the highs and lows of rolling loud nyc


photo by samantha delima

Rolling Loud is the self-proclaimed “biggest hip-hop festival” in the world. It takes place multiple times a year, in what are arguably the “relevant” cities in the country and beyond. The festival has traveled to NYC, Miami, LA, Toronto, Portugal and more. The three-day festival features a different set of artists each time, and always provides A-list headliners.

Rolling Loud NYC was set to be one of the biggest festivals in the franchise’s career, with Nicki Minaj, the queen of rap, headlining on Friday, A$AP Rocky on Saturday and Future on Sunday. The highly anticipated tickets sold out in a matter of days, leaving people scrambling to find third-party tickets. Lucky for me, I got a call from a friend a few days before the festival where she informed me that she won two Rolling Loud three-day passes from the radio station Hot 97 and invited me to join her at the festival for free.

Now that I’ve recovered from the chaotic three days, I’m here to give A Magazine a full rundown of the festival that unexpectedly flopped.

Day 1: Friday

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Day one was off to a rocky start when the temperature dropped in the morning. Winds were also high speed making it feel even colder. Nonetheless, everyone made their way to CitiField in Queens. The festival took place in the CitiField parking lots, which are massive enough to house the hundreds of thousands of people expected to show up for Nicki Minaj’s set. The lots were filled with typical festival booths, with copious amounts of booths selling drinks. There were a variety of different booths selling food, putting gems and colored extensions in peoples’ hair, a bodega booth for emergency roll-up needs and marijuana companies selling merch: It’s called Rolling Loud for a reason, right? Leafly refers to the festival as a “rich intersection of pot and pop culture.” NYC culture was heavily present at the festival, with out-of-state guests shocked to see people lighting joints right in front of NYPD officers, which is not against the law in the state of New York. Rolling Loud even featured a video of an unarmed officer smoking a blunt and milly rocking on their Instagram.

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The festival featured three stages: one sponsored by Stripes, another by D’ussé and the main stage by Fashion Nova. The Fashion Nova stage was undoubtedly the place to be with back-to-back big names in hip-hop performing: Nardo Wick, Bia, Fivio Foreign, Lil Tjay, Lil Uzi Vert and the most highly anticipated artist, Nicki Minaj. Although Rolling Loud released set times the artists were supposed to perform, most of the rappers took those times as suggestions. Lateness is expected of rappers, but the NYPD had a 10 p.m. curfew for the festival, meaning that if a rapper was late, they would not be allowed to finish their set.

As Lil Uzi wrapped up his set, the majority of the mosh pit loving boys in the audience left to see Playboi Carti on the D’ussé stage. Like thousands of other Nicki fans, we used this opportunity to push as far into the crowd as we could. It was blistering cold outside, but the tightly packed crowd provided warmth. As we waited for Nicki to come on stage, we faintly heard Playboi Carti’s crowd going crazy. He brought out Kanye West in a silver reflective mask. Even though the controversial rapper didn’t perform, his presence was enough to drive the crowd wild.

After Uzi’s set, we waited and waited for Nicki Minaj to take the stage. The queen was more than 40 minutes late, but that didn’t stop the 250,000 people in the crowd from going hard for her set. She brought Uzi back out, G-Herbo, Fivio Foreign and Bia to perform their recent hit “Whole Lotta Money.” Unfortunately, her mic kept going in and out, making it difficult for her to perform. There were several instances where she turned her mic to the crowd to sing for her, which the Barbs happily did, rapping her iconic songs bar for bar. Minaj wasn’t able to finish her set because of her tardiness. She was never able to perform her new song with Bia, “Super Freaky Girls,” which had fans upset.


Day 2: Saturday

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Day two was coming in hot with everything except for the weather. Temperatures remained low, which provoked many guests to check out the merch booths to beat the cold with overpriced Rolling Loud sweatshirts. The merch was, admittedly, very good, with a broad variety of design and style choices. From letterman jackets to sweatshirts, day two had the crowd decked out in Rolling Loud memorabilia.

The Fashion Nova and D’ussé stages were neck and neck with amazing artists at both, making it impossible to decide where to go. With Key Glock, Kevin Gates, Sheck Wes, Lil Tecca and A Boogie wit da Hoodie at D’ussé and Saint Jhn, Don Toliver, Lil Baby and A$AP Rocky at Fashion Nova, friend groups either had to compromise or separate. My friend and I both wanted to see different headliners; I wanted to see A Boogie while she was leaning towards A$AP Rocky. While Rocky is just plain gorgeous and does happen to have a solid discography, I have a deeper connection to A Boogie’s music since I grew up in the NJ/NY area. Tragically, my phone died, and it was a terrible idea for us to separate. I wanted to see Lil Baby’s set, so I agreed to stay at the Fashion Nova stage for Rocky. This ended up being a terrible decision.

Rocky came out late with himself and his on-stage posse sporting what he referred to as “Taliban” head wraps (4:32-4:36) and flying upside-down American flags, signifying the country being in a state of distress. The political statement was bold, but his performance was lackluster. He was able to perform a few songs before his set was cut early as a result of his lateness. The songs that he did play were all new, unreleased ones meaning fans had no clue what they were. Obviously, this was incredibly disappointing because when you plan to see an artist you support, you are looking forward to hearing your favorite songs. It seemed like his main concern was organizing mosh pits, with him frequently yelling the notorious concert phrase “open that s*** up,” meaning open up a circle so people could mosh. The performance went so poorly that he even released an apology that night.

Meanwhile, at the D’ussé stage, A Boogie killed his performance, playing every fan favorite and giving the crowd the energy they wanted.

Leaving the festival that night was the craziest part, with thousands of fans packing into the 7 train. In true NYC fashion, everybody was hopping the turnstiles. With no way to stop it, the NYPD opened the emergency doors and let everybody through.

Day 3

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On day three, forecasts predicted rain, but that did not stop fans from coming out to see their favorite artists. The most highly anticipated sets were at the Fashion Nova stage and included DeJ Loaf, Fat Joe, Ski Mask the Slump God, 21 Savage and Future. I showed up later in the day because the only artist I was insanely excited about was 21 Savage. I made my way to the Fashion Nova stage after Ski Mask’s set and managed to get a great spot close to the side of the stage. We waited for 21 until someone came on stage to tell the crowd that he was having “travel delays” and he would not make it to his set. The Rolling Loud employee said they were trying to get him on stage during Future’s set. The crowd was forced to wait for Future for the entirety of what was supposed to be 21 Savage’s set. Admittedly, I was devastated because I had a feeling we were never going to see the rapper that night. During what was supposed to be his set, he tweeted “Rolling Loud will never get another show from me again”. With lots of speculation as to why he said that, the replies on the tweet suggested that he showed up to the festival only 30 minutes late, but they did not let him perform at all.

Future was late, and once he made it to the stage he performed a few songs before bringing out Offset, who had the crowd going crazy. Then, it started to torrentially pour. It was fun with everyone dancing in the rain, until we saw lightning. He finished the song he was performing then they left the stage. The screens turned to a festival weather advisory warning, and a scary “Purge”-like voice told us we needed to evacuate.

It was cold and the grounds were flooding, forcing us to walk through deep, dirty puddles. A few days later, everyone started getting sick with the “Rolling Loud Flu,” including myself. I’m going to chalk that up to us being in freezing rain and packed like sardines with thousands of people.

Although parts of Rolling Loud flopped, one thing that did not disappoint was the fashion. Here’s a list of my personal top 5 best-dressed artists of the weekend:

5. Lebra Jolie

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The up-and-coming female rapper was dripped out in a red leather bikini set with thigh high red leather boots and red glasses to match.

4. Key Glock

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The rapper sported a green monochromatic Terry Cloth matching set.

3. Offset

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The former Migos member stayed warm in the rain with a matching Supreme leather jacket and pants.

2. Nicki Minaj

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Nicki was decked out in Dolce & Gabbana.

1. Bia

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Styled by @morethanraya, Bia wore a patterned bustier top dress with matching thigh high boots.

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Hi, I’m Catie Pusateri, the Editor-in-Chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we receive support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.