Top 20 Hip-Hop Artists at SXSW Music

Dua Saleh (Photo by Izzy Commers)

Tierra Whack

Wed. 13, Container Bar, 6pm; Thu. 14, Belmont, 12:15am
Only 15 minutes to digest, Tierra Whack's 2018 studio debut Whack World brims with a surrealist imagination and an experimental abruptness as jarring as it is welcoming. The Philadelphia MC's fleeting feelings mirror the 60-second songs, zigzagging from "All dogs go to heaven" naivete in "Pet Cemetery" to middle-fingered, country revenge on "Fuck Off" and doo-wop love musings for "Silly Sam."

Open Mike Eagle

Wed. 13, Banger’s, 11pm
Explosively witty lyricism and self-awareness, Open Mike Eagle's most accessible full-length, 2017's Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, sidesteps gangster rap for a conceptual song cycle about a housing project in his native Chicago. Last year's 20-minute EP What Happens When I Try to Relax doesn't achieve Lamar transcendence, but its glass-clear honesty traverses Nineties Flintstone throwbacks and post-Trump malaise.

De La Soul

Wed. 13, Banger’s, 12mid
In the post-Eighties world of clearing samples, the Long Island trio of Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer), Trugoy (David Jolicoeur), and Maseo (Vincent Mason) have had a difficult time clearing their back catalog, specifically groundbreaking 1989 debut 3 Feet High & Rising. A confluence of Afrocentric individuality, Parliament Funkadelic funk, hippie rhymes, and mercurial samples, it welcomed hip-hop to the weird outliers.

Ivy Sole

Wed. 13, Pour Choices, 12mid; Thu. 14, Empire Control Room, 10pm; Fri. 15, Nuevo Leon, 4pm
Untangling a brawny bedlam of mental health and Philly's urban ills, North Carolina-born MC Taylor McLendon boasts a smooth cadence and poetic reflection on last year's Overgrown. Queer radical storylines float atop pocketed percussion on "Lovely Fiction," while biblical undertones seep in "Parables."


Wed. 13, Scratchouse, 12:20am; Thu. 14, British Music Embassy @ Latitude 30, 11pm
A newcomer to London's seasoned grime scene, Funmi Ohiosumah boomerangs between nimble flows and assertive braggadocio. Single "Watchout" lies betwixt raucous warehouse rave and bold rap flair. Debut EP Wild Yout accented barks complemented by industrial-smeared 808s and jarring synth stabs.


Wed. 13, Pour Choices, 1am; Sat. 16, Main II, 12:55am
Breaking ground on 2017's debut EP Lesson Learned, Australian rapper Rich Kwame Amevor then followed up with last year's Endless Conversations, six concise tracks venturing between the cold romance that interlaces featherlight keys on "Coffee" and the distorted 808s and hotheaded gruff of "Wow."


Thu. 14, Main II, 9pm
Upon releasing their joint-rolled banger "Take Off," Trenchmobb quickly became one of Chicago's most promising rap groups. Led by Sosa Corleone, the rap crew's debut mixtape Be Home Soon brims with trap street rap. Crisp snares and skittered hi-hats pepper high-alpha flows.

Dua Saleh

Thu. 14, Antone’s, 10:05pm
Like a soft breeze carving through topical geography, Saleh's pliable voice ebbs and flows. On January's debut EP Nür, the Sudanese singer/poet now based in Minneapolis retains a distinct vocal character that morphs between a funeral procession haunt in "Albany," inebriated, dilated-pupil slur on "Warm Pants," and candy-coaxed timbres for the crystalline "Sugar Mama."

Rico Nasty

Thu. 14, Belmont, 11:45pm
Ricocheting between pop-trap femme fatale Tacobella and goth nü metallist Trap Lavigne on 2018's Nasty, Brooklyn rapper Maria Kelly skids with a punk edge, growled ad-libs, and combative flows on expletive-drilled earworms such as "Bitch I'm Nasty."


Thu. 14, Velveeta Room, 12mid
Kevin Smith snarls with a gruff Irish accent on "White Noise." Opener on 2018's Deli Daydreams, it translates claustrophobic as his teeth knock on being raised in a broken home. Part producer, part rapper, the Dubliner shifts between jazz-plumed beats as he bares heartbreak ("Bubby's Cream"), strikes self-deprecating and slinky ("Last Pint"), and gets white-knuckle anthemic ("Politicksis").


Thu. 14, Stubb’s, 12:30am
A cold brew of funk aplomb, cheeky wit, and Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out," Lizzo's new single "Juice" embodies the singer's high glam and body positivity for big grrrls of the R&B-flared Big Grrrl Small World (2015). Boasting a Prince cosign off his Plectrumelectrum, the 30-year-old life force, born Melissa Jefferson in Detroit and raised in Houston before moving to Minneapolis, previews third LP Cuz I Love You, arriving April 19, with a doo-wop-leaning title track.


Thu. 14, Belmont, 12:45am; Fri. 15, Nuevo Leon, 2pm
Fresh off her sophomore release Big Dreez, Seandrea Sledge aims for the "Queen of Chicago Rap" mantle. More succinct and snappier, the new LP steps up big-time from her 2016 bow No Hard Feelings, the femcee spiting braggadocio on "Chicken Noodle Soup" and flowing Henny bottle opulence in "Play Wit Ya" amidst knockout trap punches.


Fri. 15, Half Step, 8:45pm
Wrestling with self-liberation, patriarchy, and societal ills, Tribade brings together MCs Bittah (Alba Martínez), Masiva Lulla (Diana Lulla), and Sombra Alor (Elisabet Alonso). Boasting a deadpan delivery and a nimble flow, the Barcelona trio play tag-team amongst a bedlam of jagged beats and warbled wobbles with rhythmic pulses of flamenco, reggaeton, and trap.

Jvcki Wai

Fri. 15, Cheer Up Charlies, 9pm
Synthetic and imaginative, Hong Ye-eun's K-pop surrealism unfolds Enchanted Propaganda. Her flow comes packaged in tight, triplet-laced flows interpolated by ad-libbed gab serrations as bug-eyed synths zigzag with mutant Autotune on "Life Disorder."

Karol Conka

Fri. 15, Palm Door on Sixth, 11pm; Sat. 16, Lucille, 12mid
Often labeled as the Brazilian queen of hip-hop, Karoline dos Santos de Oliveira employs batucada dance floor burners, bossanova flute, and lowrider trap on a whirlwind of husked aggression and bouncing animation.


Sat. 16, Main II, 9pm
The first Norwegian rapper to be featured on Beats 1 Radio, Iranian-born Pasha Nadjafi spits wit and backpack bravado as he moves along wacky vibrations and kick-back production. On singles like the Nineties-tinged "Around the Area," synth-plumed "Colorblind," and slick funk of "Prettyboi Bounce," he opts for breeze and ease flows instead of hard-knock gristle.


Sat. 16, Main II, 10:35pm
Having worked with American hip-hop legends Nas and Raekwon, Tseng Kuan-jung has become one of Taiwan's most successful crossover hip-hop acts – not an easy feat for a dude who raps entirely in Chinese. Whether waxing on social justice, global inequity, or human rights, his lyrical palette remains expansive enough to have captured the interest of the Dalai Lama, who collaborated with him on his track "People."


Sat. 16, Main II, 11:45pm
Languid and unrushed, Hanju Kim's flow lets his production breathe, clearing ample space for gentle key caresses to bloom and samples to swell. The Kiwi rapper's plainspoken prose and sleepy-eyed mumbles glide atop Ciara & Missy Elliot's "1, 2 Step" on "Better."

MC Frontalot

Sat. 16, Flamingo Cantina, 11:50pm
With "Nerdcore Hiphop" in 2000, Damian Hess created a genre giving love to geeks worldwide. Six albums to date, the San Franciscan's material references aliens, endangered species, web development language, and comic book trivia with wit and self-deprecation.


Sat. 16, Scratchouse, TBA
Untangling the sinewy limbs of her Venezuelan hometown's corrupt politics and societal malaise, Juliana Carolina Muñoz González comes equipped with a sharp tongue and scathing critique. Rapid-fire verses rep women empowerment manifestos like "Mujer Sin Maquillaje."

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