The 10 Best Rap Acts at Free Press Summer Fest

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Childish Gambino These are three of my favorite Childish Gambino lyrics: "I am running this bitch, you are just a dog walker"; "I have worked all winter, I will not fail summer/ In the back of the bush like Gavin Rossdale's drummer"; "Swag out the ass, I'm the man, fuck Chico/ Took the G out your waffle, all you got left is your ego."

The fact that he utters all these wildly clever rhymes within seconds of each other in the same song made me a believer early on. Wry enough to write for 30 Rock and fly enough to rock the bells, Gambino is on my can't-miss list this year. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Nothing against his new stuff, but "Bonfire" and "Heartbeat" are pretty much perfect punchline-rap songs, so as long as he plays those two and I get a few laughs I'm happy. Besides, it's not every day you get to see a guy who takes his name from the Wu-Tang Clan name generator on the same bill as the actual Wu-Tang Clan, so there's that. CORY GARCIA

A person as talented as Donald Glover cannot be contained by labels. He is famously known as Troy Barnes on television, is an accomplished stand-up comic, and has even served as the inspiration for Miles Morales, aka The New Spiderman. But his most interesting persona is the rapper known as Childish Gambino.

With an unmatched intensity and clever wordplay, Glover rocks the stage with a mike in his hand and the bass turned all the way up. He lives as a blur when he performs, running, jumping, and interacting with his audience with possessed eyes and frantic emotion. This will definitely be one of the more entertaining and interactive sets of the festival. MARCO TORRES

REWIND: The 10 Best Rock Acts at Free Press Summer Fest

DMX There are plenty of great hip-hop options at this year's FPSF, but I'm most excited about the chance to finally hear DMX's bark. He's been a rap mainstay since I was a youngster, and to get the chance to hear hits like "Party Up (Up In Here)" and "Ruff Ryders Anthem" will be a welcome mental trip back to my high-school days. While most might think he's a bit cheesy or even a bit soft, without a doubt X will be the party of the weekend. Thankfully he decided not to kill fight George Zimmerman, as that might have made him way too popular to perform this weekend. JIM BRICKER

I shouldn't really have to explain why you should go see DMX. I mean, you have heard "Party Up," right? You've driven down the highway listening to "Ruff Ryders Anthem" far too loud and felt like king/queen of creation, yeah? In your times of struggle you've put on "Slippin'" and known everything was going to be OK? Yeah, so I shouldn't have to explain why you should go see DMX. So I'm not going to. I'll see you there. CORY GARCIA

There are three parts that comprise my desire to see DMX at FPSF, all equally as important: 1) The nostalgia factor -- who among us can say they have ZERO memories attached to a DMX song?; 2) The insanity factor -- clearly the dude went majorly off the rails for awhile and I'd like to see where he's landed; and 3) The fact that once upon a time, DMX made some hella fun music. I hope he plays all his late-'90s shit. SELENA DIERINGER

Ms. Lauryn Hill When it comes to FPSF's popular '90s rappers more familiar to the tabloids than the pop charts in recent years, this is the one you want to see. No disrespect to DMX, but barking like a dog is one thing, and making music that people will remember 50 or 100 years on (or even longer) is another one. That's how good The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (still) is, an impeccable fusion of hip-hop, R&B and pop that doubles as an illuminating, universal portrait of the young female psyche. Hill has had her ups and downs since her return to regular performing, expanding her sound to include generous doses of reggae and jazz -- but everyone thought Cat Power was going to be a train wreck last year too, and she turned out great. CHRIS GRAY

iLL LiaD iLL LiaD is in a class by himself among Houston MCs. He has little interest in many of the familiar topics preferred by most (drank, cars), instead turning his lyrical microscope on his own struggles, notably substance abuse and self-loathing thoughts as dark as any Slim Shady verse. He also has a fierce competitive drive that leads to take-no-prisoners songs like "Rap Slayer," a lyrical bloodbath that spares no one in its acidic truth. Surely it's cathartic for him, but not just him alone -- iLL LiaD is perpetually put on the list of next great Houston rappers, but his uncompromising craft has thus far held him back as much as those personal demons. Maybe FPSF is finally his time to shine. CHRIS GRAY

Lizzo Anyone with any connection to my hometown automatically gets me excited. The fact that Lizzo is a Houston-born, Minneapolis-based artist makes her no exception, but my real driving force to see her perform has less to do with her physical location and more with her unique, effortless flow. I'm not the only one interested; Lizzo has been written up all over this year as "One to Watch." Unfortunately, so was Kitty Pryde last year...so I'm hoping that unlike her, this girl reppin' both my cities can show why she's been worth the hype. SELENA DIERINGER

List continues on the next page.

Welcome to Houston Give or take a couple of guys, it's not unusual to see any of these six men -- Bun B, Z-Ro, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Devin the Dude and Mike Jones (who?), arguably Houston's six best-known and most-respected MCs -- hanging out backstage or hopping onstage at one another's shows. Neither is it strange to see them at FPSF, where all save Jones have performed in the past. But all of them onstage at once is not just a big deal, it became a can't-miss FPSF moment (maybe the can't-miss moment this year) the moment it was announced last month. Although they've only been given 20 minutes of stage time, these guys have collaborated so often that coming up with a set list shouldn't be a problem. Just pity whoever has to follow them. CHRIS GRAY

Wu-Tang Clan Unless we could all be transported back to the iconic barroom set of those Shaw Brothers movies -- it was always the same set! -- I can't think of a better place to see Wu-Tang Clan than an outdoor fest. I imagine every member defeating haters in separate parts of the city as they make their way to the Neptune Stage for the final battle under the setting sun. Also, the moment the first strains of "Shame on a Nigga" go up, the kids I'll be with are going to lose their shit. Ticket prices be damned, that moment will be priceless. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Ying Yang Twins Fifteen years before Miley Cyrus made the term "twerk" a cultural phenomenon, the Ying Yang Twins were making pussies fart and booties shake like salt shakers as they thug-walked their way into the club anthem hall of fame. With the backing of producer Mr. Collipark and collaborations with fellow ATL homies Lil Jon and The Eastside Boyz, the twins took senseless and hypnotic rhymes and created sweaty, raunchy magic. Be ready to get low and whistle while you twerk under the hot sun. MARCO TORRES

All of Them Firstly, I'd like to express gratitude that 2 Chainz isn't performing this year, with the Ying Yang Twins taking his spot as the festival's tongue-in-cheek performers. As far as real hip hop is concerned, I'm stoked to finally see the Wu Tang Clan -- assuming, of course, they all show up. But even if the Wu disappoints, a few Houston greats will be on site, singing of syrup, chronic, 'bows and vogues. It should be a great weekend for hip-hop. MATTHEW KEEVER


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