Feature

Russ is a perfect example of how Steyn Entertainment cemented their vision and direction for Rocking The Daisies & In The City 2019

South Africans, myself included, love to moan about festival line-ups that they don’t approve of.

It’s very easy to take a look at a line-up, like this year’s Rocking The Daisies or In The City, and (cue moan) write your little social media status about how you’re never going again because who the fuck are these acts anyway?

Okay, okay, so it’s perfectly fine to still be listening to that scratched Dashboard Confessional CD in your Corsa, but have you ever stopped to really think about what it would be like to embrace new music? Like, imagine walking into the Meister Haus at RTD, stumbling upon Muzi’s listening session for his new album, and having that be the festival highlight you talk about years down the line.

This happened to me at In The City with Russ.

Sure I knew his name, but my interest piqued when I saw a dope CNN African Voices feature on him a few months ago. He was in Egypt playing to a massive sold out crowd and was looking super tasty walking on the beach in between shots, but I digress… After TATC interviewed him, I found out that his story reads like a how-to manual for artists who’d like to progress seamlessly from Soundcloud to a bagillion Spotify streams.

A real Forbes 30-under-30 case study. Number 20 on the hip hop list, if you please.

Trying to dig into Russ’ catalogue pre-RTD & ITC was a bit more of a challenge – it’s so extensive you’ll be listening until the end of 2020 and when you finally look up he will have dropped 4 new EPs. I settled for Russ Essentials on Apple Music instead.

His ITC set had some massive moments but his delivery of “Goodbye” from 2014’s Pink Elephant smacked of a younger, angrier, love-scorned Eminem and I felt it hard.   

During my ITC prep I also got nicely acquainted with his 2017 album drop, There’s Really A Wolf, so I was chuffed when he played a few tracks off that too – “What They Want” standing head and shoulders above the rest with its R&B ebb and flow. Incidentally, Russ rapped every bar, sang every hook and produced every track on There’s Really A Wolf. Oh and it went platinum. A few times.

I like an overachiever. Apparently there are those on the US hip hop scene who don’t. VICE even broke down Russ’ appearance on The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne, block-by-block to try and figure out why people don’t like him.

Russ is also a good example of RTD & ITC’s new direction. From my brief time spent in New York last year, for the sole purpose of attending Governors Ball Festival on Randall Island, it’s clear that Steyn Entertainment (the events’ new owners), are taking most of their cues from what happening across the global festival scene when it comes to headliners, as well as the general music climate in the US. They booked a lot of the same acts that I saw at Gov Ball that year. This is a great thing because you’re being served actual breaking artists, piping hot.

In terms of the line-up, RTD is no longer the most diverse festival in the country, that title now belongs to Oppikoppi – because where else can you see Vulvodynia and Sho Madjozi on the same line-up, I will fight you.

However in terms of the attendees, Rocking The Daisies and In The City have cast their Howler net wide, reeling in the kids and the diehards festival devotees but most importantly, the noobies.

So, I suppose you either get yourself a walking stick, or stop moaning and embrace the new generation of festival-goers. They’re your new festival neighbours now.

All pics courtesy of Aidan Tobias.

Read our interview with Russ.

Read our Highs and Lows of Rocking The Daisies 2019.