Hopscotch put on a milestone festival for their tenth year in Raleigh. The festival ran from Thursday, Sept. 5 to Saturday, Sept. 7. Unforgettable shows were put on by acts such as James Blake and CHVRCHES. N.C. hip-hop was given its due respect with a bill including the rap group Little Brother, underground titans Kooley High, Dreamville member Lute, Pat Junior, and more.
James Blake was the headliner at Red Hat Amphitheater on Friday, putting on a show of experimental pop and electronic bliss. The intricate light show that ensued, coupled with multiple rave-like breakdowns mid-song, made for a set that won’t soon be forgotten by fans and new listeners alike.
Pat Junior, a local Raleigh-Durham rap artist, performed a set to a completely packed venue at Neptune’s Parlour 11:30 p.m. Friday. The beginning of the set was plagued with technical issues with Junior’s microphone, but he and his band pushed through and delivered an energized and soulful second half that had the crowd headbanging and singing along. They closed with hits “SOTB” and “Pressure.”
After the show, Junior gave his thoughts on the relationship between Hopscotch and N.C. hip-hop.
“[Hopscotch] has been impactful because they’ve given people who are coming up in the area a chance to shine,” Junior said. “There’s been a lot of artists around here who’ve gotten a chance to play at Hopscotch and make a name for themselves.”
Saturday proved a celebratory moment for North Carolina hip-hop, with local legends taking center stage at City Plaza. The day started off with Indigo De Souza, an R&B/jazz inspired singer-songwriter who rocked the early set with impressive vocals and grooving instrumentals. Following was Kooley High, a highly respected and influential rap group that came out of NC State in the 2000s.
Kooley High producer Sinopsis commented on being an NC State alum after the show.
“It’s always good to have NC State represented,” Sinposis said. “We’ve played here before, but this is our first time playing at City Plaza, so it’s a good feeling.”
The connection between the group and the audience was palpable during the song “Dear Raleigh,” which played as a fitting ode to the City of Oaks. Charlie Smarts of Kooley High discussed the culture of Hopscotch and their support of independent artists.
“This is the biggest year for N.C. hip-hop in history, ever since people started making beats and rhymes … and three people who had a lot to do with it are rocking the stage today,” Smarts said after their set on Saturday. “You’re seeing people that have cultivated their art from the ground up and cultivated their movements from the ground up, like us. We don’t have a label; we are the label. We’re just independently doing our thing, and they support independent artists.”
Kooley High was followed by Lute, one of the newer up-and-coming artists recently signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville label. Originally from Charlotte, Lute has been an inspirational figure in the N.C. hip-hop community in recent years, most recently being featured on the album Revenge of the Dreamers III alongside NC veterans King Mez and J. Cole.
The final act of the City Plaza show was, quite fittingly, Durham rap legends Little Brother. The set was a spiritual moment for NC hip-hop fans as the group played hits from nearly every record, including their recent return album May The Lord Watch. It was a triumphant set for the group, having endured numerous disputes over the years and an extended hiatus, and the energy was all but perfect as the sun set and the city lights came on while they performed.
Looking to the future of Hopscotch, Kooley High producer Fullery cited its past growth as an indicator for future change.
“Hopscotch has changed a lot in the last ten years, and if it’s going to survive, it needs to continue to change,” Fullery said. “It’s going to need to transform itself into something else.
Whatever the future holds for Hopscotch, it is clear that in their 10th year, they are still going strong and still connected with their community.