AUSTIN, Texas — A week after Pusha T failed to make MTV News’ “Hottest MCs in the Game VIII” list, the G.O.O.D. Music spitter backed up his pledge to “work harder” toward cracking the top 10 by headlining the dedicated MTV Jams stage at the 2013 mtvU Woodies Festival at South by Southwest.
The Clipse rapper didn’t bring his signature Ric Flair “woo!” to the stage until just after 6 p.m., but the crowd was treated to a feast of up-and-coming MCs to tide them over until the grand finale.
First up was Mr. “All Gold Everything” himself, Trinidad James . Austinites live by the credo “Keep Austin Weird,” so the Def Jam signee felt right at home in his eclectic garb punctuated by his blowout ’fro, red bandana, acid-washed jeans and, of course, his numerous 14 carat baubles. Before launching into his set, the Atlanta-bred rapper let it be known that he hadn’t missed the overwhelming aroma of cannabis.
“Who smoking that loud out here, man?” Trinidad asked the throng. “I smell it!”
Inspired by the freewheeling use of medicinal marijuana, James started his set with “One More Molly,” following up with “Team Vacation” and “$outhSide” from the mixtape that started it all, Don’t Be S.A.F.E.
The sun was beating down on the teeming, cargo-shorts-wearing masses packed near the stage, but no one let the heat keep them from holding their hands aloft and rocking out to MTV Jams’ inaugural SXSW show.
Next up was Travi$ Scott, who took the stage in full-on camouflage gear and Kanye West-inspired skirt looking like a sniper. The Owl Pharaoh MC ignited the multitudes with the boundless energy of a whirling dervish as he crowd-surfed and jumped around the stage as if on a pogo stick. Travi$ provided the exclamation point of the day when he brought out surprise guest T.I. to help him with “Animal.” After the King of the South exited stage left, Scott kept the guests coming, bringing out Casey Veggies for “Up” and Trinidad James for the yet-to-be-released single “Shut it Down,” a song that prompted Scott’s and James’ crew to pull scores of nearby fans onstage to mash out and turn up.
Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era family kept it moving with “Waves,” “Unorthodox” and “Hardknock” from his breakout mixtape, 1999, before Pusha stepped into the cypher running through a medley of his stellar guest turns on Cruel Summer’s “I Don’t Like” and “So Appalled” and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway,” which prompted the crowd to repeat every word like they were engaged in hip-hop karaoke.
The Virginia representer, who was recently in Paris putting the finishing touches on his solo debut, My Name Is My Name, went a cappella for “Exodus 23:1” before enthusiastically serving up “New God Flow” and another crowd favorite, “Mercy.”
Before telling the fans, “I love Austin, y’all,” Pusha closed his set and the show’s full day of music with his latest buzzing-in-the-streets singles “Millions,” sans Rick Ross, and “Blocka” from his latest project, Wrath of Caine.