Music’s democratization is the brightest spot in this current technology-driven epoch of humanity. It’s brought us some of the most phenomenal figures in just a matter of years and gave rise to local movements that encompass perfectly the realities of regions around the world.
Orange County’s inaugural We Up Next Fest buttressed this sentiment masterfully Sunday at Original Mike’s in Santa Ana. Local acts and their followers from around the county and Los Angeles flocked the bar and grill with the raw energy that propels would-be unknown artists in the stratosphere to put on display otherwise obscured truths.
While SOB x RBE, Shoreline Mafia, 03 Greedo, Drakeo the Ruler, and Roddy Ricch lead the pack of the rising California acts getting national attention, underneath lies them a whole army of jaw-jacking rappers ready to take the floor at the faintest call of a line change.
Acts like HeyLilDevil666, 5150, Xander Dinero, Poem5th, and the 2 Tone Twinss (the fest’s sole female act) pulled up with well-mixed, high-quality production paired with the flows and instrumentation of today. Several of the tracks could have easily of fallen into the hands of your favorite SoundCloud artists and racked up million of plays.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if tracks like Cash Cali’s and Xander Dinero’s brand new “Wrist Wet” landed the co-creators a major label look. In today’s Hip-Hop climate,the 2 Tone Twinss, a pair of local rappers, could be an imprint’s dream come true if given the right tools to win; their mix of attitude, technical prowess, and good looks appears to be the formula needed to capture an audience of Rap fans around the world.
Percocet talk and face tattoos put other acts on the bill on par, at the very least aesthetically, with the other names populating the most-streamed playlists on your DSP of choice.
The onslaught of viable mainstream acts on the bill was almost unbelievable. Festival founder Trayvon Caples, watched the impressive bill nearly fall in his lap. The local event organizer cobbled together sub-promoters in his network who double as artists and their peers to bring the show to life.
Nearly a year ago, Tray took the first steps in upgrading his operation to this festival. He struggled finding venues for much of the year until a hand from local DJ Nasty Nate (nice name!) secured him the spot in Santa Ana’s downtown area. Caples feels the event fills a vacuum existing in the OC when things in the IE and LA occur a lot more often.
On top of the burgeoning rappers from around the 714, Caples tapped LA’s seemingly ordained future superstars 1TakeJay and Blueface to headline the first of what he hopes are many festivals highlighting the Southland’s most-promising young’ins. Some of the acts are yet to graduate high school.
“I always support upcoming artists,” says Caples. “I like to see people progress,” he adds on his decision to focus on the breaking acts.
1TakeJay’s progression to the next level seems imminent. His smile-inducing raps catch him often grinning and bringing youthful energy to tracks and crowds with their minds set on nothing but turning up. Plus, the Compton emcee just dropped what may be his breakout track in “Hello,” a confrontational missive under an instrumental that flips the iPhone’s default ringer into a West Coast outing anchored by major chords.
His hypeman’s Jerk-era, hyphy moves and shimmy of his own capture the modest crowd’s attention and they ride with 1TakeJay into the opening track of Blueface’s set that thumped through Original Mike’s even with its barebones, minimal production. Any spaces left in the beat were filled by the all-ages screams of his young female fans.
Bluefacemania was in full swing.
The Mid-City rapper peeled out of his Michael Vick Eagles jersey, getting instantaneously groped by all within in arm’s reach of the intimate stage. He got into his top-streamed joints like the party-starting “Thotiana” and the seemingly offbeat “Deadlocs” sucking in the entire building in, especially the young performers who’d taken the stage prior.
Cell phone flashlights lit up Blueface like a larger-than-life figure and the rush shooting through the venue instilled an unmistakable feeling exclaiming that this specific West Coast energy was, in fact, up next.
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.