SXSW Music's Hip-Hop Hierarchy

From up-and-comers to rap royalty, 20 key sets to see


Princess Nokia

Ivy Sole

Mon. 12, Pour Choices, 8:15pm

Wrestling spirituality, mental health, and Philly, the Wharton business grad slides between a smooth, singsong cadence and poetic reflection on last year's EP West. Soulful timbres ("Rooftop"), political musings ("The Four"), and dancehall rhythms on "My Way," a flip of KP & Envyi's "Shorty Swing My Way," spiral the North Carolina native's vulnerability.

Joey Purp

Tue. 13, Lustre Pearl, 12:45am; Wed. 14, Cheer Up Charlies, 11:30pm

A member of Chicago's Savemoney crew, which includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Saba, Joey Davis fits the bill with nimble flow and heady wordplay. On 2016's iiiDrops, he spits filthy swagger via "Girls @," politically charged monologues on "Cornerstore," and apathetic realism on "Moneys & Bitches."

Trinidad James

Tue. 13, Antone's, 1am

Nicholas James Williams reached over-the-top decadence on Billboard Hot 100 single "All Gold Everything." Before the Trinidad rapper could capitalize with a Def Jam debut, he was dropped from the label, wherein he started Gold Gang Records and released eight mixtapes including 2017's Father Figga.

WebsterX

Wed. 14, Stubb's Inside, 12mid

Amidst a hellish soundscape of jagged synths, eerie ambience, and scattered beats on his 2017 debut Daymares, Sam Ahmed oscillates between longing croons, aggressive shots, and desperate pleas – all crystallized from his hometown Milwaukee.

Bun B

Wed. 14, Highland Lounge, 1am

Bun B played the sage to Pimp C's loose cannon in Lone Star legacy UGK, but the Houston rapper born Bernard Freeman built a Southern hip-hop franchise with Trill (2005), II Trill (2008), Trill OG (2010), and Trill OG: The Epilogue (2013). Percussive beats grind back and forth to braggadocio punch lines and mic dominance.

Fat Tony

Wed. 14, Maggie Mae's, 1am; Fri. 16, Plush, 12:15am

Laced with André 3000's pliable, dynamic flow and Jay-Z's witty hooks, Houston mainstay Anthony Jude Obi served up curveballs by the dozen on 2010 debut RABDARGAB and 2013 follow-up Smart Ass Black Boy. Throwing shots at gentrification amidst jagged synths on "Hood Party" and repping Whataburger on "Drive-Thru," Fat Tony quirks.

August Greene

Wed. 14, Stubb's, 12:20am

Jazz pianist Robert Glasper, rapper Common, and jazz drummer Karriem Riggins join forces in the hip-hop supergroup August Greene. Including a performance at the White House for an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, they cover Sounds of Blackness' "Optimistic" on an eponymous bow.

Princess Nokia

Thu. 15, Clive Bar, 11pm

Giving the middle finger to femcee stereotypes on "Tomboy," Destiny Nicole Frasqueri raps aggressively contemplative on debut LP 1992 Deluxe (2017). Whether waxing on her hometown ("ABCs of New York") or exploring her Taíno and Yoruban culture ("Brujas"), the 25-year-old breakout aims for the jugular.

Tinashe

Thu. 15, Trinity Warehouse, 11pm

Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe offers pop with decidedly urban production on singles "All Hands on Deck," "Faded Love," and the Schoolboy Q and DJ Mustard assisted "2 On." The Kentucky native leans on slinky hip-hop production and R&B on key mixtapes Aquarius and Amethyst.

Action Bronson

Thu. 15, Banger's, 12mid

Food obsession, Ghostface Killah comparisons, and a penchant for vulgarity make Ariyan Arslani's music as tasty as it is distasteful. For every cinematic comedy of "The Don's Cheek" on Blue Chips 2, there's the tone-deaf, misogynistic "72 Virgins" on Saaab Stories. The Queens native goes from raunchy to vulnerable in the drop of a punch line.

Rapsody

Thu. 15, Belmont, 12:10am

Featured on Anderson Paak's Malibu, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, and signed to Jay-Z's label Roc Nation, North Carolina's Marlanna Evans nabbed a Grammy nomination for Laila's Wisdom. Rapsody's sophomore album remains a lyrically bold opus, sprawling with Black Power transcendence.

Wyclef Jean

Thu. 15, Highland Lounge, 12:30am

Oddball visionary to Lauryn Hill's queenly melodics and Pras Michel's pop sensibility, Wyclef Jean brought otherworldly magic traversing the Black diaspora, political rage, and nerdy culture on 1994 Fugees debut Blunted on Reality and seminal follow-up The Score two years later. That's carried over on the Haitian polymath's six solo LPs.

Dr. Octagon

Thu. 15, Scoot Inn, TBA

The original lineup of Dan the Automator, Kool Keith, and DJ Qbert dropped space rap utopia "Octagon Octagon" and the alien hijack "Area 54" from the forthcoming Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation, their first album in over 20 years.

Kweku Collins

Fri. 16, Clive Bar, 9pm

Like Noname and Saba, Kweku Collins emerges from the fertile Chicago area. Teetering between coming-of-age manifestos, spaced-out Kid Cudi raps, and abstract spoken word, the 20-year-old wordsmith boasts an expansive palette including "Oasis2: Maps," a rendition of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" on 2017's Grey.

Talib Kweli

Fri. 16, Container Bar, 9:15pm

Social activist, Mos Def teammate on Black Star, and collaborator with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Common, Brooklyn's Talib Kweli Greene stays busy whether penning passionate essays against white supremacy, starting his own record label (Blacksmith Records), or spinning his philosophy across eight solo LPs including November's Radio Silence.

Peanut Butter Wolf

Fri. 16, Empire Garage, 12:05am

Founding Stones Throw Records in 1996, Chris Manak ushered in an eccentric strain of L.A. hip-hop with Quasimoto, Madvillain, and Madlib. He signed beat mastermind J Dilla and Anderson Paak's duo NxWorries.

Duckwrth

Fri. 16, Empire Control Room, 12:30am

Whether channeling the King of Pop on "Michuul," shedding boogie "Throwyoassout," or jigsawing guitars on "Xtra," L.A. native Jared Lee traverses low-bass funk, distorted rock, bubbling pop, and everything in between on 2017's Xtra Ugly mixtape, taking cues from oddball visionaries Outkast and N.E.R.D.

Kemba

Sat. 17, Empire Control Room, 10:15pm

Breaking out via a viral freestyle on HOT 97's Real Late with Peter Rosenberg and gaining Kendrick Lamar's stamp of approval, Matthew Jefferson (fka YC the Cynic) flows nimbly with politically charged shots. A trip to Ferguson inspired the Bronx native's 2017 disc Negus.

Homeboy Sandman

Sat. 17, Plush, 1am

Angel Del Villar II is a rapper's rapper. From 2007 debut Nourishment (Second Helpings) to last year's Veins, the Queens MC never falters on proudly arrogant flows and technical wordplay. The Stones Throw signee brings his A-game every set.

Miss Eaves

Sat. 17, Cheer Up Charlies Inside, 1am

Brooklyn's Shanthony Exum throws the middle finger to the patriarchy under grimy synths and oscillating beats. She goes from celebrating women of all shapes and sizes in banger "Thunder Thighs" to turning the male gaze on its head on "Fuccboi Salute," and giving instruction on masturbatory ode "Hump Day" from last year's Feminasty.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW 2018, Ivy Sole, Joey Purp, WebsterX, Bun B, Fat Tony, August Greene, Princess Nokia, Tinashe, Action Bronson, Rapsody, Wyclef Jean, Dr. Octagon, Kweku Collins, Talib Kweli, Peanut Butter Wolf, Duckwrth, Kemba, Homeboy Sandman, Miss Eaves

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