With high-profile names like Danny Brown, Jay Electronica and Freddie Gibbs, Weird City Hip-Hop Fest was set to be one of the genre’s biggest events to visit Austin — so fans were devastated to hear about its cancellation. But local hip-hop enthusiasts can rejoice once more, because the festival is being resurrected on Oct. 24 at Spider House Café and Ballroom.
By Armando Maese
Photos by Betsy Joles
The Return of Weird City, as the new event is being billed, will mark the festival’s second year in Austin. The new lineup features primarily local artists, since the initial lineup was scrapped due to scheduling conflicts and ticketing issues. “Not one bit of me feels that reflects on Austin hip-hop. This scene is only growing every day,” says Adam Protextor, who founded Weird City with fellow Austin Mic Exchange partners Leah Manners and Aaron Miller.
“Our consideration really was, 'how do we bring more national hip-hop artists to Austin, and how do we make sure that Austin-based artists with talent and drive end up opening for them?'” he says. “The answer was to do an annual fest to create one central stage for all those artists.” Protextor will perform at the festival under his stage name, P-Tek.
The festival would have not been possible without the help of Austin Mic Exchange, an organization founded by Protextor and Manners dedicated to promoting the local hip-hop scene. The group hosts an open mic every Tuesday night at Spider House, where local emcees and producers gather to showcase their talent and learn from one another. “That kind of community keeps music appealing, keeps me wanting to try harder and prove myself as an artist and as an avid supporter of the growth of hip-hop in Austin,” says Deaven Bean, a member of the hip-hop collective Hermit Kingdom, who will also perform at Weird City.
Protextor thinks the sense of community within the local hip-hop scene is what makes it so special and rewarding to artists. “The unique voice that's emerging is more interesting," he says. "It's one that's at once conscious and laid-back, ready to party, but also ready to experiment." Local producer and fellow Hermit Kingdom member Flrian Habito agrees, saying Weird City has “further legitimized ATX hip-hop in a lot of people’s minds, and has contributed to the optimism of the scene’s growth.”
Although the Weird City founders hope to expand the festival next year, their main focus this year is simply to shine a light on local hip-hop. “It's amusing to me that Austin is the self-proclaimed ‘Live Music Capital of the World,’ but the city's hip-hop scene is so hidden,” Bean says. To combat this, festival organizers plan to secure more national headliners in the future, giving local artists an opportunity to open for big names.
This year’s Weird City will also celebrate the launch of HypeHop, a free-styling app that will allow users to “trade bars with anyone,” according to the festival’s event page. It’s another step toward connecting the local hip-hop scene and turning it into a force to be reckoned with. “When things go wrong, nothing ends," Protextor says. "Everything is still here, and we've been presented with a fresh outlook.”