Eminem, Lil Wayne’s Bonnaroo Gig Continues Hip-Hop’s Long Festival History

From early Lollapalooza to this year's Coachella, hip-hop has always had a place at major U.S. music gatherings.

American music fans had to chuckle back in 2008, when former Oasis co-founder Noel Gallagher raised a giant stink about Jay-Z headlining the venerable Glastonbury Festival. Honestly? Hip-hop doesn’t belong at big festivals? C’mon, Noel.

Well, we’ll see how much water that big cup of righteous indignation holds in the next few days as fans of Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Festival weigh in on the news that not one, but two hip-hop legends — Eminem and Lil Wayne — will top a bill that features a dozen other rappers sprinkled in among the usual cadre of jam-friendly acts, indie faves and the usual classic rock big fish.

While Bonnaroo’s organizers have long shunned the “jam-band” festival tag, the annual steamy gathering on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, has hosted its fair share of noodle-tastic talent over the years. But with the booking of arguably two of the three biggest live hip-hop draws on the planet (the third, Jay-Z, played there last year ), clearly the ‘Roo is going all-in on rap in 2011. Further down the list, this year’s fest will also have sets from Atmosphere, Wiz Khalifa and Chiddy Bang.

But from its very first lineup, Bonnaroo has supported rap, booking such indie groups as Blackalicious and Jurassic 5, adding in more over the years, mostly of the variety that appeal to its core audience, including RJD2, frequent guests the Roots, Common, Cypress Hill, El-P and Aesop Rock, and in 2008, Kanye West, M.I.A. and Lupe Fiasco. Though they’ve always had a place on the bill, rappers began to have a bigger presence by 2009, with the addition of Murs, the Knux, the Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg. Then again, in 2010, even with Jay on the roster, last year’s lineup had rappers in mostly support roles, with Wale, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi and B.o.B hitting smaller stages.

With a few exceptions, that’s been the norm at the country’s major festivals: many of the same hip-hop stars playing on the main stage, with a predictable roster of up-and-coming and established hipster acts on the side stages, though never a critical mass of either outside of purely rap-oriented events.

Hip-hop has long had a headline and side stage presence at Lollapalooza with 1991′s inaugural outing featuring Ice T & Body Count, followed by Ice Cube, Basehead, Cypress Hill, House of Pain and Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E. (1992), Arrested Development, Rage Against the Machine (1993), Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Fu-Schnickens and Pharcyde (1994) and Cypress Hill, Coolio, Pharcyde and the Roots (1995).

In later years, the festival invited Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg and Jurassic 5 before taking a hiatus. When it returned in 2005, there was a modest slate of hip-hop, but by 2006, the list grew to include Common, Kanye, Lady Sovereign, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious. In the years since, the granddaddy of alt festivals in the U.S. has hosted Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, Rhymefest, Kid Sister, K’naan, Snoop, B.o.B and (again) Cyprus Hill.

The reported roster for Lollapalooza in 2011 also features a headlining set from Eminem.

Since 1999, the third big daddy American festival, California’s Coachella gathering has followed a similar path by working in college-friendly acts like Rahzel, Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Kool Keith and Kid Koala into a dance- and indie-based talent lineup. It too has tapped a familiar group over the years, including: Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Gang Starr, Mos Def, Jurassic 5, KRS-One, Pharcyde, Dilated Peoples, Beastie Boys, N.E.R.D., Mr. Lif, Eyedea and Abilities, Danger Mouse, Sage Francis, Jean Grae, k-os, Black Star, Kanye, Lyrics Born, Ghostface Killah, Diplo, N.A.S.A., and in 2010, Jay-Z, Street Sweeper Social Club, Die Antwoord, Major Lazer and the Glitch Mob.

This year’s Coachella will feature a thinner rap selection, including Lauryn Hill, Duck Sauce, Kanye, Nas & Damian Marley and Wiz Khalifa.

Which music festival are you most looking forward to this year? Talk about it in the comments!

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