Melvin Benn: ‘Hip-hop and rap have always been a part of Reading and Leeds Festivals’

Organiser says that it's vital event embraces hip hop, rap and dance music

Reading and Leeds promoter Melvin Benn has insisted that hip-hop and rap music have always been an important part of the festival.

In 2004, rapper 50 Cent was famously bottled off while performing onstage at the bash. But, with Eminem set to be one of the headline acts this year, Benn told NME that the incident wasn’t a reflection of the crowd’s attitude to hip-hop music as a whole and it was unlikely that history would repeat itself this year.

“He suffered the same plight at Leeds the day before he did at Reading,” recalled Benn “Hip-hop and rap have always been part of the festival: that wasn’t a reflection of hip-hop, it wasn’t a reflection of rap, it wasn’t a reflection of black music. It was a reflection of 50 Cent and 50 Cent only.

“It was a reflection of how he approached and perceived and addressed the Reading and Leeds audience,” he continued. “They didn’t appreciate it. It was that straightforward, they didn’t appreciate it. They reacted to that. They didn’t react to the genre, they reacted to the artist.”

Benn also spoke about the festival’s new 1Xtra Stage, which will feature hip-hop, rap and dance artists including Devlin, Wretch 32, Ms Dynamite, Angel Haze and Action Bronson. “I think they’ll go down really well,” he said. “There was a little bit of nervousness when I announced them, and I think that was a nervousness that somehow we’re going to become a different festival. I never had that intention at all, but what was really clear to me was that there’s an absolute passion for festivals and the big bands, but there’s an increasing interest in non-guitar music.

“For me, particularly with UK hip-hop and UK rap and grime, I think it’s really important that Reading and Leeds embraces it,” he continued. “I think it’s a hugely important genre and part of the UK music scene and I very much want Reading and Leeds to be part of it. I’d be really, really pleased if, at some point, one of those acts became a headliner. If Devlin became a headliner of Reading and Leeds festival in the future, I’d be delighted for that to be the case.”

The annual bash, which takes place on August 23–25 will this year be headlined by Green Day, Eminem and Biffy Clyro. Other huge names on the line-up include Nine Inch Nails, who will return to perform at the festival for the first time since 2007, as well as Foals, Frank Turner, Deftones, and System Of A Down.

The NME/Radio One stage will be headlined by Skrillex, Alt-J and Phoenix. Other acts playing include A$AP Rocky, Major Lazer, Jake Bugg, Tame Impala, Azealia Banks, Disclosure, Peace, Palma Violets, Fidlar and HAIM.

See NME.COM/festivals/reading-and-leeds, and for more information about this summer’s events.

It was recently announced that weekend tickets for Reading Festival have sold out. There are still a limited number of day tickets available for the Sunday as well as weekend tickets for Leeds. Click here to check the availability of Reading Festivals tickets and Leeds Festivals tickets.