KUBE 93’s annual Summer Jam is back at The Gorge again this weekend, but this year adds an extra day of high-powered rap acts to become a two-day festival well worth the trip out to George, Washington.
Saturday’s main lineup reads like a typical radio-rap festival in 2014 – Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, who has become a legitimate superstar since his 2013 breakout Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, will headline with his dexterous conscious/street lyricism, and Miami’s boss don persona Rick Ross will support with additional star power and a catalog of radio hits. Detroit’s Big Sean and LA’s Kid Ink are generic placeholders and weak links as openers, but Mississippi producer/rapper Big K.R.I.T. bolsters the earlier timeslots with his quality Southern rap revivalism, and local hero Sir Mix-A-Lot even has an early set to kick off the second day’s festivities.
But this year it’s all about the extra first day, a Friday packed with some of the biggest names in ‘90s rap that KUBE FM and Summer Jam’s organizers assembled for one stage. Headlining is LA gangsta originator/former N.W.A. member Ice Cube, who despite his present-day acting career and family-movie roles still has made some of the hardest rap albums ever released. Cleveland’s Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had a groundbreaking melodic sound/rapid-fire flow combination when they debuted in 1994, and 20 years later their influence is all over modern rap, so their second-headliner slot comes as no surprise. Performing back-to-back sets just before them are two Bay Area legends that have maintained especially long careers without faltering or falling off – Vallejo’s rubbery-voiced slang purveyor E-40 and Oakland’s pimp-rap instigator Too $hort, both longtime favorites of Seattle rap fans that should get especially warm welcomes during their slots. DJ Quik, another Compton rap architect who is largely considered among the best rapper/producer musicians of all time, has the earliest opening set of the day, making the lineup completely full of quality music with no filler or weak spots.
The additional day of classic acts should bring out plenty of older fans and educate many younger ones, but it might be an exercise in patience to get through the second day after experiencing a first day full of performances by seasoned veterans. It should at very least provoke some very original conversations and dialogue about the quality of rap music now versus how it was in the ‘90s.