Turn on your commercial rap radio station of choice and you'll hear any number of similar-sounding synthy beats, drooling dumb melodies, and formulaic rhyme patterns. As a music-sharing device, Youtube tells a similar story: the hip hop songs with astronomical world-wide play counts are usually the safest, least thought-provoking constructs. Good for a laugh at a distance or a mindless bounce around your living room during a party (apparently a lot of laughs/parties).
I bring this up, because these are the artists that have captured enough attention to catch the eye of booking agents around the country. The three rap acts atop of this year's Bumbershoot billing, for example (Big Sean, Mac Miller, and Yelawolf), all fall into--or dangerously close to--this watery, yet absurdly popular school of hip hop. Individually, each has their upside, but compare them as a group to the three top local rap representatives (THEESatisfaction, Don't Talk to the Cops!, and Katie Kate) in this year's lineup, and you'll find that the locals provide a fresher, more adventurous take on the genre by far. Let's compare:
Big Sean, probably the most well-known of the three out-of-towners, is able to channel Kanye West's lovable punchline arrogance on tracks like "I Do It", but has little to offer beyond that. His monotonous b*tches and high life subject matter, and verse/R&B hook/verse song template get old pretty fast. On the flip side, the most well-known hometown rep, THEESatisfaction, regularly stretches the constraints of the genre both lyrically and production-wise, all while keeping things danceable.
As a decent lyricist, Pittsburg's Mac Miller is certainly a step up from his god-awful Steel City brother Wiz Khalifa, and he's dealt mainly with top-shelf beats, but doesn't break a whole lot of ground on his songs. Local dance-savvy crew Don't Talk to the Cops!, on the other hand, taps all new sources of enjoyment with djblesone's veteran production and their fun-forward songwriting, all while giving a proper nod to their b-person roots.
Lastly, Yelawolf might have the most interesting vocal style of the three national-scale names, and occasionally stumble upon a clever line, but his product has gone down hill as of late, and plus, anyone who brings Kid Rock on to sing a hook on their album in this day and age is at least partially dead to me. Katie Kate is nothing like Yelawolf, but I'd rather listen to her ambitious 2011 debut Flatland than 'Wolf's Radioactive any day. Her style-morphing electro-rap production is imaginative and distinct, and her vocals hit them in all the right kind of ways.
While all part of the festival's mixed-bag experience, it's clear that Kate, along with her fellow hometown Bumbershooters, share the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that the mainstream sadly doesn't yet seem capable of.
Don't Talk to the Cops! plays Saturday from 1:00pm - 1:45pm @ TuneIn Stage (Fisher Green) THEESatisfaction plays Saturday from 5:15pm - 6:15pm @ Sub Pop Stage Katie Kate plays Sunday from 1:30pm - 2:30pm @ The Promenade
THEESatisfaction plays Saturday from 5:15pm - 6:15pm @ Sub Pop Stage
Katie Kate plays Sunday from 1:30pm - 2:30pm @ The Promenade
Yelawolf plays Sunday from 4:00pm - 5:00pm @ TuneIn Stage (Fisher Green) Big Sean plays Sunday from 8:15pm - 9:15pm @ Bumbershoot Mainstage (Key Arena) Mac Miller plays Sunday from 9:45pm - 11:00pm @ Bumbershoot Mainstage
Big Sean plays Sunday from 8:15pm - 9:15pm @ Bumbershoot Mainstage (Key Arena)
Mac Miller plays Sunday from 9:45pm - 11:00pm @ Bumbershoot Mainstage