The annual Paid Dues music festival, now in its 5th year, is one of the most prominent hip-hop festivals in the United States. Similar to Rock the Bells, Paid Dues is a day-long music event, featuring both independent and mainstream hip-hop artists. This year’s headliners were Ice Cube, Murs & 9th Wonder, Tech N9ne, and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan. Artists performed at two different stages, the Paid Dues stage (indoor) and the Dues Paid stage (outdoor).
The indoor stage featured the more established artists, while the outdoor stage featured independent artists. The first few acts in the outdoor stage ranged from female emcee Hopie Spitshard to the group Potluck, the self-described “stoners from Humboldt.” There were also giveaways from this stage, as well as freestyle battles from audience members. Later in the night, Ice Cube’s cousin Del tha Funky Homosapien and the L.A. collective Freestyle Fellowship headlined the Dues Paid stage.
In the indoor stage, Sick Jacken and Cynic performed the energetic show Psycho Realm is known for, inducing mosh pits in the crowd. Followed Psycho Realm was Dilated Peoples, another L.A. based underground hip-hop group with growing mainstream success. Performing for a packed indoor stage as weed smoke filled the air, Raekwon performed both his solo material and material from the Wu-Tang Clan, while also paying his respect to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Gangsta rap was well represented with Tha Dogg Pound (Daz Dillinger & Kurupt), along with the headliner Ice Cube. Murs was a present throughout the festival, and his set included “L.A.,” songs from the 3:16 project with 9th Wonder, and a song that brought Sick Jacken out to the stage once again. Ice Cube energized the crowd with some of his classics including “It Was a Good Day” and “Check Yourself,” as well as debuting a new song from his upcoming album.
Overall, it was a great festival, the only problems were that some of the set times got changed around last minute, and having two stages meant not being able to listen to everybody. Other than that, Paid Dues showed how, for a day, an empty field in San Bernardino could transform into a showcase of some of the best hip-hop L.A. has to offer.