5 Must-See Bay Area Artists at Rolling Loud Oakland 2019

Saweetie performs onstage during the Pre Show at the 2019 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.  (Maury Phillips/Getty Images for BET)

When Rolling Loud founders Tariq Cherif and Matt Zingler were looking to expand their Miami rap festival to other cities across the country, they were instantly drawn to the Bay Area.

"The Bay Area is really one of the most influential areas of the country when it comes to the history of hip-hop—more specifically when it comes to the independent hip-hop movement," Cherif says in a recent phone interview. "E-40 and Mac Dre were pioneers of getting out there and doing it yourself."

In 2017, Rolling Loud made its Bay Area debut at Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View, drawing thousands of hip-hop fans. A triumphant comeback at the Oakland Coliseum in 2018 featured over a dozen local artists—including E-40, Kamaiyah, P-Lo and Mozzy—in a lineup stacked with major-label stars like Travis Scott, Young Thug and Pusha T.

This year, Rolling Loud is back at the Coliseum Sept. 28–29 with Oakland's own G-Eazy headlining alongside Migos, Lil Uzi Vert and Future. His placement at the top tier of the rap pantheon is a huge deal for the Bay Area, which hadn't seen a hip-hop artist hit that level of mainstream success since E-40 and Too $hort were all over the charts 10 years ago.

In addition to these headliners, Rolling Loud's savvy curation juxtaposes party rockers with street poets, emo rap with hyphy and Gen Z upstarts with veterans. Highlights from the bill include Houston twerk queen Megan Thee Stallion, Atlanta gangster-turned-activist 21 Savage and Maryland nu-metal rapper Rico Nasty, as well as local favorites like Kamaiyah, Berner and Philthy Rich. With three stages, art installations, a skate park and a basketball court, the festival offers a lot to look forward to, including the five must-see Bay Area artists you'll find below.

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Saweetie

Long underestimated by the rap scene's boys' club, Saweetie made the Bay Area's 2019 song of the summer with "My Type," a Petey Pablo-sampling dance floor anthem with X-rated lyrics. Things have only taken off from there for the Hayward- and Sacramento-raised rapper, with a debut clothing line that premiered at New York Fashion Week and collaborations with G-Eazy and City Girls. With tracks like "Icy Grl" and "Emotional," Saweetie raps for fun-loving women who enjoy the finer things and aren't afraid to express their sexuality.

Rexx Life Raj

Berkeley's Rexx Life Raj is a streetwise wordsmith with the voice of a gospel singer and the political awareness of a Black Panther. His low-key, contemplative rap has made him one of the freshest voices to come out of the Bay Area scene in recent years. After receiving rave reviews for his Father Figure 2: Flourish (which made KQED Arts' top albums list in 2017), he's toured the country and worked with some promising up-and-coming producers, including Rico Nasty's main collaborator Kenny Beats. Raj's thoughtful lyrics will resonate with strivers trying to better themselves and level up their mindset.

Nef the Pharaoh

Signed to E-40's Sick Wid It Records, Nef the Pharaoh learned how to chart his path as an independent Bay Area artist from the best. While he made a splash with boastful tracks "Big Tymin" and "Bling Blaow," beneath the surface of his discography are thoughtful meditations on loved ones lost too soon and the injustices of the criminal justice system. Regardless of his subject matter, Nef the Pharaoh is always brash and brutally honest, with clever lyrics that harness the hardness of the Bay Area's mob music tradition.

Lil Kayla

Lil Kayla has been too underrated for too long. In her two-minute dispatches from San Francisco's Sunnydale projects, she bites down like a pit bull, not letting up until she nails the target of her disdain with bars worthy of a rap battle. With tracks like 2015's "Come Getcho" and this year's "Like Sleeze," Kayla demolishes men's egos and bursts the bubbles of girls who buy into their empty promises. A student of Remy Ma and Lil Kim, Lil Kayla's street-smart verses come with a side of cynical humor.

Derek King

Though Antioch singer Derek King was only four years old when Sisqo released his infamous "Thong Song," King's "Tetris" reworks its memorable beat (cue violins) into an R&Bass jam you didn't know you needed on your playlist. Over the last few years, the Antioch artist perfected his club-friendly sound, collaborating with Sage the Gemini and Kirko Bangz when he was still a teen. Recently, King made a mark with solo singles like "Play," which gives a P. Diddy sample a sleek, strip club-friendly makeover, and "Cappuccino," which harks back to the dance floor-ready R&B of Usher and B2K.

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