By Bertram Keller
Saturday night, September 20, the 2nd annual Welcome to the West Festival showcased among the most outstanding west coast artists to date. The festival united established legends and new-era contemporaries; such as, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, G Perico, Joe Moses, J-Stone, Dom Kennedy, Suga Free, DJ Quik, Roddy Ricch, Ice Cube and many more.
West Coast Hip Hop patrons materialized at the grandiose Toyota Arena in Ontario, CA. The jubilant audience gathered in support of the music that represents the region’s opulent style.
The festival celebrated its illustrious artists while also highlighting the up-and-coming. Rap artist, Dom Kennedy, has been making waves on the west coast since he debuted in 2008 with the mix tape “25th Hour.” Kennedy stated by virtue of HipHopDX: “If anything, and I can only speak for myself, I think that I’m trying to do it like DJ Quik did it, or Ice Cube did it, but this is just my way of doing it therefore I guess it’s natural. But I’m not trying to do anything, you know, different or to say, ‘This is new.’… I set out to do it the way they did it, just in my own way.”
The difficulty of career longevity within the Hip-Hop industry is quite common; aside from Kennedy’s mentioned west coast predecessors, Ice Cube and DJ Quik, among a few others lasting success has been unprecedented. In this way, up-and-coming west coast artists have much potential to learn from the blueprint of previous generations, in which is justifiable to celebrate new-era acts along with their genres predecessors.
After the untimely death of the legendary artist Tupac Shakur, many have associated the West Coast Hip-Hop climate as incapable of uniting, in which has incited a forlorn battle that points to a history of gang violence. Last year, the 2018 Welcome to the West Festival’s headliner was the late Nipsey Hussle. Tragically, in late March 2019, the prolific artist was shot and killed in the parking lot of his store, Marathon Clothing located in South Central LA.
He was the deplorable victim of a senseless act of violence; however, Nipsey leaves a legacy as being one of the first West Coast artists to advocate against gang violence. He is commonly recognized as the first crip-gang affiliated artist to willingly produce music with rival gang affiliated artists. Allocating his personal aspirations to inspire unity throughout Los Angeles, Nipsey’s contagious entrepreneurial spirit, and his continuous incite for Black-owned businesses, continues to inspire posthumously.
Spectators and performers alike could feel the energy in the building. At the time of entrance, the building was filled with smiles and an essence of kinship; safe to say, everyone was there for the music.
Nipsey’s untimely death was certainly felt by each of the performers Saturday night. Performers were certainly mindful of the festival’s significance, in which every performer shouted out variations of “R.I.P Nipsey Hussle!” or “Let’s do it one time for Nip!” Subsequently, the crowd reciprocated the energy in the room chanting ‘Nipsey!’ to commemorate his prolific life.
Notable performers included long-time friend and Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In label-mate J-Stone, who took the stage wearing a symbolic blue bandana around his forehead; further, performing his tribute song entitled, “The Marathon Continues,” along with several other songs he wrote with Nipsey. The beginning of the song features a sound bite of Nipsey and Stone celebrating the release of Nipsey’s only studio album “Victory Lap.”
Festival Disc Jockey, DJ VIP, guided fans through the experience shouting, “Let’s honor a legend, my man Nipsey Hussle!” Followed by various visuals of Nipsey’s cycled on the arena’s giant-screen. In tribute, fans stood in the audience for the duration of the segment while DJ VIP played Nipsey’s most celebrated songs, including “Grinding All My Life,” “Checc Me Out,” and “Rap N******” as spectators recited the lyrics in unison.
Introduced as “legends in the building,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony gave a classic performance, kicking off with “East 1999.” During their set, family and friends lined the stage as Wish Bone did most of the speaking and MC duties. The groups set close out with “Tha Crossroads,” and the group led the audience in a “Real, Hip Hop” chant, reminding attendance of the night’s purpose.
The stage was then cleared to welcome the headliner Ice Cube, who was accompanied by long-time hype man and friend, WC of the Westside Connection; both dressed in similar khakis suit attire. As the crowd simmered with anticipation, a raucous “Ice Cube” chant echoed throughout the arena. Cube rushed to the stage performing “That New Funkadelik.” And went to perform favorites like “Bop Gun (One Nation),” “You Know How We Do It,” and ultimately closing out the night with “It Was A Good Day,” before shouting-out Nipsey one final time.
The Welcome to the West Festival enabled various artists from the same region to demonstrate possible awe-inspiring moments of unity through music, in which many new milestones were commemorated for new west coast artists. Creating an incredibly intimate setting for a sold out show, which may one day be remembered as a historic moment for the West Coast.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.