It’s clear that the West Coast “won” SXSW when it comes to hip-hop. Atlanta and Chicago both made valiant efforts in showcasing lots of new and exciting talent (while New York was pretty much completely underrepresented unless you’re a huge A$AP fan) but Los Angeles, for lack of a better word, had this shit on lock. Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and the rest of the TDE crew headlined one of the biggest nights of the iTunes festival; Acts like 100S took over the Fader Fort and went from almost no-name to “did you see that rapper with the beautiful hair?” in just a few days. However, it was DJ Mustard and his associated acts that really took over SXSW. Seeing just how pervasive these acts were throughout the week might just make someone believe the hype around the rise of “the new West Coast.” Here are my thoughts on some West Coast acts, all from Los Angeles, all brought up by DJ Mustard.
Ty Dolla $ign
Noisey Brisk Bodega
The Main II
Much like The Weeknd and The-Dream before him, Ty Dolla $ign tows the line between charming R&B mastermind and absolute creep. More so than his contemporaries, Ty pushes the boundary of how comfortable you can feel with someone saying some horrible things as long as they have a great voice and even better beats. The “two of my bitches in the club…” hook of his most popular song “Paranoid” is a prime example of the struggle between catchy and misogyny. Ty’s recent DJ Mustard produced hit “Or Nah” got a rise out of the Brisk Bodega’s otherwise timid/surprisingly small crowd but the rest of his performance was primarily appreciated by about 15-20 women pushed right up to the front. Look, I love this dude’s voice and I’ve had his Beach House 2 mixtape on repeat for nearly four months straight but it still made me a little uncomfortable hearing him sing about getting sucked and fucked while girls in the front row were actually desperately reaching for his pants. Regardless of me feeling grossed out, Ty Dolla $ign is a competent modern-day R&B act; he has decent stage presence and his voice is just as strong live as it is on record. B.O.B. showed up at one point to perform his “Paranoid” verse, I think the crowd’s non-reaction coupled with Ty’s plea of “Are y’all fucking crazy? What’s wrong with you?” might have been the most honest moment of the entire festival.
Ray Ban x Boiler Room
Up-and-coming female R&B act and former child actress Tinashe came out for a short set at the Boiler Room but even though she only had about fifteen minutes, she still conquered the room with ease. I had only previously heard Tinashe’s DJ Mustard produced single with ScHoolboy Q “2 On” but I was still amped to see her perform after hearing rumblings all week about her dancing skills. Not only did Tinashe bust out moves that reminded me of early 2000s-era Ciara in her prime, she also had a trio of shirtless male dancers performing some of the most sexually explicit dance moves I’ve seen in a long time. These dudes were essentially the male version of a music video vixen and the crowd seemed to love this reversal of gender roles, letting out audible gasps every time they got really freaky. That’s not to undersell the music, Tinashe has a pretty great voice and even better beat selection but this was mostly her dancing over pre-recorded vocals. It was enough to push me towards downloading her most recent mixtape. Tinashe is still a ways off from being “the next big thing” but for anyone that still has fond memories of the early careers of acts like Ciara and Cassie, she’s already perfect.
Noisey Brisk Bodega
The Main II
YG is having a great year. He’s had one single break the Billboard Top 20, all of his music videos are at several million views (and climbing) on YouTube, and his new album My Krazy Life is both a critical and financial success. YG didn’t really need to go to SXSW and he sure as hell didn’t need to play this weak-ass Brisk sponsored show but he did it anyway, I have to commend him for that. His show was pretty straight forward, leaning very heavily on all the material from his new album (once again, nearly all produced by DJ Mustard). YG doesn’t yet have the stage presence to match the absolutely massive nature of his hits quite yet but that will hopefully come with time. Most of the room had cleared by the time YG actually took the stage but those who remained ate up every minute of his all-too-brief performance. He ran through recent smash-singles “My Nigga” and “Who Do You Love?” as well as revisiting his previous success with “Toot It and Boot It.” YG’s lack of crowd interaction was slightly disappointing but the pure potency of his West Coast song style and DJ Mustard in the background acting as his hypeman boosted up the quality of his performance significantly.
Ray Ban x Boiler Room
DJ Mustard may be the most important beatmaker of the last two years. His simplified mix of jerkin-style snap/hand-clap percussion and G-funk style synths has connected heavily with rap radio over the last four years. After cranking out hits for people like 2 Chainz and Jeezy, DJ Mustard has become a household name. He not only is in high demand from big artists but is also doing his part to bring massive success to new/less popular artists. His Boiler Room set primarily consisted of him running through his own hits as well as showing love for various artists who influenced him. The sheer breadth of his production discography was kind of breathtaking when heard all at once. As he ran through “I’m Different,” “RIP,” “My Nigga,” “Show Me” and several others I could almost picture a graph of his steadily rising production fee. I already knew that DJ Mustard had a lot of love for Atlanta given how many beats he has imported to the South but it was still awesome to see him bring out rising ATL rapper Que to perform the hook of their new collaborative single “Vatos” as well as his non-Mustard produced street hit “OG Bobby Johnson.” His radio friendly and often 90’s nostalgia-based sound might not appeal to everyone (though it sure as hell comes close) but it’s impossible to deny influence DJ Mustard has on how mainstream hip-hop sounds in 2014.
Written by: Nathan Kerce