Rap and hip-hop fans streamed into Miami’s downtown Bayfront Park again Saturday for Day 2 of the three-day Rolling Loud music festival, an interactive celebration of music in more forgiving lower temperatures
“We’ve been waiting for this,” said 20-year-old Ainoa Cazalis of Miami Beach. “I used to always think when you go to Ultra [Music Festival] like, ‘Why don’t they have this for hip-hop?’ And it’s Miami — that’s what you listen to. I grew up here and it was always hip-hop.”
For Miami-Dade residents, like Cazalis, comparisons to the Bayfront Park’s other music festival were inevitable. The sound system at Rolling Loud wasn’t as powerful as at Ultra Music Festival, Cazalis said. The popular electronic dance music festival in late March attracted as many as 150,000 people and resulted in 35 arrests.
But with 40,000 tickets sold, Rolling Loud wasn’t nearly as rowdy, her friend, Elias Zouak, 22, said.
“This is so much safer than Ultra. At Ultra there are way more mosh pits and people going crazy and on drugs and sh–,” Zouak said. “At this, everybody is high. Nobody is moving. It’s just so chill.”
Le’Sean Alexander, 25, of Clearwater said the moniker was one of the most appealing aspects of the hip-hop festival.
“The name, man. Yeah, you know I wanted to smoke loud,” Alexander said.
But Haley Sacco, 19, who was visiting Miami for the first time with friends from Detroit, didn’t completely agree.
“It’s not promoting drug usage, per se. But it is definitely the environment to use drugs,” she said.
Sacco said the more than 20-hour drive from Detroit was worth it to see artists like A$AP Rocky, who performed Friday, and Kendrick Lamar, who is arguably one of the biggest names in the music industry, who performed late Saturday.
The sometimes political messages of Lamar’s music did not keep the crowds away. Once he took the stage at Rolling Loud, smoke was visible and the odor of marijuana strong. A group of kids watched from prime seating in a tree.
Lamar opened with “DNA.,” which samples a segment from Fox News in which Geraldo Rivera says hip hop has “done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.” The audience recited lyrics to songs including “ELEMENT.” and “King Kunta.”
Javier Cerda, 19, from Cypress, Texas, admired the audience’s participation. He said he doesn’t mind that Lamar’s music touches on difficult subjects such as police brutality.
“As long as it’s positive,” he said. “Kendrick Lamar’s performance was something different than the other artists. He’s spreading positivity into the streets.”
Many people anticipated the performance from Lamar, whose Grammy Award-winning song “Alright” became an anthem for protesters during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Tracks from his most recent album — “DAMN.” — address negative perceptions about hip-hop music and its propensity for violence.
Veronica Bastian, 24, of Brooklyn, said Lamar’s mainstream popularity is disheartening to her as a black woman. She said some of the California rapper’s lyrics speak solely to the black experience in America.
Bastian said that she wasn’t expecting to see such diverse crowds. “I thought it was going to be people that look more like me.”
The concert got off to a sleepy start Saturday. Traffic was lighter along Biscayne Boulevard than it was Friday.
Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll said nobody was hurt Friday when festival goers began jumping the fences to exit the park. “People lost patience, so they opened emergency exits and other exits to get people out safely,” he said.
About 50 people, however, required medical attention, many of them because of dehydration, earlier Friday, when the temperature hit the mid-80s. Saturday’s temperature stayed predominantly in the 70s. About 15 concert-goers were taken to the hospital for undisclosed medical incidents. “It could be drugs or it could be diabetes; we don’t know until they’re at the hospital,” he said.
The concert also took a brief political twist Saturday as one DJ started repeating “F— Donald Trump” to the cheers of the crowd.
Saturday evening, Miami police spokesman Christopher Bess said there had been some arrests, but declined to say how many or for what reason. He disclosed that there were “undercover officers in plain clothes” in the crowd, and said an event arrest tally would be released Monday.
In one episode that required police intervention, a festival-goer tried to light a dry palm frond on fire while a crowd gathered and watched. An officer arrived, grabbed the man and his already extinguished frond — and escorted him to an exit to the jeers of crowd members shouting expletives.
Concert-goer Zouak, of Miami Beach said he felt the festival crowd was behaving well overall.
“It’s not very aggressive in nature. It’s just so chill,” he said. “Everyone is stoned. The hip-hop community brings safety.”
Miami Herald staff writer Carol Rosenberg assembled this story from field reports by Herring and Randle.