One of the best things about the proliferation of festivals, much like the Internet, is the exposure to new music of all genres. It’s representative of the changing way many of us listen to music. Niche fans that only listen to one specific genre are becoming a thing of the past. Anyone who has read this column with any frequency over the last couple of years knows that I’m steadfast in keeping my vision wide when it comes to new music — but my true love will always be hip hop.
Time and time again, Rifflandia has brought top-tier rap talent to Victoria, and this year is no exception. In fact, it might be Rifflandia’s biggest hip-hop year yet. I’m here to get you ready for all the freshness that’s going to be dropping next week during the most exciting week on Victoria’s music calendar, as Rifflandia gets under way. I don’t have nearly enough room for all the hip hop, so I’m going to name-drop a few artists that got me all hot and bothered when I saw them.
Big Boi — Sunday, Sept. 15, 5:45 p.m. — Royal Athletic Park, Main Stage.
This may seem obvious since he’s a headliner, and one of the biggest names at the festival, but his set will be a must-see. I’ve seen a lot of live hip-hop in my time on Earth, but hands down one of the best sets I’ve ever seen was Big Boi’s performance at Bonnaroo in 2011. With a full band including a horn section to bounce his rapid-fire rhymes off of, Big Boi’s performance is one of the most energetic you’re likely to see. Showing off his solo skills and representing the other half of the mighty OutKast, Big Boi’s live act is a testament to the power of hip-hop music. I can’t stress enough how sorry you’ll be if you even have a passing interest in hip-hop and you miss this.
Souls of Mischief — Saturday, Sept. 14, 10:30 p.m. — Phillips Backyard.
Few hip-hop albums define a coast like 93 ‘Til Infinity, the debut record from Oakland’s Souls of Mischief. The album stands as one of the greatest documentations of hip-hop’s ability to bring together the braggadocios and the intelligentsia. In 93, the quartet of MCs, who had yet to reach their 20s, brought an impossible fluidity to their rhymes and set the groundwork for the laid-back, smoked-out soul sound that came to define much of underground, West Coast hip-hop. This year they take a much deserved victory lap, as the album — which sounds as good as it ever did — celebrates its 20th birthday. Souls of Mischief promises to be one of the most joyous sets you’re going to catch.
Pigeon Hole — Thursday, Sept. 12, 9:30 p.m. — Club 9one9.
The first time I saw Pigeon Hole was at Rifflandia 2010’s instalment. All I knew was that they had established hip-hop credentials from Vancouver’s Sweatshop Union. I saw two guys overflowing with confidence and wild energy that seemed to come out in every direction. I saw them again, the first time since, mere weeks ago at Shambhala. While that wild energy is still there, the duo has now found a laser-like focus for that energy. They attack the stage with overwhelming exuberance and unleash a sonic assault on the crowd. I dare you to not have fun.
Action Bronson — Friday, Sept. 13, 9:30 p.m. — Phillips Backyard.
Action Bronson is many things. Boring is not one of these things. New York’s Bronson, a former chef, has built a reputation as one of the most unique personalities in hip-hop today: a dizzying blend of surrealist humour and over-the-top gangsta-ness (“Eat steaks offa cold plates, stone cold listenin’ to Coldplay”). Bronson’s demeanour can accurately be described as “jovially menacing.” His live shows are said to be ridiculous fun-punches to the face, designed to make you party your asses off, and I’m more than excited to get a taste of the quickly growing legend.