Wireless Festival experienced its most hyped year to date in 2018. Tickets were sold out in record time as festival-goers were desperate for the opportunity to see the biggest acts in hip hop perform, with headliners J Cole, Stormzy and DJ Khaled enticing crowds from all over the country to come down to Finsbury Park. The festival ran its usual three day weekend, and I went to see the finale on Sunday to experience the best of the event.
The first act to perform on the MainStage was East London singer-rapper Not3s, made famous for his breakout hit ‘Addison Lee’ which was released last summer. The performance took a while to warm up, but the arrival of grime star AJ Tracey on the set got the crowd going. It was also refreshing to see an actual band accompanying Not3s, and solos were granted to both the drummer and the lead guitarist in various points during the set. Hits such as ‘My Lover’ and ‘Sit Back Down’ were performed with personality and confidence, and had the crowd singing every word. The performance was by no means incredible, but was a solid start to a highly anticipated day.
There was no respite, as American rapper Ski Mask the Slump God arrived in typically energised and aggressive fashion. Genuine bangers such as ‘H2O’, ‘BabyWipe’ and the more stylish ‘DoIHaveTheSause?’ were highly energetic, and the keen moshpitters in the vicinity had a field day. The set also included poignant memories of the late XXXTentacion, who had been shot and killed only a few weeks prior to the performance. The two rappers had grown up and established their careers together, and so for Ski Mask and his team it must have been heart warming to hear chants of ‘Rest In Peace’ coming from the crowd, many of whom would have been fans of XXXTentacion themselves.
Playboi Carti, another American rapper, was next, as he performed bass boosted renditions of his biggest hits whilst flinging himself across the stage like a man possessed. The trippy, hedonistic and somewhat hellish cartoon visuals accompanying the performance went to great lengths to exacerbate this image. However, in many respects it was a rather disappointing set. Carti rushed from song to song without many breaks, and so one of the biggest hits of last summer, ‘Magnolia’, was lost in the midst of a mush of bass and repetitive lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carti and his music, but it would have been nice to take a breather so each song could have had the same energy levels as the last.
Other artists performing on the MainStage included Rick Ross and Russ, who both did a fine job of getting across their personalities and styles with well thought-out song choices. From my experience of this festival there often seems to be a two hour lull at some point in the day, and this was it. This isn’t a criticism as neither artist is known for their energy: Rick Ross was his usual confident, triumphant self, and Russ played the role of a heartbroken, and therefore empathetic and compassionate person pretty successfully, at one point asking everyone ‘in an unhealthy relationship’ to put their hands up, as he revealed that he was also one of those people.
The next act to make an appearance on the MainStage was a personal highlight. Lil Uzi Vert performed a number of his hit songs much like the other artists at the festival, and did so very well. However, the thing that really made him stand out from everyone else was the effort he put in to make the set what it was – a set. Seemingly minor things such as jokingly flirting with someone in the crowd and claiming he’d ‘found his new girl’ added to his carefree image, and ultimately made the experience more enjoyable. His strange speech just before his finale performance of XO Tour Llif3 was slightly concerning, as he told everyone that, by listening to this song, they had ‘entered hell’, but ‘it’s alright because I still love you’, and yet at the same time there was something quirky about his I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me attitude, which is an incredibly important trait to have as a hip hop artist. Lil Uzi Vert didn’t just sing or rap; he performed.
The one major disappointment for the Sunday at Wireless was the lack of a proper headline act. The day before, it had been announced that DJ Khaled had pulled out of the performance ‘due to travel issues’, which left Wireless in a bit of a pickle. Luckily for them, the ever keen Brit-lover Drake was willing, and was brought out by Giggs, to shrieks of excitement from the crowd. He then went on to perform on his own, with songs such as ‘Nice For What’, ‘God’s Plan’ and ‘In My Feelings’ all leaving the festival goers much happier than they could have been. Although the set was only half the length of a regular headline act, and it was still a slight anticlimax to the festival, it was, as the saying goes, better than nothing. So kudos to Drake for – kind of – saving the day.
All in all, Wireless did the job once again. They had done very well in their recruitment for the line up and although there were no classic performances, I don’t think anyone expected, or attended the festival, for classic performances. They came for a fun time, and the artists duly delivered, with energetic, charismatic performances across the board.