Sydney’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was a cracking event in 2017, particularly for Hip-Hop fans, with Hip-Hop acts making up almost a fifth of the lineup.
These acts included international drawcards Clams Casino and Mick Jenkins, Australian favourites Sampa The Great, Koi Child and A.B. Original, as well as Triple J Unearthed’s pick, Canberra rapper Genesis Owusu.
Genesis Owusu opened the day with a set that reminded the audience of Kanye’s Brit Awards performance of All Day. This was a particularly brave choice for an 11:30am set, however, the 18 year old owned it and made sure that everyone who watched the set would remember the performance. Genesis Owusu performed his unique Hip-Hop/Jazz fusion style of music, and songs where he called upon his entourage left the crowd on the high-note that you need to get through a full day of festival-ing.
Koi Child arrived at Laneway with a decent sized pre-existing fanbase, however, it’d be surprising if they didn’t add to that. The Perth-based 7 piece performed with a frontman, keyboardist, drummer, and 4 men on the brass. There’s a reason some of Hip-Hops biggest names, such as Kendrick Lamar, perform with live brass backings, it works. Koi Child delivered one of the days best sets, with the synergy between all 7 members in full-swing as they played high-energy jazz-fusion that was infectiously enthusiastic, and had the crowd completely under their control.
Mick Jenkins played a set in the hottest part of the day, which married perfectly with the underlying message in his music, Drink More Water. Jenkins, as one of 13 international acts, naturally drew a big crowd, despite his set clashing with local-legends, Dune Rats. Similarly to Koi Child and Genesis Owusu, he had an infectious enthusiasm and just genuinely appeared to be having a good time playing to the Australian crowd. In a general sense, more is expected from bigger international acts and Jenkins’ fantastic live set more than justified the hype around him.
Sampa the Great followed Mick Jenkins, playing an exceptional set. Jazz-influenced Hip-Hop seemed to be a theme of the day, and Sampa showed she can mix it with the best. As an up-and-coming talent, off the back of her excellent new release The Great Mixtape, Sampa proved that she had an enormous live show presence to match the confidence with which she raps. The set made for a good boogie as well, as tracks such as F E M A L E were performed with real gusto, enhanced by her backup singers. Sampa the Great lived up to her name.
Laneway 2017, despite the heat, had a nice, almost carnival vibe for the entire day. While the artists play a large part in creating the atmosphere, the location and crowd also have a great impact. Sydney’s College of the Arts is a beautiful, well laid out venue that kept everything spread out and laid back. There were no huge problems for the duration of the festival, with no troubles in the crowd or around the venue.
However, the artists are effectively in charge of the vibes of the place, playing a huge part in the general feelings of the people there. There’s really something about Hip-Hop, and particularly in the way it was presented at Laneway, that lends itself to a live festival performance. The energy of the rappers, the beats and the crew they have on stage with them all combine for an awesome stage presence that’s a surefire recipe for a good time.
Additionally, festivals are a perfect way for smaller artists to put their name out there, and each hip hop act that wasn’t Mick Jenkins did just that. With smaller artists taking the opportunity to advertise themselves and push their case as to why their music should make it into the rotation of the crowd. Artists like Sampa the Great, who was looking to consolidate an excellent 2016, as well as young talents like Genesis Owusu, were both able to use this opportunity provided to advance their careers, growing their reputation and fanbase.
In short, Laneway 2017 was a great way to start a year of live music, both for the artists’ and the public.
Written by Matt Parnell