Last night in downtown Los Angeles, the Red Bull Music Academy announced its first-ever LA-based festival. Maybe it’s better termed an ‘anti-festival’.
They picked a gritty, pre-gentrified warehouse district in downtown Los Angeles for the unveiling. In fact, this area of LA looks more like a resuscitated warzone than a reclaimed neighborhood. Either way, this wasn’t a stuffy hipster congregation — at least for the most part.
It was an unveiling party for the Red Bull Music Academy’s first-ever Los Angeles Festival. And during the low-key presentation, the Academy team shuffled through a range of limit-bending performance ideas and documentary projects that were mostly geeky in their charm.
Along the way, the Academy revealed a slate of artists for an upcoming music festival that probably wouldn’t work if it needed to be profitable. At least as a stand-alone event. Instead, the two-hour unveiling was all about music curation, one that included a localized plunge into pre-hip-hop Los Angeles.
Enter Egyptian Lover, a name only recognized by hip-hop historians or older music fans. For the uninitiated, Egyptian Lover was an early deejay with a pre-rap, LA-based party crew called Uncle Jamm’s Army. I thought I knew my hip-hop, but here’s the thing: Uncle Jamm’s Army technically pre-dates hip-hop in the late 70s and early 80s.
But once New York’s rap scene was ripe enough to export stars like Run-DMC, Uncle Jamm’s Army played host to their shows out west. In fact, according to Egyptian Lover, Run-DMC opened for them.
But Los Angeles was also busy creating its own rap superstars during that formative period.
That includes Ice-T, an early pioneer who segued into mainstream celebrity. And the ‘second wave’ of LA-based rap, as Egyptian Lover called it, ushered in another familiar group: N.W.A.
And the rest, as they say…
I bumped into Uproxx writer Aaron Williams, who grew up in 80s Compton. He told me the locals always told tales about Uncle Jamm’s Army, but it all pre-dated him. Well, back to the Red Bull shindig, it turns out that the Music Academy is reuniting this group. That includes Egyptian Army, but also Arabian Prince and Ice-T, all of whom will be showcased at the event.
Egyptian Lover said the Army ‘let Ice-T rap’ with them back in the day. Just to give you a sense of this crew’s power. Either way, T will be performing alongside his original DJ, ‘The Glove’.
And that’s just one example of the deep music curation happening at this festival.
Other deep-dives include a showcase of Mexican metal bands (‘Todo es Metal’), and a secret project from St. Vincent. Arca and Taran Allen will deliver a groundbreaking audio visual concept. Then there’s the classic car, boomin’ system orchestra project involving 100 heavy-blasting mobile sound systems. It’s a perfect idea for Southern California’s landscape of pristinely-restored, audio-pumping vehicles, though don’t ask me exactly how it all comes together.
Actually, the Festival has been happening in other cities for years, including New York. That’s a more mature locale for Red Bull’s festival, with lectures, outlandish creative expressions and shows attracting core music fans. Now, it’s time to bring some of that action to the best coast.
The LA festival runs October 6-29th, and spans a myriad of different venues and experiences.
You can check out the full lineup (and grab tickets) here. Tickets go on sale August 22nd.