By DAN MACINTOSH
ANAHEIM, CA — The first Real Street Festival, presented by radio station Real 92.3, didn’t ‘really’ take place out on the streets. In fact, its two stages butted up against a real freeway, the 57, in the middle of really suburban Orange County. The ‘realness’ of this first-time festival may be debatable, but its presentation of contemporary hip-hop — for authenticity — cannot be debated. This was, indeed, a worthy overview of today’s rap music.
A$AP Rocky made his first concert appearance since being released from custody in Sweden for assault charges, with a little help from Tyler the Creator, and didn’t disappoint. He was surprisingly humble (most rappers never stop bragging) and thankful for his chance to get back on stage. Cardi B, the biggest female rapper on the planet (and possibly the biggest overall star in the genre) created the most excitement, though. Dressed up like the Fourth of July in a white jumpsuit emblazoned with red and blue stars and joined by a large group of dancers dressed similarly. Cardi B sang a lot about money and bitches, and included a few hits, including “Taki Taki” and “I Like It.” Being that this was a radio station festival, Cardi B’s performance clocked in at less than an hour. But even in that short time, she gave the audience all the thrills it craved.
Of the two nights, this second evening was clearly the strongest. In addition to A$AP Rocky and Cardi B, the three Migos (joined by Cardi B for a guest appearance), Big Sean and Miguel (with an actual live band and a pure soulful singing style) also turned in strong sets. If audience buzz is any indicator, Blueface – with his daytime set – is also headed for great things and headlining performances of his own in the future.
Saturday’s headliners were all great. Just a notch below Sunday’s lineup. Rae Sremmurd played the hits, Meek Hill played the wise elder statesman, while 2 Chainz bragged of hometown Atlanta strip clubs, filling out the role of the horny elder statesman. Future closed out night one with a powerful performance. Both Trippie Redd and Megan Thee Stallion proved to be artists on the rise with their noteworthy sets.
While Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B won the crowd over by shaking their asses, Danileigh proved that sound musicality is just as effective as overt sexuality. It may be even tougher for female rappers than it is for female country singers to gain radio attention. Nevertheless, it was heartening to see an artist unwilling to sacrifice her dignity to find success.
For rock fans raised on the appreciation for instrumental prowess, these two full days of mostly rap performed over pre-recorded music may have tested most rockers’ patience. However, the ability to create excitement with – as Beck once put it – two turntables and a microphone, is a truly impressive skill. The palm tree lined Honda Center parking lot may not have looked much like any mean streets, but the music created this weekend sure sounded like the real deal.