Summer is without a doubt Hip Hop season – and has been since its earliest days. Not only do rappers try to control the summer months with hot albums and even hotter singles, nowadays, everyone is trying to have the summer’s must-see tour. Last summer was largely owned by Drake and Future’s record-breaking Summer Sixteen Tour – which put them atop the list of Hip Hop history’s highest-grossing concerts. Nothing else last summer really held a candle to their 56-show behemoth but this summer has a handful of rappers hitting the road for what could possibly be the most competitive summer rap concert season in recent memory. If you enjoy live Hip Hop and live in even a semi-major market city, chances are you’ll be able to catch one of your current faves at an amphitheatre near you.
The summer lovin’ is swell and all but this is Hip Hop and there needs to be a winner. So the question remains: with so many viable options, what will be the best rap concert to attend this summer? Whose show will be talked about for the next 10 summers? Which tour has enough juice to creatively and commercially top the likes of the Summer Sixteen Tour, the Up In Smoke Tour or even the Watch The Throne Tour?
Of course if you are a diehard, let’s say, Rich Chigga fan, then his small circuit tour will knock your fanny pack off but we’re talking about tours that have the potential to elevate an artist to a whole’nother stratosphere of cultural engagement and bring on new waves of loyal fans. Below are a few of the most likely contenders for that illustrious summertime top spot.
J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only World Tour
Not unlike his past two albums, J. Cole is hitting the road with no features this summer. In promo mode for his most recent release 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole has 36 North American dates spanning from June 1 until August 20 (he departs for Europe in September) and he is handling them all on his own. Most summer concerts jam pack a sardine’s can worth of rappers onto one bill in an attempt to snatch the ticket sales of any and all fan bases. Cole, on the other hand, would prefer to handle business on his own – with literally no co-headliner or even opening act.
There is no doubt that this tour will be one of the summer’s strongest because, well, it’s J. Cole. But keep in mind that he will be performing most of the tracks from his latest album, which as most would admit was a little too downtempo. He’ll surely play his past hits that are guaranteed to rock the crowd but “Neighbors” might be the only cut from 4 Your Eyez Only that will make the people bounce. The first 13 shows are actually at scaled-down, intimate venues.
Future with Migos, Tory Lanez, Young Thug, A$AP Ferg, Zoey Dollaz – Nobody Safe Tour
There actually might not have been a more traptastic summer tour in the past 10 years. Seriously. Future alone has dominated everyone’s turn-up playlist for the past few years, and the addition of Migos, Thug, Ferg and even Tory Lanez. If you can’t miss dancing along to “Mask Off” live, then catch these banger boys of summer on the road, hitting most major North American cities, between now and June 30.
This tour is a no-brainer for anyone who likes having a good time, but with such a jam-packed lineup and venue curfews becoming stricter and stricter, the half dozen artists touching the stage will only have time to do a fraction of even their hits-only catalog. There will also likely be copious amounts of downtime as acts come and go from the stage stage and set pieces get changed around. There is only so much a fill-in DJ can do to keep 20,000 turnt-up teens engaged for so long.
The Weeknd with Rae Sremmurd, 6lack and Belly – Starboy: Legend of the Fall Tour
This isn’t “technically” a rap concert but with some pretty star-studded warm-up acts and Abel’s crossover appeal, the Legend of the Fall Tour is set to please a wide variety of music lovers. The XO frontman recently wrapped the European leg of said tour with Lil Uzi Vert and Bryson Tiller warming up the 21 different overseas stadiums, but now that he’s back on North American soil, the Starboy has some different openers for the remaining 29 dates.
Rae Sremmurd, 6lack and Belly are all strong opening acts that will facilitate a wide variety of musical moods. Belly will bring that modern Trap&B bounce, 6lack will slow things down a touch and then the Sremmurd boys will rev the proverbial engine before the Toronto superstar touches the stage. The majority of The Weeknd’s set will most likely be exclusively Starboy and Beauty Behind The Madness tracks, which bodes well for a crowd looking to gleefully sing along all night. This might let down some day-one fans, as he doesn’t appear to mix in many Trilogy or Kiss Land tracks, but when you’ve got a new album to promote, there needs to be sacrifices.
Meek Mill and Yo Gotti – Against All Odds Tour [UPDATE: Postponed]
Meek is now finally getting back on his feet with a little help from fellow street spitter Yo Gotti as the two embark on the Against All Odds Tour. Running for just over a month and hitting all major U.S. cities, the pair aims to bring their gritty street raps to hopefully sold-out mid-size venues. These smaller 2,000-2,500 capacity venues will be perfect for both Meek and Gotti as the energy will be tighter and overall vibe more intimate.
If you yourself have budding street dreams and constantly peep Meek’s IG page for motivational purposes only, then this tour is easily a must see for you (unless you live in Canada, in which case you’ll have to cross the border because the main acts surely cannot).
Chance The Rapper – Spring Tour 2017
Rap’s golden boy is hitting the stage again this spring/summer for what is sure to be another sold-out tour. Not only has Chance’s music been incredibly well-received, his live shows have been slapped with more critical acclaim. Mixing both his raw rap energy with gospel-level production, his Coloring Book Tour from last summer was one of the most impressive pieces of live Hip Hop in the past few years. He is likely set to do the same thing this time around (although unfortunately he doesn’t have any new music to perform).
Chance is a smart guy and definitely won’t play the exact same show, but it might be pretty close. His celebrity has increased since last summer so the turnout, energy and audience engagement will remain the same, but unfortunately so will the setlist. The good news is, however, that with his rise to rap royalty, his venue capacity has grown with it. This tour has him playing larger outdoor amphitheatres, which will make it easier for the masses to cop tickets. He too has no warm-up acts listed on the bill but rest assured that Chance’s list of rapper friends runs deep and special guest will definitely make their way out onto the stage.
Travis Scott – Birds Eye View Tour
Tickets for this tour should come with a “attend at own risk” label on them since Travis Scott has literally turned into a full-on riot-inciter at some of his previous performances. As his live shows continue to make headlines for being “too lit,” more and more people are dying to see if La Flame lives up to the hype. Back in March he kicked off his solo Birds Eye View Tour, which is in support of last summer’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight album. Being that this is his first solo tour, it truly is the first time he’s been performing the whole album live for his legions of die-hard fans.
He also picked perfectly sized venues to accommodate the type of show he wants to put on. The smaller capacity venues will immediately fill up with tons of raw energy to the point where “Upper Echelon,” “Antidote” and “goosebumps” could cause serious mosh-pitting. The only real issue with this tour is that it might actually not be the safest — especially if you’re more of a headnodder and less of a trap-rager. Although you would think Travis would settle things down after being arrested for having things get out of control at some of his shows, he doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would turn down for anyone.
Lauryn Hill & Nas with Chronixx – MLH NAS Tour
On Nas’ Life Is Good he bragged about having “the summer on smash” and although that hasn’t been true for the past few years, he might be right with this one. God’s son is hitting the road with Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Starting at the beginning of September, Nas and Lauryn are hitting all the major outdoor amphitheatres for what is sure to be the latest pinnacle of Hip Hop nostalgia. It’s no secret that these two living legends created one of Hip Hop’s most cherished four minutes of all time with “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” and there’s no doubt it will be the show’s roaring encore, but how will the rest of the show go off? Well, first and foremost is Lauryn’s notorious concert-skipping tendencies – and if she actually shows up, she’s sometimes a few hours late. Here’s hoping that everything is well-organized between the two artist. Seeing the pair live will be exciting no matter what kind of fan you are, but especially for those who still hang on to the “golden era” for dear life.
Bryson Tiller with H.E.R. & Metro Boomin – The Set It Off Tour
Life moves fast when you’re Bryson Tiller. A month-early sophomore album release and immediately-announced tour seems a little hasty but when your album knocks, you can basically do what you want. Pen Griffey is taking his trapsoul tunes on the road for a 27-date tour with opening acts H.E.R. and Metro Boomin.
This is actually a perfect mix of musical acts to balance a strong live show. H.E.R. has an even slower groove than Bryson’s music but is equally as poetic. Most of her music evokes a slow two-step and a real sense of empowerment, which Young Metro will take to the next level – even a few minutes of straight live Metro production is enough to turn up even the most dull crowd.
Though there’s still a question about Bryson’s set, which will be well-performed but perhaps not yet well-known by the crowd. Hitting the road six days after dropping an album and hoping fans will sing along to the most recent cuts might be a lot to ask. “Don’t” and “Exchange” will go off but most of True To Self could get crickets.
THE WINNER: Kendrick Lamar with Travis Scott, YG and D.R.A.M. – The DAMN. Tour
With an album as masterful as DAMN. it’s hard to believe that the live show accompanying it would be any less remarkable. Kendrick has cut his teeth as a performer for years and years, opening up for the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa and even The Game. He has also made his rounds on a few solo tours in promo of past projects, but nothing will be as integral to his legacy as The DAMN. Tour. The album itself has the perfect mix of thundering sing-a-long tracks and downtempo grooves that will be sure to bring about all walks of life. Plus, even Kendrick’s back catalog has enough hits and “stadium shaker” status worthy tracks to exceed his presumable 75 minute set. If his Coachella performance is any indicator as to what we might expect to see production-wise, then attendees are surely in for a true Hip Hop spectacle.
Even though this is Kendrick’s time to shine, the opening acts are spot on. The first leg (July 12 – August 6) includes D.R.A.M. and the aforementioned Travis Scott. Big Baby D.R.A.M. will undoubtedly open things up with a cheerful vibe while Scott will then get fans completely torqued before K.Dot hits the stage to complete blow their minds. The second leg (August 11 – September 2) has a slight change but yet another smart move with YG taking Travis’ place. YG and Travis occupy similar live performance energies in terms of getting the crowd warmed up with hit after hit after hit. It’s the type of concert that only comes along once in a lifetime and will definitely be worth the price of admission, yaaa bish.