Hip-hop heads from far and wide gathered for Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Festival in San Bernardino, California on Saturday. It was the first time the fest was held at San Manuel Amphitheater, as opposed to the much smaller National Orange Show. And both the fans and headliners took advantage of it.
The lineup put legendary lyricists like Immortal Technique and De La Soul next to current chart-toppers like Kendrick Lamar. Only at a festival like this can you find such diversity on all fronts; from the audience to the performers. While one act proudly shouted out "mollys and marijuana" to the crowd, Macklemore performed his anti-drug anthem, "Other Side" to a throng of thousands just two stages over.
The 29-year-old Seattle-based rapper and his producer/DJ, Ryan Lewis, started off their set with their runaway radio hit, "Thrift Shop."
"We didn't sign sh--!" he says of the success he's enjoying without a major label. "That song went to #1 on the strength of the people; that is independent hip-hop just like this festival that Murs started independently."
He delivered another doozy with "Can't Hold Us" with Ray Dalton and served up his shoe-inspired single, "Wings," another seemingly simple song meant to cloak a more serious message. After performing "Other Side" (Macklemore admittedly spent most of his twenties fighting drug addiction), he gave a powerful performance of "Same Love" featuring Mary Lambert, which was appropriate given the landmark gay-marriage cases facing the Supreme Court this week.
"We're in the biggest civil rights movement of our generation... No human being, no government, no religion can tell you who and who not to love," he said.
Meanwhile, the only lady on the lineup, Jean Grae, was feeling romantic for her afternoon set. She played a few of her most memorable tracks and sprinkled in her favorite hip-hop love songs in between. Talib Kweli gave a crowd-pleasing performance of hits like "Get By" and "Get Em High" before making a guest appearance during Macklemore's turn.
Tech N9ne did the Midwest proud with his hard-hitting, hour-long set. The Strange Music mogul wore a mask for the entire performance that included a medley of his hits like "Evil Brain Angel Heart," "I'm a Playa" and "KC Tea" for the turned-up crowd.
After the festival, MTV News caught up with California rapper Sugafree, who will soon be switching gears to star in Snoop Dogg's latest film project,"The Black Jack Tripper." (He will revive the late John Ritter's role from "Three's Company.") The MC talked about the eclectic lineup and the current state of hip-hop.
"That we all can be here and really have fun, I'm so glad we can do this in hip-hop now," he said of the festival. "It's not a problem, no matter where you're from; everyone is getting along."