Hip-hop is a combination of calculated and free verse prose that come together over waves of beats and rhythms, hitting home in the hearts of die-hard fans and casual listeners alike. Hip-hop is a truly American music genre that emerged in 1970’s Brooklyn with deep-seated roots in decades-old African American culture and musical ingenuity. With ties to almost every kind of music from the last century and a half, hip-hop transcends the boundaries of genre as an equally musical and literary art form.
Music festivals typically stack a diverse lineup, but for our hip-hop head readers out there we’ve compiled the best hip-hop focused festivals to check out in 2015. Our list also includes some of the top three-day festivals with all kinds of music with a notable hip-hop track record as well. Be sure to check out a stage near you for some awesome hip-hop in 2015 and don’t be afraid to splurge on a plane ticket (which you can conveniently book here) to one that may not be so close by.
- Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival – New York, New York
Topping our list is Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, which takes place in the very area that birthed the genre over three decades ago. Established in 2005, this fest is New York City’s largest hip-hop cultural event with a block party-styled, multi-faceted approach that creates a truly genuine experience. With 20,000+ attendees annually, BK Hip Hop Fest embraces family and culture through panel discussions, film screenings, exhibitions and parties on top of invaluable musical performances. Past lineups boasted big names in the game such as Q-Tip (who performed with Kanye West and Busta Rhymes), Pusha T, Lupe Fiasco and Redman. Up-and-coming and underground artists are plentiful at this must-attend event as well.
- Rock the Bells – Worldwide
Rock the Bells is another totally hip-hop festival that began in 2004 in San Bernadino, CA and spent the following few years in various California locations. Since, the event has expanded worldwide (which is good news for hip hop fans who can’t necessarily make the typical LA/NY/NJ/ATL destinations). The event has taken various shapes, embarking on a club tour in 2006 and expanding to Europe in 2008. Headliners in the recent past have included the indisputable game changers, Wu Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Big Boi and Common; and the list goes on and on. Be sure to check out the 2015 tour schedule for a destination close to you – this is one festival you don’t want to miss, and you have no excuse not to go since it essentially is coming to you.
- Made in America Festival – Philadelphia, PA – Los Angeles, CA
Although created by Budweiser in collaboration with Jay-Z in 2012, don’t let the commercially motivated aspect of this festival lead you to believe you can’t get a genuine hip hop experience at this annual event held in Philadelphia, and Los Angeles since 2014. Hip-hop centered, Made in America expands through R&B, rock, pop and EDM as well. Top acts for rap enthusiasts have included Jay-Z, Kanye West, Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar and Iggy Azalea.
- A3C Festival – Atlanta, Georgia
A3C just celebrated its 10th anniversary providing memorable performances from “well over 500 artists, including: legends, rising stars, trendsetters, up-and-comers and aspiring talent from across the world.” It’s name stands for “All 3 Coasts” of the United States and takes place over five days in Atlanta, Georgia. The festival aims to immerse its attendees in various aspects of hip-hop culture through music and art throughout the day with party-setting musical performances at night. Headliners from 2014 alone included 2 Chainz, 8 Ball & MJG, 9th Wonder, B.O.B. and Jay Electronica. Southerners, add A3C to your calendars for fall of 2015 because this fest is a must. For ATL residents, discount tickets are available at various locations in the area and listed on the A3C website.
- Pitchfork Music Festival – Chicago, Illinois
For those who are unfamiliar, Pitchfork Media is the premier Chicago-based indie music publication with a vastly influential online presence. As of 2006, the spirit of Pitchfork manifests as a 3-day music festival with 50,000 attendees in summertime Union Park in Chicago. The Pitchfork MF has an array of musical foci ranging from alternative rock to dance music but with a heavy emphasis on hip-hop as well. While only boasting few big names in hip-hop or other interconnected genres, such as R. Kelly in 2013, the festival carries the prestige of the next-comers in the industry across all genres. Pusha T, Isaiah Rashad, A$AP Rocky, Lil B and M.I.A. are among recent hip-hop acts to hit the stage at this super cool festival.
- Essence Music Festival – New Orleans, Louisiana
Known as “the party with a purpose,” Essence Music Festival (related to the African American woman-focused magazine Essence) has taken place annually in New Orleans since 1995. With influences from R&B, Soul, Funk, Gospel, Blues, Hip-Hop, Jazz and Reggae, this festival celebrates the entire spectrum of a century of African American musical ingenuity in an all-encompassing event. Essence Fest’s track record has carried noticeable acts from even its early days with names such as Erykah Badu, Destiny’s Child and Cedric the Entertainer featured between 2001-2002. More recently, Beyonce, Prince, Nas and Doug E Fresh entertained enthusiastic audiences and implying that 2015 will carry similar talent and, therefore, shouldn’t be missed!
- Beale St. Music Festival – Memphis, Tennessee
The Beale St. Music Festival is the kickoff event of Memphis in May, a month-long festival celebrating the rich and lively Memphian culture. BSMF began almost four decades ago as a local blues music event and more recently expanded, naturally, into hip-hop and even more recently embraced big acts from all genres of music. Set a recurring event in your calendar for the first weekend of every May to see awesome hip-hop, funk and blues acts (among others) such as Snoop Dogg, Project Pat, Juicy J, Bootsy Collins, Patti LaBelle, Buddy Guy and Black Joe Lewis.
- Sasquatch! Music Festival – George, Washington
The Pacific Northwest United States is a beautiful, creative region and Sasquatch! is the definitive festival of the area, featuring three days of diverse talent. Going 12 Years strong, Sasquatch! has made a permanent dent in the festival world and Seattleites know how to appreciate some underground hip-hop. Back in 2002, Blackalicious headlined the festival with Jurrasic 5, The Roots, and Kanye West the following three years. In 2014, OutKast, M.I.A., Kid Cudi, Die Antwoord, and De La Soul appeared for excited crowds.
- The Hudson Project Music Festival – Saugerties, New York
The Hudson Project Music Festival is a new, multi-genre festival with popular artists that are floating just under the mainstream meniscus. Those who recognize this festival and its short infamous history may have an eyebrow raised now as they read it. The Hudson Project MF took place for the first time in July 2014 and fell victim to catastrophic stormy weather that forced organizers to cancel the event and call in rescue teams to get people on the road (a refund was issued). The tragic conditions were so bad attendees on social media collectively donned it the nickname “Mudson Project.” The organizers’ response was honest and promising, giving us hope for 2015 (with better weather) and hip-hop names as exciting as this year’s: Kendrick Lamar, Atmosphere, Flying Lotus, Isaiah Rashad, Action Bronson and Flatbush Zombies.
- Pemberton Music Festival – Pemberton, British Columbia
For our Canadian readers and those willing to go slightly international, Pemberton MF is a must-attend event with top festival-circuit artist and fun hip-hop acts. PMF took place for the first time this year in a beautiful, green, mountainous region near Mount Currie. Like most freshmen festivals, the future life and location of this festival is uncertain but it’s worth keeping your eye in for 2015, just in case. This year’s lineup included an array of sounds with hip-hop represented by artists such as Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, ScHoolboy Q, OutKast, and Tyler, the Creator.
- Moogfest – Asheville, North Carolina
Moogfest is an annual two-to-five day festival in the city where Robert Arthur “Bob” Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer and founding father of electronic music, spent the last thirty years of his life. Beginning in New York in 2004 and moving to Asheville in 2010, Moogfest has come to embrace music of genres besides electronic including an array of popular to underground hip-hop. Attendees at the 2014 Moogfest anticipated hip-hop acts from M.I.A., Le1f, Tiga, Just Blaze, Flying Lotus, and High Klassified. A similar caliber of talent can be expected for 2015.
- Fun Fun Fun Fest – Austin, Texas
Fun Fun Fun (FFF) Fest started in 2006 as a premier comedy and music festival. To this day FFF has held true to its roots, showcasing three days of top-talent standup and musical acts at genre-specific stages. The hip-hop stage, or “Blue Stage” is a popular and necessary aspect of the FFF experience which enlisted the 2014 performers Jurassic 5, Bonobo, Deltron 3030, Chet Faker, Ice-T, Lupe Fiasco, Big Freedia, and Flatbush Zombies.
- Coachella – Indio, California
The West Coast/Best Coast’s most exclusive music festival, Coachella, is either a famous or infamous household name, depending on whom you speak to. In our opinion, top talent is top talent regardless and Coachella always brings the best of many genres – the superstars as well as the up-and-coming. Coachella began in 1999 as the SoCal hipster’s haven event and gained exponential speed over the years to become on of the world’s biggest two weekend, three-day music festivals ever. Tons of artists would kill to see their names on Coachella’s lineup, and plenty hip-hop artists have made their way onto those Polo Field stages over the past few years such as Kanye West, Snoop Dogg (featuring Tupac’s hologram), Frank Ocean, ASAP Rocky, Azealia Banks, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, OutKast A$AP Ferg, and Nas. If you can manage to buy a ticket within the 30 minute window they typically sell out, you’re one of the fortunate.
Written by FestPop Senior Music Editor
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