Gen-Z’s Festival Of The Future Is Revolt’s Day ‘N Night [Recap]
Hip-hop and R&B are the dominant festival formats for Generation Z.
Travis Scott ambles onto the stage. He’s from Houston. The hurricane that devastated his city curls itself around his thoughts. At some point, he hops on the back of a giant mecha eagle. I lurch forward and hear myself rhetorically say “deadass?” The pulsating joy of his performance leaves the young audience jumping into the dead of night. Everyone’s out by 10 or 10:30. I wish I was on drugs.
Revolt really has thought of everything.
They’ve also looked ahead: Hip-hop and R&B have all but eaten the sensibilities of punk and rock resulting in a youth culture that’s rolling them all into one big thing. It will be unimaginable soon to book a U.S. fest that is not majority rap. Lil Uzi Vert shined in a midriff, letting his hit “XO Tour Llif3” connect the audience to some pain—real or imagined. Chance the Rapper, backed by his band The Social Experiment, provided a hit of naked positivity on Saturday night. His download-only album Coloring Book earned him a Grammy in 2016. Lil Pump shot $10 grand into the air during his set, while Maségo played the hell out of his live instruments on Sunday.
We all know that hip-hop and R&B have moved into the number one spots in terms of overall music consumption in the U.S., according to Nielsen (https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2017/07/17/hip-hoprb-has-now-become-the-dominant-genre-in-the-u-s-for-the-first-time/). Streaming is the culprit behind it all, and as it continues to grow to dominate more of the musical landscape it stands to reason that it’ll be the number one genre will as well. So when you see a mixed crowd of kids mouthing every word from artists as disparate as Tunji Ige and 21 Savage, you’ll find that hip-hop and R&B music has expanded to include dance, rock, alternative, jazz, rock, emo, and so many other genres that were previously cordoned off from each other.
Now the music is symbolic. Words matter as much as intonations, intentions, feelings and moods. Combine that with social media, and we have a genre that’s finally combined cool culture with pop culture. Bridges the high and low dynamics of lyrics with vocal skill. Sunday’s headliner Kendrick Lamar does exactly that with virtuoso-like skill, which is why DAMN is one of the most streamed albums this year despite his penchant for wordplay wizardry. And while we run the risk of homogenization, it’s a delight to see kids wearing Slayer shirts while listening to Ugly God.
Chatting with emcee Azizi Gibson, he made it clear that his music was an outlier in the trap dominated world of modern rap. “There’s so much bullshit out here. It’s okay to do drugs or do whatever you do, but your music has to stand for something.” He’s not wrong. The drug addled, sometimes dystopic lyrics of artists in the genre can make you question its morality. But turn up seems to be a balm for kids now perpetually connected to the 24-hour news cycle. Processing the world’s brunt of human misery is impossible, right? So why wouldn’t they seek to engage with their music in a way that shields them from some of that trauma. Yet, the fact that artists like Gibson are thriving means there’s now become room in the genre for both escape and soul.
All in all, that’s great for hip-hop and R&B. And, you know, while Gibson wondered aloud why the media and industry sometimes pushes songs with darker themes to the fore, he also agreed that having an industry where everyone can thrive is the goal.
So, with that in mind, what we’re seeing now, and what Revolt has tapped into, is that youth culture isn’t monolithic, with accepted forms. It’s a hyper-connected, hyper-real culture now, where all genres come to play. It just happens that the genre that’s begun to encompass all the others for Gen-Z is hip-hop and R&B.