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Festival Review: Hopscotch Festival 2013, Day 2 – Raleigh, NC

Holy Ghost!

Turf War

Alpoko Don

After Ryan and I pulled up a video of this guy banging out a freestyle on his porch we had no idea how he’d translate live. But despite a middling crowd at his set’s start Alpoko Don was able to deliver to captivate the audience with his unique brand of rap, all while sitting down. You see, Alpoko Don is not your average rapper; he performs a bulk of his material with no backing track, but rather banging his hand on a table to make his own beat and switching to the pen in his hand for the clap. All the while the mixer on his table is flying all over the place with each beat and he has to readjust it every few bars just so it doesn’t fall off. After performing half of his set seated he arose to perform over backing tracks with some lyrical prowess — “burn so much purple, you’d think that I’m smoking Barney.” Alpoko Don admirably rides a bit off the cuff and the results are unparalleled. –Evan Kaloudis

Big Daddy Kane

I know given Hopscotch’s lineup this is a bit irrational, but my most anticipated act of the festival was fellow Flushing, Queens native Action Bronson. After missing him at Bonnaroo I was aching to hear the chef-turned-rapper spit waspy tales of Thai prostitutes, filet mignon, and drug dealing while dropping references to the ’90s Knicks. Naturally I was devastated when I heard he couldn’t make it down to North Carolina because of a sneeze that took out his back after taking a “dab.”

I gotta hand it to Grayson and the organizers of Hopscotch for coming up with the best replacement at a moment’s notice — Big Daddy Kane. Despite being wiped after Alpoko Don’s set, BDK took to the stage and rejuvenated me with enthusiasm and stage presence that was second-to-none at this festival. There was hardly a moment of downtime as he ran through classics like “Warm It Up Kane,” “Ain’t No Half Steppin’,” and “Raw” and commanded the audience like a puppeteer through tributes to all of rap’s greats from J Dilla to Big L to 2Pac. Perhaps the best part of the set was the b-boys he picked off of the street (we literally saw BDK coordinate with these Raleigh kids out the back of the venue before the show) to dance with him. Hell, his DJ even got in on the action and helped provide us with one of our favorite shots of the festival. Big Daddy Kane has been an entertainer in this game for almost 30 years, and it shows. –Kaloudis

Earl Sweatshirt

When the curtains ominously closed after Big Daddy Kane’s incredible, dominating set, our expectations for Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt raised. After we had been to the old school of hip-hop, it was time for Earl to show us what hip-hop is still all about. The curtains opened to Syd (who’s now doing her own thing in The Internet, and doing it well) standing behind the DJ decks, leading us through a set of her own personal tastes, of course ending with Petey Pablo’s “Raise Up” (side note: her brother Taco did the same back at Cat’s Cradle in March when DJing for Tyler, the Creator) before leading into Tyler’s “Trashwang” off this year’s Wolf. The festival crowd (largely not consisting of Odd Future’s usual following) passionately screamed along Nak’el Smith’s first verse and Left Brain’s hook, giving Syd the confirmation that we were indeed, ready for Earl. Laying down “Drop” and smoothly sliding onstage, Earl came out decked in a black hoodie instead of his now infamous bucket hat, and the hood never left his head for the entire performance. Earl slid through classics (“Blade,” “Orange Juice”) and fantastic takes off this year’s Doris (“Burgundy,” “Molasses”). A moment of crowd participation came when he asked for requests, and this writer asked him to perform “20 Wave Caps,” to which Earl responded that Domo Genesis was not in the building. I assured Earl that Raleigh could handle Domo’s part (editor’s note: no seriously, Ryan and I were first row and yelling at him talking with him), and he gave it a shot. He rapped the verse himself, but we still did anyway, proving him that he has a great crowd wherever. With renewed confidence, he harkened back to his darker early days, performing “Kill” and “Earl,” before finally declaring “this last song is for anyone who can spell,” triumphantly leaving the stage with “Whoa.” Earl has had a lot of expectations and burdens placed on him, and performances like this have helped him beat them. –Nichols

Ryan Hemsworth

Yep, that’s Ryan and A-Trak

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