REVIEW: Rolling Loud 2023 brought the heat…literally

Annual music festival Rolling Loud brings the top hip-hop and rap artists to Hard Rock Stadium for a jam-packed three days. Photo credit: Rolling Loud festival, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From Ultra to III Points and so much more, Miami is the place for music lovers. Annual music festival Rolling Loud brings your favorite hip-hop and rap artists to Hard Rock Stadium for a jam-packed three days.

This year’s festival saw everyone from viral sensation Ice Spice to Grammy-award winner 21 Savage and more. Check out the Miami Hurricane’s recap of Rolling Loud Miami:


1. Playboi Carti

By the end of day one, most of the so-called “Vamps” fan base had face paint dripping and smudged. That didn’t deter them from reveling in Playboi Carti’s finale act for the day, a hybrid of guitar solos, Atlanta rap, heavy distorted bass and experimental hip hop.

Carti performed on top of a broken down car hood as flames shot off the front of the stage. When he wasn’t wailing to his lyrics, he kept his remarks to the audience simple.

“Thank you, I love you,” he said repeatedly.

As a casual Carti listener, even I could see the powerful connection between him and his fans, reminiscent of the most cult-like rock stars.

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2. Travis Scott

Arguably the biggest name at Rolling Loud, Scott profited off of his clout with a hit-packed, crowd-pleasing set. “Goosebumps,” “Butterfly Effect” and “Sicko Mode” all made appearances, prompting the inevitable moshing, chanting and bouncing.

The majority of his set was performed atop a prop asteroid. Interspersed throughout, Scott alluded to his upcoming studio album, the long-awaited “Utopia” which dropped on Friday, July 28.

“Today is the last day that I ever perform this set. ‘Utopia,’ I’ll see you in a couple days,” Scott said, ending the set.

Continuing the mystery, Scott boldly also shouted out his mysterious surprise movie “Circus Maximus,” which arrived in select theaters on Friday, July 28, alongside his same-day album release.

The departure from his usual stage running, crowd-engaging performances was only slightly disappointing as I and the crowd knew it was done in the name of “Utopia.”

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3. A$AP Rocky

Simulated thunder rolled across A$AP Rocky’s set as he introduced each song. While the crowd cleared enormous pits (think enough to park three cars in), A$AP watched, letting the tension build with each thunder rumble and clap.

“I might start a riot,” the rapper finally sang into the microphone, a shout out to his most recent single.

The crowd roared and cleared the pit yet more. The New York native dropped the track, slow to build-up until the hook where the bass comes thumping in, a cue for the crowd to rush at each other. A$AP’s set continued in this theme of creative openings, complete with a tribute to the late A$AP Yams and a sample of Three 6 Mafia’s “Slob on my Knob.”

The internet has been quick to diss A$AP, claiming that Lil Uzi Vert should have headlined that day and A$AP Rocky should have performed on the smallest stage. Though A$AP’s crowd was notably smaller, it was also the most fanatic and the most in sync. A$AP’s creativity and breadth of music tapped into an energy that only the other two headliners came close to.

Special guests

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1. Kodak Black

A clear disappointment for anyone who stuck around to even watch the set, Kodak Black walked out about an hour late, seemingly brushing his teeth. The rapper performed the same song twice, allowed a couple to propose on his stage, then rambled on about Florida’s sports teams and even AI.

The set’s saving grace came when he performed South Florida anthems “No Flockin” and staple “Rollin in Peace” featuring the late XXXTentacion, giving the crowd what they hoped to see.

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2. 21 Savage

Following a steady stream of features on Metro Boomin’s most recent two albums, 21 Savage kept it simple, playing recent and old hits. Notably, some of his most recognizable songs by the crowd were his features, including “Rockstar” where he featured with Post Malone and “Knife Talk” and “Rich Flex” where he featured with Drake.

Like a Drake set, I found the whole experience enjoyable, if slightly vanilla. While 21 Savage’s sound has evolved to include more genre-bending work over the past several years, I’ve always struggled to connect with it at a personal level (at least his hits).

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3. Lil Uzi Vert

With dozens of people escaping the crowd-crush during his performance, Lil Uzi Vert’s set was the most intense crowd of the main stage.

Another titan in hip hop, Uzi capitalized on his most recent album, Pink Tape’s, success with a heavy focus on his new sound. He included his foray into metalcore with “CS” and electronic with “Fire Alarm,” then reverted to the classics much of his audience grew up on — “Money Longer,” “You Was Right” and “XO Tour Llif3” amongst others.

Honorable mentions

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1. Ski Mask the Slump God

For anyone who grew up with Soundcloud rap or the heavy bass of South Florida rap, Ski Mask the Slump God’s performance was the highlight of the show.

When XXXTentacion (X) was alive, he and Ski Mask ran Rolling Loud, tying it to its heavy, South Florida roots. In addition to some Ski Mask hits, the artist gave a lengthy tribute to X and Juice Wrld, two former friends and fellow rappers. From X’s iconic rage song “Look at Me” to hypnotic track “SAD!” and Juice Wrld’s melodic “Legends,” the crowd chanted every song.

2. Cardi B and Offset

No, Cardi B wasn’t on the setlist, but her appearance would have sold out tickets even quicker. The moment her voice echoed across the grounds, screaming fans sprinted towards the stage Offset was performing on. The duo rapped their collab hits “Motorsport” and “Clout.” They left together after Offset’s final two chart-toppers, “Bad and Boujee” and “Ric Flair Drip.”

Before leaving the stage, Offset asked the crowd to pay tribute to Takeoff, his late performing partner and best friend. “Takeoff!” the crowd shouted back.