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Festival Review and Photos: Bonnaroo 2012


Thursday

Danny Brown

Danny Brown is a freaky dude. It’ll take you about five seconds to come to that conclusion, after you see him: long hair —but half shaven off, tacky shirt with Hawaiian-like palette, tight jeans. When he opens his mouth it gets crazier; he can hit you with high-pitched whiney croons and transition to long brooding bass notes all while staying in rhyme pattern. You may think he’s weird, but the Detroit-based rapper doesn’t seem to give a damn about what you think.

The 30-year-old-plus rapper has been through his fair share of struggles, whether it be trying to make it as an artist (he was almost signed to 50 Cent’s G-Unit — you should definitely download his Hawaiian Snow EP with Tony Yayo) or dealing with the boatload of drugs he’s become acclimated to: promethazine, alcohol, ecstasy, etc. It’s all put out in the open on last year’s XXX (read 30, his age) put out last year on house-label Fool’s Gold.

Let’s cut to the chase: Danny Brown is phenomenal live. Fans react fantastically to his crass swagger, brutal honesty, and transparency of who he is as a person. For his hour set, Brown sprayed rhymes without pause in energy or breath, and occasionally commanded the crowd like the devil himself as he rapped about ecstasy, fake commercial rappers, and eating pussy. Damn.

– Evan Kaloudis


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.


Yelawolf

The bigger and bigger it gets, the more influenced it becomes by exterior taste, but by and large, like any major festival, Bonnaroo is still largely guided by scenester taste. So, wedged between “it” artists Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf seemed the obvious man out for the evening.

Anyone who follows Catfish Billy knows better. The drunkard Alabamian is no man to take the backseat, and despite the relative weakness of his debut studio effort, he knows how to move a crowd better than either of his fellow rap performers. It’s partially due to the root of his music itself: the country attitude of his performance immediately puts the audience in a position to tear the stage apart.

I’d been looking forward to Kendrick all night, but when it was all said and done, Yelawolf had left me with the most memories. I’d managed to squeeze close to the stage, and as he entered the audience became a giant shockwave, following his every move. “Pop the Trunk” received the greatest outcry, with Yela also performing his verse from the Shady 2.0 Cypher, the Eminem-featuring “Throw It Up” (minus Marshall, of course). He also took some time out to show the audience the music that had inspired him, explaining the wide range of musical influences that had spawned his brand of rap, a mixture of Cash and old country, rock n’ roll, and Deep South hip hop, blasting some OutKast. I couldn’t decide whether I felt it was a legitimate connection to his audience or an excuse for Yelawolf to sit around for 20 minutes, but he circled me back in with a heartfelt cover of some Beastie Boy hits in a moving tribute to MCA. The Shady records Southern arm drank with the crowd (pouring some whiskey down for the fallen Beastie), yelled his ass off, and provided one of the more memorable hip hop shows at this year’s Roo, despite having the weakest body of material. That’s got to say something for the kid’s future.

– Chase McMullen


White Denim


Kendrick Lamar

Closing up the main day of rap sets was fittingly the most exciting up-and-comer in the game: new Dr. Dre signee Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick played a healthy selection of his whole catalog, enough so to keep the both the new fans and early Top Dawg supporters happy. But far and away the most impressive performances were of new single “The Recipe” — during which Kendrick performed the chorus and Dre’s verses on top of his own without so much as taking an extra breath — and his magnum opus freestyle “Look Out for Detox” which left me wondering how it was physically possible for someone to emit those noises from one’s mouth with such tenacity.

Kendrick didn’t have the energy of Danny Brown or Yelawolf but few do. His lyrical skills more than made up for it but I couldn’t help but feel that he could benefit by having at least another member of his crew onstage. I was banking on one of the other Top Dawg Ent./Black Hippy members on coming out for one of the final tracks, but Danny Brown getting on stage and hopping around with him was fun too.

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. Kendrick Lamar is the best thing that rap has to offer right now. His live performance may not match his studio effort but his stage presence will improve in time. Rapping about money, clothes, and hoes is fun, but if you can rap and have a message, sky’s the limit.

– Evan Kaloudis


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