There was no question that hip-hop was well and truly in the building at WOO HAH! Festival 2019. From MCing and DJing to breakin' and graff writing, some of the world's best dressed kids came together in Tilburg, Netherlands to celebrate the culture we all know and love. Here's a list of the 11 best things we saw at the Dutch hip-hop festival.
Probably the surprise performance of the weekend, Joey Purp led an all-out lyrical assault on the Forest stage early Sunday afternoon. Rocking a pair of Nike Air shorts and a hoodie, the Chicago native took fans back to the early 2000s with a series of tracks that felt like they could have been made for the likes of UGK, Paul Wall, and pretty much any No Limit Records artist. Mixing it up with mosh pits and juke music, Purp’s ‘Girls @’ collaboration with Chance The Rapper energised the Dutch crowd – so much so that one fan gifted the Savemoney rapper with a throwback Walter Peyton Chicago Bears NFL jersey.
You’d have been forgiven for thinking that Skepta‘s performance on Sunday at WOO HAH! was a headlining one. The main stage crowd stretched so far back that the only other performance of the weekend as busy at the BBK co-founder’s was Travis Scott‘s. Introducing energy straight from the off, Skepta opened with ‘That’s Not Me’. “My brother Rocky should be here doing these European dates right next to me,” he told the Tilburg fans, before launching into the pair’s ‘Break the Law’. Skepta made a point to interact with the crowd a lot during his hour set. Whether it was pointing out specific people amongst the 30,000 in attendance, joking that “man’s getting hench,” before unzipping his jacket to flex, or admitting, “I’m fucked, I ain’t gonna lie,” when he got ahead of himself with the setlist, it was a stellar performance throughout from the Tottenham MC that was capped off with an explosive rendition of ‘Shutdown’.
The Four Elements
Biggie famously once said that he “never thought that hip-hop would take it this far,” and we’re now at a point where it’s gone even further than what Christopher Wallace probably imagined. From kids sporting Karl Kani tees and Fubu hoodies like it was 1995, to breakin’ battles and graff writing, there wasn’t a single corner of WOO HAH! Festival where you could escape hip-hop – and neither would you want to. Bringing together the four elements – MCing, DJing, breakin’ and graffiti – the culture was alive and well in Tilburg, all the way on the opposite side of the world from where it all started.
Little Simz has come a long way. From rising star to an artist who has well and truly arrived, her set at WOO HAH! had all the markings of a seasoned vet and demonstrated exactly why Stormzy shouted her out during his genre-defining Glastonbury set couple of weeks ago. Delivering a composed, commanding and energetic set, Simz, accompanied by her live backing band, bounced around the Forest stage like a woman on a mission. Zipping through new and old material, her set’s stand out moment came when she performed ‘God Bless Mary’, an ode to her next-door neighbour who let Simz make all the noise she wanted during her come up as an aspiring musician.
Flatbush Zombies never struggle to deliver high-octane entertainment. Closing out Saturday on the Forest stage, the Brooklynites descended into the night armed with three mics, a 90s hip-hop mentality and shit loads of energy. Dripping in sweat after just five minutes, rap’s Three Stooges tagged each other in and out like WWE wrestlers as they ran through tracks from their explosive back catalogue, including their new Beast Coast collaborative album, ‘Escape from New York’. Theatrical from start to finish, security shit the bed a bit when Meechy Darko decided to launch himself into the crowd late on in the set, but the fans loved it. The set ended with the Zombies leading a chant of “Free A$AP,” paying homage to A$AP Rocky, who is currently incarcerated in Sweden.
Delivering knockout blow after knockout blow, Stormzy hit hard straight from the very beginning of his Saturday headline set. “What you saying energy crew?” he asked on several occasions, before then hitting the crowd with bangers like ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Big For Your Boots’, or new fan favourite ‘Vossi Bop’. Championing British black music at every corner, Stormzy saluted the likes of Lethal Bizzle and Little Simz – who watched on from the main stage wings. He also shouted out Ed Sheeran before performing their remix of ‘Shape of You’. If Glastonbury was Stormzy’s crowning moment, his WOO HAH! Festival performance was his victory lap.
Artist Village DJs
The unsung heroes of WOO HAH!, DJ’s Edson and Suicide entertained the artists on the bill during their time onsite. Situated backstage in the Artist Village, the pair kept it all the way hip-hop as they mixed classic rap and soul records while rocking various throwback NBA jerseys. If it wasn’t early records by Xzibit, Mobb Deep, AZ, Lost Boyz or Noreaga blessing speakers, it was the original soul records that inspired them. Hip-hop music started with the DJ and these guys showed why.
Jamz Supernova’s DJ set over at the Waterfront stage upped the tempo for festival-goers who were looking to get their dancing shoes on. Overlooking the Beekse Bergen lake, the BBC DJ killed it with her selection of classics all blended in with an array of electronic backdrops. Pulling out all the stops, if it wasn’t Blu Cantrell it was Sean Paul. If it wasn’t Wiley it was Drake. If it wasn’t a Top 40 smash it was a very obscure underground club hit. Whatever tracks she was working with, Jamz made it work. Giving people an escape from the tightly packed main stage crowd, shapes were being thrown and leg stretches were executed, all of which were soundtracked by a non-stop onslaught of 120 bpm beats.
Rae Sremmurd shows are always one hell of a party and their turn on WOO HAH!’s main stage proved no different. From popping bottles to diving in the crowd, the energy levels were stuck at 11 the entire 60 minutes the Ear Drummers brothers were on stage. Firing off hit after hit early on without pausing for a breather, ‘No Type’, ‘Start a Party’ and ‘No Flex Zone’ acted like a shot in the arm for the crowd, but not before Swae Lee made the mistake of referring to Tilburg as Amsterdam – it’s actually an hour away from the festival site. Apologising for his faux pas, Swae was forgiven quickly after joking, “But I know you still smoke that Amsterdam weed though.” Health and safety started having a heart attack midway through the performance when a group of fans somehow managed to scale one of the lighting rigs and were spotted hanging off of it backwards, sideways and all other ways. Once they were down, the pair ended with bangers ‘Black Beatles’, ‘Unforgettable’, and ‘Powerglide’.
“Get out the way, get out the way, get out the way, yeah!” Jay Rock brought that fired up west coast flavour to the snipes main stage on Saturday. The TDE OG spit verses from his latest album, ‘Redemption’, his ‘90059’ project, and he even took it all the way back to 2011’s ‘Follow Me Home’. “I just need you to do one thing for me,” Jay Rock’s DJ said to the crowd, before asking them to put their hands up. But that one thing turned into another request, and another, and another. But it didn’t matter as the Tilburg fans were more than happy to comply, especially when they were asked to put their hands up for Rock’s verse on Kendrick Lamar‘s ‘Money Trees’ – the entire park went nuts. Taking some time out to pay homage to his home state, Jay Rock also performed a version of 2Pac and Dr. Dre‘s ‘California Love’.
“You are listening to the best boy band in the world right now,” Brockhampton proclaimed, during their main stage performance at WOO HAH! on Sunday night. Decked out in tin foil suits looking like extras from a Puff Daddy and Ma$e video, the American collective brought showmanship and old school R&B tendencies to Tiburg, with each member taking it in turn to lead while the others waited patiently on the bench to be tagged in. Performing in-between two huge blow up blue hands, the boys provided a balance of autotune and filter-free vocals, some Dru Hill-esque skip-dance choreography, and the type of stage presence Busta Rhymes would be proud of. Kevin Abstract incited mass mosh pits, Joba channeled early Jodeci with his high-pitched vocals, and the rest of the group caused the type of onstage carnage the Wu-Tang Clan have been known to deliver.