ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, Kendrick Lamar opened the European leg of his tour in Dublin’s 3Arena. Fresh from winning five Grammy Awards a fortnight ago, the rapper played to an adoring crowd of thousands, all of whom were fluent in DAMN. “The entire point just rapped Humble AT Kendrick,” tweeted one concertgoer. “Dublin never change.”
Elsewhere, the number one song in the country is God’s Plan by Drake. Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Eminem, Ramz and The Weeknd all have songs in the top ten on Spotify’s Ireland Top 50. Other artists with songs scattered throughout the top fifty include Post Malone, G-Eazy and French Montana.
Bearing all this in mind, it seems fair to say that rap, hip-hop, and grime are no longer the niche genres they were once perceived to be. Instead they are dominating the charts and shaping popular culture. So much so that Dublin’s walls are emblazoned with giant portraits of Stormzy and Kendrick Lamar.
This morning, Longitude made their first line-up announcement. It was laden with hip-hop, R&B and grime acts like J. Cole, Post Malone, Migos, Cardi B, Travis Scott, Tyler, The Creator, Solange, Anderson Paak, Lil Pump, J Hus, and much more besides.
It marks a stark departure from previous years when Longitude was geared almost entirely towards indie and dance fans. In its first year of existence, the festival was headlined by Vampire Weekend, Phoenix and Kraftwerk. The next couple of years were more of the same. Ben Howard, Bastille, Haim, Disclosure, Massive Attack, Hozier, Alt-J, Caribou and The Chemical Brothers were among those who received top billing.
In 2016, the festival started to diversify somewhat. That year it was headlined by Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer and The National. Something for everyone, you might say. Meanwhile, Run The Jewels, Tyler, The Creator, Action Bronson, A$AP Ferg and Stormzy all received decent, if not primetime, slots. A sign of where things were going, if you will.
Longitude tends to attract a young crowd on account of being a three-day festival in Dublin. Last year, bookers embraced this and booked mainstream pop/grime/hip-hop acts like The Weeknd, Stormzy, Picture This, Dua Lipa, G-Eazy and Skepta to perform. Mumford & Sons may have curated a stage, but the respected indie acts of years previous were gone.
“Leave Father John Misty, Phoenix and Interpol to Electric Picnic,” they said. “We’ll take The Weeknd and Stormzy.”
This year’s lineup is a natural progression for a festival that is increasingly aimed at a younger, more mainstream audience. It might jar for music fans who are accustomed to festivals anchored by rock, indie, and dance acts, but it’s actually a rather thrilling representation of where pop music is at right now.
Take Migos, for example. The Atlanta trio broke out with their album Culture last year. Their single Bad and Boujee was a viral hit and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Its members – Quavo, Offset and Takeoff – have featured on tracks by everyone from DJ Khaled to, er, Liam Payne.
Or how about Cardi B? Last year, she knocked Taylor Swift from the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and became the first female hip-hop artist since Lauryn Hill to have a solo number one. She can currently be heard on Finesse, a frankly delightful nineties throwback jam with Bruno Mars that’s burning up the charts.
In fact, there’s hardly a weak link in the lineup. Solange’s A Seat At The Table is one of the most revered albums of the decade. Sampha won the Mercury Music Prize last year. You couldn’t escape Post Malone last year. Giggs and J Hus are two of the most prominent figures in UK rap and grime. Big Shaq arguably had the song of the year with his grime parody Man’s Not Hot, which is at 210 million views and counting.
That’s before you even get to Travis Scott who just last week became the father to the most Instagram-loved baby in the world, Stormi Webster.
All of which is to say that all of these acts are more than deserving of headlining a summer festival. They’re the artists people are listening to. If Longitude didn’t book these acts, it would run the risk of becoming irrelevant and out of touch with its core audience.
In pulling together all of these heavy hitters, the festival has produced one of the most exciting lineups in yonks. Rather than following the herd and booking conventional festival acts, it has curated a lineup that is fresh and thoroughly of the moment. It might run the risk of alienating those who aren’t fans of hip-hop, grime and R&B, but something tells me it’s a gamble that’ll pay off.
After all, if the thousands of people rapping Humble at Kendrick Lamar this week have taught us anything, it’s that’s the kids don’t want to see Ocean Colour Scene at a music festival.