It’s been seven years since the inaugural Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Festival took place in Los Angeles. The annual music festival has since gained a solid reputation for its celebration of the diversity in the underground rap universe. Curator Murs’ vision hasn’t changed, even if the fest’s venues and sponsors have—his commitment to supporting up-and-coming artists is unwavering—but this year, it seems he had to make a few concessions to keep attendance up in this economy, and as a result, Paid Dues 2012 had more big name acts than ever. Beyond the stacked lineup, the event was exciting because it brought together two generations of rap fans: long-term supporters of veterans like Wu-Tang Clan and DJ Quik and kids just getting into hip-hop thanks to the rapid rise of young superstars and Paid Dues headliners Odd Future and Kendrick Lamar.
The massive NOS Events Center was a natural choice for Paid Dues. Just last month the venue hosted the Cypress Hill Smokeout, a rap and rock festival that draws thousands every year from all over California, and in August, it’ll hold Rock the Bells, another giant single-day hip-hop fest.
You had two equally undesirable options on Saturday: stay outside and risk getting a gnarly sunburn in the scorching heat or head inside the fairground’s two windowless airplane hangers and choke on weed and cigarette smoke. Some of the biggest names—Wu-Tang Clan, Living Legends, Odd Future, Dipset—played the outdoor Paid Dues stage (not to be confused with the indoor Dues Paid stage in a nearby hangar, where People Under The Stairs, DJ Quik and Kendrick Lamar performed). The Monster Energy Stage—also in a hangar—hosted Lecrae, Three 6 Mafia, Brother Ali and Mac Miller. Once a breeze came through and the sun went down, we forgot our initial discomfort and actually had a pretty good time. Here are some photo highlights from Paid Dues 2012.
Photography by Joseph Engel.