On Friday Aug. 28, Riot Fest made its way into the Mile High City; heading to Denver for the first of the stops on the annual festival. Known primarily as a punk rock festival, it was the collection of rappers on the bill that stole the majority of the spotlight on day one.
With enough acts assembled to make it worthwhile, hip-hop was awarded its own stage (the Roots Stage) for Day one. That being said, it was a relatively unknown MC and DJ combo on the small stage located in the heart of the National Western Complex that made the first waves in the pool of rappers. The local combo of Input (MC) and Broken (DJ) brought with them a band, and also a surprisingly large amount of talent on both the mic and the turntables. They finished a memorable set by admitting the “jacked a beat” from M83 and inviting their humble audience to an end of the world party.
Though the aforementioned newcomers impressed, it was left to some O.G.’s in the game to really get the party going. De La Soul took to the Roots Stage for an early evening set. Hyping up a crowd has become somewhat of a lost art in hip-hip, but they did a masterful job of riling the audience up. They had the crowd chanting, they even got the gathered photographers to momentarily put down their cameras and put up their hands. They pitted the sides of the audience against each other to see which was better. In the end, everyone won. They played with a precision and timelessness. Needless to say “Me, Myself and I” were not the only ones to enjoy the performance.
Perhaps the most disappointing of the Hip-Hop acts was Death Grips. Their sound was a jumbled, sludgy mess that stunk worse than the dog food factory nearby. As precise as De La Soul was, Death Grips was the exact opposite; offering more noise than music.
Airborne Toxic Event is far from rap; but they got into the fun. At one point, they even covered Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”
Cypress Hill followed, cementing their rap superstar status. As they began their set, a cloud of smoke engulfed the audience. Naturally, they added to it, providing plumes of their own from the stage. This should come as no surprise, seeing as half of their songs are about marijuana. In perhaps the best set of the night, they blazed through their hits, such as “Dr. Greenthumb,” Insane in the Brain” and “Rock Superstar.” Despite possibly being under the influence, they kept the energy high and dealt a dose of dopeness.
The final rapper to take the stage was the incomparable Ice Cube. He hit the stage with a vengeance, and even brought out N.W.A.’s MC Ren and DJ Yella to run through some of the legendary acts classic songs. He also brought out his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., who inherited some of his father’s skills on the mic. The set did feel a bit like a promo for the move Straight Outta Compton (in which Jackson Jr. plays Ice Cube), but it still more than delivered musically.
It would be unfair not to give props to the two non-hip-hop acts that stood out. Iggy Pop has still got it at his advanced age. System of a Down also closed the show with a hard-hitting set. That being said, it was still the MC’s that reigned supreme on this day.