Though the official lineup won’t be released until April and none of the official sources have confirmed it, Eminem is rumored to be one of the headliners at this summer’s Lollapalooza festival. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot, Eminem will join Foo Fighters and Muse as three of the six headliners for one of the summer’s biggest music festivals, which will again take place in Grant Park in Chicago (this time on August 5-7).
If Slim Shady does indeed play the festival (and again, it has not been confirmed by Em’s people nor by the festival’s promoters), he will not only continue a recent tradition of having a true crossover megastar as a headliner (taking the spot owned by Lady Gaga in 2010) but also will put another notch in the belt of great hip-hop moments at the festival. Though Lollapalooza is remembered first as an alternative rock festival (reasonable, considering the very first version was anchored by Jane’s Addiction and subsequent lineups have provided breakout moments for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins), but hip-hop has always been a key component of Lollapalooza. Though there have been years where quality rap music was absent, there have been a number of excellent hip-hop moments through the years.
Ice-T & Body Count
For the very first Lollapalooza (which was a touring festival — it didn’t move to its more European approach in 2003), Jane’s Addiction frontman and festival organizer Perry Farrell wanted to bring in people from all corners of the music world. He brought in Ice-T, the rapper turned rap-rock innovator whose guitars were rock festival-friendly but whose street-wise savagery was pure gangsta.
In the summer of 1992, the wounds from the Los Angeles riots were still fresh, and if rap music was indeed the CNN of the street, nobody was a better reporter than Ice Cube. He brought his lyrical fury to Lollapalooza in ’92, where he tapped into exactly where rap music was and test-drove material from his forthcoming game-changing album The Predator.
A Tribe Called Quest
Though the Beastie Boys were probably the more high-profile hip-hop act on 1994’s lineup, A Tribe Called Quest solidified themselves as a stellar live act who added explosive energy to their sometimes staid albums. If nothing else came out of Lollapalooza in 1994, it was the emergence of Q-Tip as a next-level star.
B-Real and Sen Dog have played Lollapalooza a total of four times, making their first appearance on the side stage in 1992. And though their 2010 performance was an inexplicable highlight, their finest Lollapalooza moment came in 1995, when they headlined the touring show alongside Sonic Youth, Hole and Pavement. In a sea of jangles and mumbles, they were a funky breath of (smoke-filled) fresh air.
Not many people have positive things to say about the 1997 version of Lollapalooza (it’s no wonder that the festival shut down for six years after its completion), but one of the best parts of it was Snoop Dogg’s headlining set, which found the legendary rapper at a crossroads. He was still a year away from reinventing himself as part of the No Limit camp, and his second album The Doggfather was a critical and commercial disappointment. However, he proved that he was still a vital performer, laying out all of his biggest hits with a sharpness and a hunger that belied his ultra-casual approach. With all the unfortunate dance music and rap-metal flying around that year, Snoop’s run through “Gin and Juice” was a nightly highlight.
With Lollapalooza finding a permanent home in Chicago, it’s no wonder that several Windy City bands have become regular headline-grabbers over the years (Wilco has notably been a regular highlight). Chicago-born Kanye West has played the festival twice, first appearing as a headliner in 2006 (where he played a loose, freewheeling old-school set) and again in 2008. By his second appearance, he had evolved into an artist who was used to holding large crowds and playing spectacular shows, and his 2008 set was one of the most talked-about of the weekend.
Another Chicago guy, Fiasco made his first appearance at Lollapalooza in 2006 when he rode a skateboard onto the stage in the middle of Kanye West’s set. By 2008, he had two albums under his belt and an incredible manic bandleader approach to his performances. In one of the greatest highlights of Lollapalooza 2008, Fiasco stormed the stage, did some push-ups and pulled off a back flip all while the theme from “Rocky” played over the PA. Then he burned the park down with “Kick, Push.”
Speaking of superstars finding their niche, B.o.B showed the whole world how it was done at Lollapalooza 2010. Though he was playing one of the first sets on the first day to something of a sparse crowd, the Atlanta-born rapper brought an incredible level of energy and charisma to his set. By the time he was done, he had absolutely converted everybody within earshot and guaranteed himself a better slot in the future.