By Jose Mujica
February 25, 2018
As New Orleans winds down from the debaucherous days known as Mardi Gras, thousands of music lovers across the nation will begin to brace themselves for the first of the city’s two premier music festivals, The Buku Music & Arts Project. Buku’s unapologetically eccentric vibe is distinctive to anyone familiar with the NoLA art scene, where weirdness is embraced and people are quick to remind you that few cities have as much experience in partying as New Orleans does.
Buku is set at the Port of New Orleans on the mouth of the Mississippi River and allows performers to bless diversely decorated stages both indoors and outdoors. A crowd favorite is the Float Den, a warehouse that houses all of the floats that you would normally see parading down Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday. This year will hold more of the same for those seeking to party hard in The Big Easy.
In its 6th year, Buku has made a name for itself as one of the season’s most eclectic fests featuring a healthy mix of EDM, hip hop and indie acts with headliners such as Deadmau5, Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and Pretty Lights in recent years. This year, in addition to the mega-star headlining acts such as Migos, Bassnectar, SZA, MGMT and Lil Uzi Vert, there’ll be plenty of acts that will have fans buzzing with anticipation.
Here are 10 acts you should check out at Buku 2018:
Though “Zaywop,” as some of his fans refer to him, is often overshadowed in the mainstream by some of his more popular TDE labelmates, hip hop fans are well aware that Isaiah Rashad is a force to be reckoned with. After dropping critically acclaimed projects Cilvia Demo and The Sun’s Tirade back to back, its almost become a meme online that Isaiah Rashad doesn’t make “bad” songs. It’s an incredible reputation to have in the streaming age where 25+ track projects are common and are usually carried by one or two big hits. Rashad has never been one to follow the crowd. While mainstream hip hop now seems to be ran by cartoon-esque, larger-than-life personas making banging party music, Zaywop goes his own route making genuine, thoughtful and relaxed songs that delve deep into issues such as depression and societal ills but never seem preachy or boring. A ‘90s soul with a 2010s sound, his performance is sure to lift up the crowd to heights unknown, especially if backed by a live band as seen in recent videos of his sets.
Propelled to the spotlight after her stand-out feature verse on the song “Lost” on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap project, the Chicago native known as Noname has proven herself to be one of the most promising lyricists riding the new wave. Her critically acclaimed debut project, Telefone in 2016 sent shockwaves throughout the underground hip hop scene– there was this deeply profound, intelligent female rapper out of the Chi with the sweetest voice spitting bars about self-esteem issues, senseless violence, government surveillance and her decision to terminate a pregnancy. Such a juxtaposition of heavy subject matter alongside happy-go-lucky sounds and vocals have allowed her to carve her own lane in the rap world.
After forcing everyone to notice her with her breakthrough hit River in 2016, Bishop Briggs has made sure no one forgets her name. The British singer-songwriter has been on quite an impressive streak touring with Coldplay, performing at Coachella 2017, releasing a self-titled EP and more recently being featured on Cold War Kids latest release. At a time where indie pop seems to be stuck in an undefined ether, Bishop Briggs is making a case for its relevance with soulful vocals and powerful lyrics than can make a fan out of any naysayer. Her debut album is set to be released early 2018, so it’s likely the fortunate crowd at Buku will be blessed with a preview of unreleased material.
The most exciting rap artist to come out of St. Louis since Nelly, Smino has been making some serious moves since his debut album, blkswn, dropped one year ago. With flows that seem lifted directly from an old school blues vinyl, Smino oozes soul and substance in his music. The jazz influence is evident too as he weaves lyrics and punchlines in a seemingly spontaneous fashion that catch you off guard in the best way possible. We can certainly expect a standout performance from Smino.
Sango, a DJ/Producer member of the Soulection collective, brings his magic to Buku as he spins his funkadelic remixes of some of the hottest hip hop songs out there. Having worked with some of the biggest names in hip hop from old school legend, Nas, to new school god, Drake, Sango does Soulection justice with his soul-infused beats and production that infuses even the stiffest person with the itch to dance throughout the night. If you’ve come to Buku to groove, then Sango is a must-see set and you’ll be in luck as fellow Soulection members, Esta and The Whooligan, will perform after Sango back to back to back, ensuring a night filled with funk, groove and goodwill.
The other member of TDE gracing the Buku crowds is SZA, whose stock has skyrocketed since the release of her debut album CTRL last year. The latest R&B superstar diva has changed the soundscape with her ethereal and cloudy tunes over which she vulnerably describes her issues in dealing with love and abandonment, and proudly embraces her sexuality despite those that would shame her for it. Given her recent breakthrough hit, “All The Stars” alongside labelmate Kendrick Lamar off of the Black Panther movie soundtrack, it’s sure to be a set to remember underneath the nighttime New Orleans sky.
An enigma wrapped in mystery, Jay Electronica has been an elusive specter haunting the hip hop realm for over a decade without even dropping a single project. After his rise to fame in 2007 after dropping Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), a 15-minute track featuring Electronica dropping biblical bars over music from the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the trajectory of Jay Electronica’s career has been legendary. From fathering a child with Erykah Badu to getting signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label with no project out to becoming a homewrecker in an affair with a Rothschild heiress who was, at the time, wed to English nobility, one thing is clear: Jay Electronica is a myth of a man who plays by no rules but his own. His lyricism sprinkled with illuminati-esque mystique, poetic religious references and unapologetic afro-centric pride once had his followers hail him as the next biggest thing in rap. Those same followers now loudly criticize him for his lack of material, as Electronica lately releases only few features verses per year. Despite their criticisms, every time a new Jay Electronica verse drops, they all stop to listen. The fact that he’s come out of hiding to go on tour has fans excited for new music, but seeing him perform live is the biggest draw as Jay Electronica always seems on the verge of transcending this mortal plane entirely.
Famous Dex & Rich Tha Kid
These two up and comers in the trap music scene are sure to bring the hype during their Buku set. The “Rich Forever” duo has steadily built their brand individually and collectively for years now but have really come into their own in 2017. With Rich Tha Kid’s biggest hit in “New Freezer” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) and Famous Dex’s biggest hit “Pick It Up” (featuring A$AP Rocky) both hitting their mainstream stride around the same time, expect to see a very rowdy crowd moshing in the pit at their set. Those who are not prepared to risk life and limb for the turn up may want to stand further back in the crowd if videos of their sets at other festivals are any indication of how this one will be: high-energy and catchy hooks with heavy bass drops and back-to-back trap bangers. With their fellow Atlanta natives, Migos, performing as well there’s a good chance of a joint performance of Rich Tha Kid and Migos’ hit “Datway” that will surely bring the stage down. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss.
Coming straight outta New York City, if you haven’t heard of Princess Nokia before Buku, you surely will remember her name after. Princess Nokia’s hard hitting music is entirely her own and sounds like nothing else coming out of New York at the moment. With her loud, in-your-face, bass heavy production and witty lyrics that exalt her “little titties and fat belly,” Princess Nokia’s artistry is determined to make you re-examine what it means to be a lady. Princess Nokia’s autobiographical debut 1992 Deluxe explores the various aspects of her life from her Afro-Boriquan descent to her bisexuality, she’s unafraid to rap about topics you simply don’t hear rappers talk about. A delightfully unique voice in a sea of similarity, don’t let the name fool you. While she’s every bit the Princess, Nokia is no damsel in distress.
Ski Mask The Slump God
Having first climbed to notoriety as XXXtentacion’s right hand “vro” early last year, Ski Mask has since made a name for himself as one of the more promising acts to bear the title “Soundcloud” rapper. While many of his contemporaries have eschewed complicated lyricism and intricate rhyme schemes in favor of more simplistic flows and ad-libs, Ski Mask takes all of those ingredients and spices them up to the extreme. First gaining recognition online due to his distinctive spitfire rapid flow over beats sampling cartoon theme songs and a viral video of him rapping while his friend is laying pipe in the background, one thing is for sure, Ski Mask is one of a kind. Even though his debut album has been repeatedly held back due to sample clearing issues (an understandable problem as he’s known for very unique production choices), the Florida native’s fanbase remains loyal and eager for any new material. Similar to Rich Tha Kid, Famous Dex and his former associate, XXXtentacion, Ski Mask has a reputation for very raucous crowds at his live shows, caution is heavily advised, especially when he performs “TAKE A STEP BACK.”
Check out the full lineup for Buku Music & Art Project.