Dead Prez chanted, “Its bigger than hip hop!” and on the 27th of April 2013, South Africa witnessed what is known as the Moria of SA Hip Hop, shut down Johannesburg.
Back To The City boasted a long list of performers, three stages, an international act and a projected 20K attendance. This promised to be the biggest to date festival in its 7-year life-span.
Scheduled to start at 10am, the event started well into the afternoon – a bit past 2pm; to the dismay of the large number of people that took to the entrance line that extended deep into Newtown. The good thing is, people were keen to be part of the action and in the same breath the bad was you have more irate people waiting to get in. With the 4-hour delay, more delays were encountered by media personnel at the VIP entrance gate as there was miscommunication as to who needed to be inside the Mary Fritzgerald Square, as billed artists started trickling in. Inside the Square, it was a magical sight to behold. Hip Hop never looked so beautiful. The main stage was neatly setup on the one side, the Red Bull stage was on the far side behind the beer garden with skaters, b-ballers and graffiti artists creating magic.
The stalls displayed an array of merchandise from fashion garments to snapbacks to various artists’ mixtapes. It was a good feeling walking around the Square and soaking in the energy that was exhumed from all the festivities.
With the show running a couple hours late, it was only inevitable that the line up and performance times would change. The artists were mashed in and plugged into stage in a random order. The hosts, Muzart’s Rorisang and BeatMachine Music artist BoyWonder, did a good job of easing the crowd with their intros of the performances scheduled and the performances to follow throughout the day. One of the gripes I got from the people that were in attendance were that the performances were very short. Some of the performances were one song-long. No one will appreciate paying R100 to witness some of their favourite rappers perform one song.
With the artists I conversed with backstage, it was revealed that they were given ten minutes (and some shorter than ten minutes) to entertain the crowd. It has to be noted that Zeus and a few others fully utilised the designated time-span. In ten minutes Zeus performed four songs. A verse from “Dats Wassup”, a verse from “F*** Dat”, and two more verses from two different songs.
Fratpack and The Federation were some of the artists who varied their sets during the afternoon session. Artificial Skills took to the stage with a stern message to the government for the recently passed Information Bill. It was a delight to see that hip-hop keep track with current events.
A first for Back To The City was Zuluboy’s diverse performance. He brought out Andiswa who was translating Zuluboy’s “Sunshine” song live on stage in sign language.
DJ C-Live also pulled a first with “Its Nothing” during his set. A song that is a collabo between C-Live, I Speak Hip Hop Magazine and five emcees, including the new female rapper Rogue, was performed for the first time. The performance by Jay Stash was also a pleasure as he came on stage with a crew of pantsula dancers.
Leading deep into the night, emcees billed got on stage and performed, including Eastern Cape’s Maxhoseni and clearly a crowd favourite – iFani. It was from the end of iFani’s performance that the short sets that followed started infuriating the crowd, with creaming fans chanting “We Want More!” iFani only performed “Ewe” and sound issues marred his set. Spaceman walked in on stage in an astronaut’s suit. Fitting for his stage name and his performance really was out of this world for many.
The performances seemed to get shorter as the night progressed and sadly this was the time of the night when a large chunk of favourites were billed to perform. eMC arrived late into the night and the crowd warmly embraced the crew consisting of Masta Ace, Stricklin, Punchline and Wordsworth. During their crowd erupting set, the mics gave out prompting the quartet to work with three mics. They duly gave a great performance. A security flaw was exposed as people jumped over the barrier into the backstage area. This prompted security personnel to chase everyone out (media, artists and DJs included) from the backstage area.
The night went from bad to worse. Tumi stepped on stage after an adrenalin charged Perfecto opening and could be heard saying, “I’m done? That’s it?” after performing one song. He was seen a couple minutes later alongside Motif’s Reason for the “Keep Debiting” performance. Proverb brought out a live band and his set was also cut shot to reasons unknown to the public.
A few pointers for the organisers:
The presence of security was widely seen at entrances and not much anywhere else. Security protects both the artists and fans alike. Security also prevents people from accessing areas they are not permitted to. Crowd control is pivotal for an event of this magnitude.
The VIP section was furthest from the stage; near to the toilets. That won’t make anyone feel special or in a rush to pay more.
Backstage should be reserved for media, artists and DJs. There was quite a large number of people hanging around aimlessly backstage thus restricting photographers to take pictures of the performances.
If you say an event starts at 10Am, by 9:30Am all should be ready. Media and participants in the event need a special entrance. I saw some artists squeezing through the same entrance as the attendees.
The event had three stages. A lot of people loved the Red Bull stage but all the attention was hogged by the main stage. Structure performance times in a way that distributes them to all the stages. This will ensure that the attendees get to walk around and soak in the whole experience. If for example you have a Tumi on the main stage and Artificial Skills at another stage, you will have a crowd in either of the stages.
Bathroom facilities are a necessity in such an event. The mobile toilets were situated near the food and clothing stalls. That is unhealthy. Need we say more? The number of the toilets was also small compared to the crowd attendance.
Differentiate the tags and their access. You can’t have a media person struggling for space to work when people who have “less” access hog the space.
Hip Hop in SA is growing and the support shown Saturday was evidence of this. It is therefore the organisers responsibility to reciprocate the love received with outstanding results and respect. A number of artists didn’t get to perform, some that performed complained of being treated unfairly and these are the core elements of a successful festival.
That said, thank you to the organisers for the work they put in, for the love of hip-hop. May your passion for the cause continue to grow from strength to strength.
Written By: @SDotJR_
Check out some more pics here:
All Photos By: @Zukiswa