I survived my first day at my first ever South By Southwest Music Festival. Ironically, several artists I wanted to see were playing the same event, the Cannon Steps Back showcase, hosted by Don Cannon.
Not only was I impressed by the people I sought out--Lecrae, Thi’sl, Gilbere Forte--but I was introduced to a few surprises.
1) Propaganda Wore The Coolest Hip-Hop T-Shirt Ever Made
This Los Angeles rapper has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with anything related to mainstream hip-hop. In his spoken word video "My Next Record" he slams rap songs that refer to women’s body parts and materialism, and the like. But he made an ever bigger statement Tuesday when he took the stage at the Cannon Steps Back showcase wearing a black T-Shirt with a message in large, bold yellow print that read MORE HUMBLE RAPPERS PLEASE. Propaganda didn’t call out any offending MCs by name. But he made it clear that he believes some artists need to take their platforms more seriously. The concertgoers agreed when he posed a rhetorical question calling out acts that offer unimpressive lyrical content: "The world is listening and that is the best you can come up with?"
2) I Got To Meet Thi’sl, One Of The Coldest Underground Rappers
I loved Thi'sl's music instantly when I first heard his song "I Hate You" two years ago. The song is about crack cocaine and as evidenced by the "I Hate You" title, it doesn’t glorify the drug as Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy do in their songs. On the track, Thi'sl explains the negative impact crack has had on his family. Thi'sl is a top notch MC who raps with such passion that listeners can’t help but acknowledge his gift. When I found out that he was going to be performing at SXSW this year, I put him on my list of artists I definitely needed to see, and he didn’t disappoint. I actually feel kinda sorry for the MC who played after Thi’sl at the Cannon Steps Back showcase. When he took the stage, he said, "I never heard of Thi'sl, but he’s a tough act to follow." He got that right. Thi'sl handed me a copy of his new album, Free From The Trap. I anticipate this being among my best SXSW 2013 souvenirs.
3) Lecrae Proved Why He’s A True Master Of Ceremonies
It's obvious that several rappers didn't get the memo that MC is an acronym for masters of ceremonies. Not only did Lecrae get the notice, he studied it. He nailed so many elements of performance during his show Tuesday. Though he’s already gained notoriety for his songwriting and catalog, he does not take his accolades for granted. He bum rushed the stage like his life depended on it. He kept the crowd hype by performing a high volume of upbeat songs and even rapped over popular tracks from Watch The Throne and Kendrick Lamar. He wasn’t just concerned with the entertaining the audience, he also offered them food for the soul. He realizes that being too preachy isn’t good for the hip-hop attention span, so he just doled out his messages between songs in succinct, though clear dosages, and it worked. When he wrapped his set, a lot of people walked away from the stage, even though the headliner was already in place. It kinda felt like that moment when the crowd of people on the dance floor disperses when the DJ plays the wrong song.
4) Derek Minor Made Materialist Rappers Look Really Shallow With One Lyric
Despite constant criticism of the bling-bling style of rap, it continues to thrive. But if Nashville rapper Derek Minor could get a few more ears, he might be able to prompt a change. Though Derek's Cannon Steps Back show was loaded with references attacking the hip-hop subgenre, one particular lyric stood out. When Derek rapped, "Kids out in Africa put water on their wish list," he nearly triggered a moment of silence. He completely put the value of material possessions into perspective.
For more South By Southwest coverage on Yahoo! Music, go to http://music.yahoo.com/sxsw/.