ACL Fest is Back and It’s Black(er)

ACL Fest is back with a more diverse line-up that features more rap, including local favorites like Riders Against the Storm, Deezie Brown, The Teeta, CP Loony and Mike Melinoe.

After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is back for its 19th installment and living up to all of the expectations and hype. There are some noticeable differences this year – specifically, there are more rap acts on the lineup, including local favorites like Riders Against the Storm, Deezie Brown, The Teeta, CP Loony, and Mike Melinoe.

Northeast Austin rapper CP Loony was a featured guest for the husband and wife duo known as Riders Against the Storm for their ACL set. He also accompanied the team as they opened up for the Wale in Dallas. 

“Growing up here, ACL was an event I always wanted to go to; it was the thing to do in Austin,” says CP Loony. “So it’s such a surreal moment that my first time I ever attend will be as a performer.”

These three, along with former Team Next frontman The Teeta, are helping to put Austin rap on the map. The Teeta recently headlined a show at Stubb’s Austin, which he called a bucket-list goal. But it doesn’t get much bigger than Austin City Limits for an Austin native. 

“This is … my biggest performance to date, and I’m gonna make it count,” he says. “I believe I was selected because I’m one of the most consistent hip-hop artists here and one of the only ones that can bring a high level of energy without the support of a live band.” 

The local rap scene continues to grow and is starting to gain credibility outside of Austin, even becoming a destination to help provide a stage to artists from other places.

For example, Melinoe, a Michigan native, has been a fixture in Austin’s rap and art scenes for the last five years. Coming off of an exciting opening for Freddie Gibbs at a show at Emo’s Austin on October 1, Melinoe is extra confident about where his talent can take him. 

I feel as if I’m one of the best artists to ever touch this city, and Austin recognizes it. I believe my growth since 2016 tells it all. But ultimately all I think about is how can I get better. Because I don’t plan on being in Austin forever. I believe that my energy deserves to touch the world as much as possible,” he says.  

In addition to the major performers, artists like J Soulja, Mama Duke and more, have started being the change they wish to see by curating the rap shows they’d like to participate in. But it’s still tough for Black artists.

Austin is heralded as the live music capital of the world, but the city’s burgeoning rap scene has long been disregarded. Black Austinites will tell you this is consistent with the city’s history of hindering and disenfranchising its Black population. Like in the broader society, our culture is idolized and appropriated when it’s convenient, but we’re never fully embraced by the city. That pattern dates back to before the Civil Rights movement when Black artists performed separate shows in the city – “whites-only” crowds would gather West of I-35 and the Black crowds would see their favorite artists when they made their way along the Chitlin’ Circuit in venues and hole-in-the-walls venues on what is now E. 11th & E. 12th Streets. 

Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion on the bill at ACL 2021.

So naturally, seeing Meg Thee Stallion, Tyler The Creator, Polo G, Erykah Badu, and more Black headliners, as well as the local acts on ACL’s lineup, was a breath of fresh air. But it begs the questions: is it that the draw of these acts – and the profits associated with booking them – have become too big to ignore for Austin promoters? Or – is Austin finally listening to its communities of color and trying to be more inclusive of BIPOC artists? Perhaps it’s a little of both. 

[Read: Blues on the Green Returns with Notably Diverse Line Up]

This is the second and final weekend of ACL Festival.


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