved?

I’m James and I’m part of the booking team at Boomtown. This year I oversee a few really exciting districts; Metropolis, The Relic, Barrio Loco which is home to Poco Loco and the brand new AREA 404 which is dedicated to techno. I also DJ, so you’ll find me popping up throughout the festival! I’ve been involved in Boomtown since the start—so an old timer!

As a key member of the team at Poco Loco, could you tell us a bit about the history of the stage?

The stage has been around now for 6 years. It started off with 200 people and has grown massively in popularity and now has a capacity of 5,000 people. It has a huge presence at Boomtown and can be found under a huge big top with an epic stage design. It’s even got a train on stage for performers to jump on! Over the years the programme has become more varied with Hip-Hop, Soul, Garage and Grime being the main genres covered.

Thursday will see an exciting Radio 1Xtra takeover at Poco Loco—a first of its kind for the stage I believe—how did that link come about?

Yes! 1Xtra will be opening up Poco Loco on Thursday for a full day takeover. It’s a really exciting, new collaboration for us with an unreal line-up that includes everything from Tiffany Calver, Jamz Supernova, Alicai Harley, Joel Culpepper to Che Lingo. For me 1Xtra is all about emerging talent, breaking new artists and staying true to culture and it’s a really interesting partnership for us.

A few acts will be making return appearances this year. How close are your links with the artists you’ve got lined up, and what factors come into account when you’re looking into possible performers?

Over the years you do build up a bond with the artists and their management and I have become good friends with a few of them. When I’m looking at artists to book, for me, they need to have a great stage presence; they really need to be able to rock that stage.

There’s a big focus at the moment on festivals looking to reach gender balance in their line ups. With hip hop being a very male-dominated scene, how do you navigate that?

Although it has been a very male dominant scene I feel that this has been changing massively over the last few years. We have had some great female artists play on this stage including Eva Lazarus, Nadia Rose and Jenna and the Gs . I’m really excited to have booked Little Simz this year, who as far as I’m concerned is the UK’s top hip hop artist at the moment.

For those who aren’t sure what acts they’re gonna check yet, what do you most recommend checking out?

I think my top tips are Swindle – Live his album “No more normal” has been my favourite album of the last year and gets played daily. Little Simz who’s album “GREY area” is everything that is great about raw hip-hop. slowthai – wow in the last 8 months this guy has blown up huge,carving out his own style punk/grime and one of the biggest artists in the UK at the moment.