On Kendrick Lamar’s much-applauded guest verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” the rapper surveys the musical landscape and sees little match for his ample skillset, rhyming, “What is competition? I’m tryin’ to raise the bar high.”
One imagines the uber-confident, Los Angeles-born MC would express similar sentiments if he were to assess the rest of the field at the inaugural Breakaway Music Festival, a newborn concert venture produced by local promoters Prime Social Group, who will also host a sister event next weekend at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
The daylong affair, which takes place at Columbus Crew Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, brings together nearly 30 acts culled from the worlds of rock, EDM and hip-hop, including Lamar, whose headlining turn should easily be one of the fest’s standouts sets. But who else could rise to the rapper’s challenge? Here are a handful of acts with the potential to bring down the house.
Twenty One Pilots
The local duo’s high-energy performances call to mind a line from Hayes Carll’s “Stomp and Holler”: “I’m like James Brown, only white and taller.” Frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn have vied for the crown of the hardest working band in showbiz since first getting together in 2009 — an all-in approach that’s paid huge dividends in recent years. In 2012 the crew sold out the 2,200-capacity LC Pavilion on its lonesome, and earlier this summer the duo attracted a massive crowd for its late afternoon set at Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Expect similar fireworks when the band takes the stage for this potentially epic homecoming gig.
Onstage, the rising dubstep DJ is often obscured by his long, Captain Caveman-like locks. His earliest beats were equally primal, constructed of clattering noises that echoed epic car crashes and sludgy basslines that sounded as if they’d just pulled themselves free from some primordial ooze. More recent efforts, however, double as further proof of evolution. On songs like “Freestyle” and the towering “Breathless” the California musician, born Lorin Ashton, weaves together polished, futuristic grooves that hum like a fully operational space station.
Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q, born Quincy Matthew Hanley 26 years ago, shuffles his way through much of his excellent sophomore album Habits & Contradictions with the same glazed-over countenance Bill Murray wore in “Lost in Translation.” The pains are real (“Can’t stand myself,” he spits on “Hands on the Wheel”), and the atmosphere is unrelentingly dank. When he calls out “shots!” on “Tookie Knows,” for one, he’s warning of a drive-by rather than kicking off a barroom celebration. His three-dimensional character studies should stand in welcome contrast to the rest of the fest’s more party-friendly vibe.
Massillon native Kyle Myricks, whose robust beard could make even James Harden jealous, has been on a tear as of late, following his 2012 mixtape Savage Journey to the American Dream with August’s Honest Cowboy. His latest is both brainy and brawny, mixing street-level tales with comparatively off-kilter flights of fancy. As the MC puts it succinctly on “Spaceships & Woodgrain,” he specializes in “intelligent trunk music for the unique.”
While Schoolboy Q sounds forever troubled by the ways of the world, Memphis rapper Juicy J, born Jordan Michael Houston, spends the entirety of his latest brushing aside drama. The MC’s “Stay Trippy,” plays like a hip-hop version of “Entourage,” presenting his life as an endless, consequence-free blur of parties, women and drugs. “Living like a rock star,” he rhymes on “Smoke Rollin’.” “I’ve never been sober, bruh.” No doubt this will be a common sentiment among many in the college-aged crowd.