The Syracuse hardcore band Perfect Pussy won the lion’s share of SXSW’s cool-kid attention. Destruction Unit put on some of the week’s most raucous shows. Bigger bands (well, relatively) like Speedy Ortiz, Cloud Nothings, Parquet Courts, and F—ed Up went above and beyond to put on a slew of killer parties.
But who cares about that crap, because Rick Ross has the No. 1 album in the country!!!! Did you know that Rick Ross has the No. 1 album in the country? If you didn’t, he and his hype man at the Fader Fort last night made sure to remind everyone over and over. And over.
As has been the trend for a few years now, Big Rap turned SXSW into its own game. The festival’s closing night drove that point home: Ross celebrated his chart-topping new record Mastermind by headlining Fader, A$AP Mob and Mobb Deep capped their own busy weeks at 1100 Warehouse, and 2 Chainz took over a showcase at Brazos Hall.
Clearly, it was a rap-heavy schedule, and that’s not even counting Jay And Kanye’s Samsung event Wednesday night or the shows by Future, Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, B.o.B., Nas, and, um, Ludacris.
But let’s start with Ricky Rozay, because, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he has the No. 1 album in the country. Here’s the thing, though: The man totally does deserve to celebrate. According to sales figures, Ross is officially among rap’s most successful artists — and Mastermind really is a great record. That much became evident during his set last night, which included a bunch of new and old hits and barely any filler.
Highlights included “Hustlin’,” “Sanctified,” “Stay Schemin,” “The Devil Is a Lie,” and Ace Hood’s “Bugatti.” Lowlights? “Big Pimpin” (sorry, but I’m tired of people trying bring this song back; send your hate mail to Entertainment Weekly, c/o Ray Rahman) and the cardboard cutout of Ross that loomed on the stage, too often blocking the audience’s view of the actual Rick Ross.
But as boastful as he can be, Ross always manages to be a charmer. “You know what, when this is what you center everything around, you just want the best, not only for yourself, but for your team,” he said on stage.” I not only want a No. 1 for me but for all the new-time dudes who’ve never been on a No. 1 album.” He also gave an extended shout-out to the beloved Texas duo UGK, a.k.a Bun B and the late Pimp C (yes, the ones on “Big Pimpin”). Nice, that.
Later in the night, 2 Chainz brought his own amped-up persona to a showcase hosted by Yahoo. As someone who’s never been into the whole premise that 2 Chainz can be a solo artist — I usually prefer him in smaller doses, ideally as a guest on the songs of better rappers — I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed his set. For one thing, the guy has undeniable charisma; his beaming smile is nearly as bright as his massive chain. He, too, stuck to the hits, which he has a few of by now: “No Lie,” “I’m Different,” “Birthday Song,” and A$AP Rocky’s monster single “F—in’ Problems.” He closed the night with Lil Wayne’s “Rich as F—.” And while he didn’t offer any of the deference that Ross displayed at Fader, 2 Chainz did have a message for his audience: He dedicated a song to everyone who “got new s—” during SXSW.
Going back to Friday for a minute, the Spin party at Stubb’s offered plenty of delights: Cloud Nothings sounded great in the large outdoor venue, Against Me! inspired some epic mosh pits, and, as Kyle Anderson wrote, the punk brothers of Radkey were formidable contenders. But the headliner slot belonged to Future, whose new album Honest is just around the corner. He previewed some unheard material from it, and by the sound of it, the record will skew trap, with less of the trippy prog-hop a la “Real and True.” Which is probably savvy, because hard rap is having a moment in the mainstream (thanks for that, Chief Keef!).
Another thing having a moment? Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love. Two days after Jay and ‘Ye performed it at their Throne outing, Future offered up his own live remix of the song, which might’ve been the high point of his set. Which is saying something: The show also included solid bangers like “Racks,” “Tap Out,” “Chosen One,” and, yep, “Bugatti.” Always “Bugatti.”
He brought out some buddies, too: B.o.B came out to perform “Ready,” and Bun B showed up to play “Draped Up.” It’s pretty much a rap law that anyone performing in Texas has to shout out UGK.
As for his new tracks, you can watch a couple of them here: