opinion Features May 29, 2019

Can DRIP World overcome Australia’s cursed history with hip hop festivals? [op-ed]

Can DRIP World overcome Australia’s cursed history with hip hop festivals? [op-ed]
Rolling Loud has been one of the few success stories in recent years

Hip hop festivals in Australia have had a somewhat sketchy past, but there’s a brave new entrant on the scene – DRIP World.

DRIP World, set to make its debut in September this year, is promising “the hottest hip hop festival”, with a ticket pool of 90,000. It would make it the largest touring hip hop festival in the country and place it alongside Australia’s other touring festivals including Listen Out, FOMO Festival, Laneway and Falls Festival.

No acts have been announced for the festival yet but festivalgoers are promising over 10 hours of “Rap, Trap and Hip Hop” with the “freshest artists”. The promiser is veteran Australian promoter Luis Spedaliere who has had her fair share of experience touring hip hop acts, including Cypress Hill, Lupe Fiasco and Public Enemy. She’s also seen first-hand the potential downfalls of hip hop tours, entering into a public stoush with US rapper The Game after he claimed his cancelled 2017 Australian tour was “fake”.

Few have ventured into the troubled waters of a hip hop-dedicated festival though and perhaps that’s because the history is not good. Supafest has the longest run, managing four lineups, but in its final year, it was cancelled due to poor ticket sales after delivering a bill that included T.I., 50 Cent and J.Cole. Headliner Missy Elliott’s management claimed she was never booked to play while Diddy hit out on social media saying they had not sent payment.

Poor ticket sales also took down Soulfest and a lineup that included Miguel, Lauryn Hill and Talib Kwali. The promoter John Dennison, who also had a hand in Supafest, was later ordered to pay just under $500k for copyright infringement in relation to those festivals.

2013’s Movement Festival promised the goods with a lineup hand-curated by Nas. 2 Chainz and Joey Bada$$ were billed to play alongside local acts like Bliss N Eso but it fell apart. 2 Chainz was unable to obtain a visa and promoters cancelled the event because they couldn’t deliver what was promised. Rap City festival also failed to launch that year, citing scheduling conflicts.

Before Rolling Loud Australia, the closest thing we had to a touring hip hop festival is the Hit Network’s RnB Fridays Live – a throwback tour that has brought Nelly, TLC, Eve and more to the country.

It’s not that hip hop lacks popularity Down Under. In the past year alone, Nicki Minaj has headlined FOMO Festival, Cardi B has topped the bill for Field Day, A$AP Rocky headed down-under for Listen Out and Future headed up the first ever Rolling Loud Australia festival. On top of that, Drake, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem have all completed successful tours of the country.

Other Australian festivals have capitalised off of hip hop’s huge local market, giving the genre a heavy presence on their bills. Listen Out has hosted Travis Scott, Future, Anderson .Paak and more while Post Malone, Rae Sremmurd and even Desiigner have graced FOMO Festival’s stage. In addition to that, Kendrick Lamar has headlined , Juice WRLD and Dizzie Rascal have taken to Falls Festival and Laneway has always been inclusive of hyped rappers from Mick Jenkins to Vince Staples.

Rolling Loud Australia broke a long string of failed Australian hip hop festivals with the US giant, completing its debut year in Sydney. With a lineup that included Future, Rae Sremmurd, YG and more, the festival sold out in under 38 minutes. It’s the first Australian forway for the international festival which started as a one day festival in Florida four years ago and has since expanded to California with a New York event also being teased.

The festival is teasing a return to the country next year with no word on whether or not it plans to move into other cities. It has a burgeoning international brand behind it with a strong following in the hip hop community whereas DRIP World will essentially be building its brand from scratch.

Even with its success, Rolling Loud Australia wasn’t immune from the Australian hip hop festival curse. Lil Uzi Vert dropped out of the festival at the last minute, citing “undisclosed reasons”. He joined a list of local cancellations for the past 18 months that also includes Migos, Playboi Carti, Earl Sweatshirt. Thug failed to make it to the country for Laneway Festival in 2017 too with Laneway founder Danny Rogers revealing on Reddit that they took him off the lineup because they sensed he was “unreliable”.

This year, Childish Gambino will headline Splendour In The Grass while Listen Out has already rolled out a bill that includes 6lack, Schoolboy Q and Denzel Curry. There’s plenty to whet the appetite of local hip hop fans but there are still a number of names yet to bring recent tours Down Under that could get DRIP World across the line. Travis Scott’s Astroworld tour is yet to come to Australia and he’s only got one event booked for September at this stage. Kid Cudi has also been playing festivals in the US but hasn’t toured Australia since 2012, a touch longer than Tyler The Creator, who allegedly had his visa revoked four years ago. Tyler was just let back into the UK after a previous ban so maybe it’s time we let him back down here. The festival could also conjure excitement by tapping hyped names like Megan Thee Stallion before they reach headliner status.

We’ll have to wait and see what DRIP World delivers. The artist announcement is set to come on June 5 ahead of the ticket drop on June 17. They are teasing the “freshest artists” and placing a big emphasis on the festival’s debut year. By the sounds of it, they’re planning to be in it for the long run.

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