Leading the pack of hip-hop at Hopscotch is Vic Mensa, Chicago’s own political superhero. Labeled a “once in a lifetime artist” by Jay-Z, Mensa has proven his commitment to the culture both on and off the track. His catalog of diverse tracks is what sonically sets him apart from his peers.
Festivalgoers who love Mensa will find that Armand Hammer, two emcees who hail from Brooklyn, are cut from the same sociopolitical cloth. The duo offers a hardcore gritty cadence reminiscent of nineties New York hip-hop that remains fitting for festival vibes. On Friday night, two locals have a chance to shine: Nance at Neptunes and M8alla, who opens for Miguel at Red Hat Amphitheater. Nance presents himself as already famous, and he has the talent to back it up. M8alla, meanwhile, offers an R&B blend of Caribbean-inspired tunes mixed with crisp trap beats. Durham’s Young Bull is another strong local contender. After a modest start at the Durham School of the Arts in 2014, the young ensemble has captivated audiences with their Southern sensibilities, which melds trap and old-school soul influences backed by live instrumentation.
On Friday at The Pour House, the Carolina Waves x K97.5 All Women Hopscotch Day Party, curated by Miriam Tolbert, offers an array of talented women across genres. But the hip-hop standouts are local newcomer NunAfterHours and seasoned rapper Lena Jackson. Jackson is a heavy spitter who shows up prepared to compete with everybody. She attacks the mic in the same manner as a battle rapperher approach is intentional and, with each new opportunity, she delivers.