Half of the lineup booked for tomorrow’s Trillectro music festival represents the D.C. area. But it’s not clear whether the festival’s target audience knows that.
“If you go online you’ll see that people don’t think there’s a lot of talent from D.C. on the bill,” says Quinn Coleman (aka DJ Spicoli), a member of the promotion group DC to BC that is organizing the second annual hip-hop and electronic music festival at the Half Street Fairgrounds this weekend. “In reality it’s about half and half,” Coleman says.
It’s a misunderstanding that the five-man crew encountered while distributing fliers at concerts this summer. “I was handing out fliers to the kids at the Mac Miller show [at Fillmore Silver Spring],” Modele “Modi” Oyewole told the Funkadelic Freestyle radio show last month, “and a lot of [them] had no idea about a majority of the artists.”
Trillectro’s lineup doesn’t lack big names—-Wale and Salva among them—-but to the organizers, roping local performers into the fest is just as essential even if it can present challenges. “It’s important for us to promote what’s going on here in the city, and I think we do a good job,” Coleman says. “But I think we’re juggling how to keep it mainstream [while also staying] true to the underground scene, and it’s really tough to walk that line.”
“The picture we wanted to paint was the best in D.C.,” Oyewole says. “We’ve got Wale… the superstar, the No. 1 album, the face of D.C. hip-hop, and one of the biggest artists in the game.” He adds, “My mom knows Wale. My mom doesn’t know any of these other artists.”
“Then you have Nadastrom,” Oyewole says, whose member Dave Nada popularized moombahton, the global dance-music craze that he invented in a Prince George’s County basement. Despite the homegrown duo’s influence on electronic dance music; its packed shows at U Street Music Hall; and its association with globe-trotting, Beyoncé-collaborating producer Diplo, Nadastrom doesn’t boast anywhere near the name recognition that Wale does. (Perhaps that’s part of the reason Nada relocated to Los Angeles in late 2010.)
To DC to BC, though, exposing local listeners to their own town’s music is part of what the festival does best. Those who attend may leave with a list of new locals to get into. “A lot of people leave educated from the music put before them because a lot of the artists are to us a big deal,” Oyewole says. “To the mainstream and masses, they’re not, but we’re confident that all of these artists in the future will become a big deal.”
Oyewole may not be wrong. DC to BC was the first promoter to bring Kendrick Lamar to D.C. in 2011, and we all know how Lamar’s career has shaped up. The crew did it again with Los Angeles native Schoolboy Q last year at the festival’s debut. Even this year, as DC to BC’s Marcel Marshall points out, Travi$ Scott has racked up fans since they booked him in late March. He’s gone on to work with Kanye West and Jay-Z. Festival performer A$ap Ferg, too, has attracted lots of attention lately—-particularly on YouTube.
If the DC to BC truly is the tastemaker—-or at least the taste oracle—-that it claims to be, then the person to look out for tomorrow is also the youngest artist on this year’s lineup. Alex Young is a teenage Montgomery County DJ that has been on DC to BC’s radar for some time. “He’s just a talented kid,” Coleman says. Young opened for Frederick, Md., DJ Carnage last year at U Street Music Hall. “I was there and stayed for his whole set,” he says, “and he probably had one of the best performances I have seen in a long time.”