SXSW is just around the corner. The annual music festival in Austin, Texas is the largest of its kind, bringing together thousands of fans and artists for a week of memorable concerts, parties and panels. Whether it’s emerging acts on the cusp of making it big or superstar rappers and singers getting back to grassroots performing, SXSW is the one place you can see it all in hip-hop and R&B.
Since its inception in the late '80s, SXSW has historically spotlighted new or independent artists on the come-up. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and J. Cole all enjoyed some of their earliest live shows on the SXSW stage. Many artists have grown as the festival has expanded. Action Bronson started as an indie act but has since evolved into a SXSW staple. He's wowed us with strange and unexpected performances every time.
In recent years, the festival has become larger and turned into something of a more mainstream affair (for better or worse, depending on whom you ask). With younger audiences to reach and opportunities to partner with corporate brands and sponsors, it's not surprising that the SXSW bill has expanded and now includes big-name rappers and singers like Jay Z, Kanye West and Usher on the bill. Even veterans want to get in on the action. In the past, legends including Prince and A Tribe Called Quest have all flown south for their own SXSW gigs.
In case you missed it, here are our favorite shows on and off the stage. Check out 10 Best Performances You Missed at SXSW Through the Years.
Schoolboy Q & Kendrick Lamar Team Up for 'Hands on the Wheel'2012
SXSW has historically been a breeding ground for new artists; a place to discover new talent. If you were able to grab a seat in 2012 when Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar performed "Hands on the Wheel" at the VIBE House, you were lucky enough to see K. Dot as he was transforming into a superstar.
J. Cole Spits a Memorable Freestyle2011
The festival down south is more than just an awesome experience to hang with friends and eat some BBQ; it's also a time when our favorite artists drop new music. Back in 2011, a very young J. Cole spit this memorable freestyle which has since become a fan favorite at the BET Music Matters showcase.
A Tribe Called Quest 'Kick It'2013
In recent years, rappers you grew up listening to (or your parents raved about) have taken the stage at SXSW. In 2013, A Tribe Called Quest killed it by opening for Prince. Yes, Prince. The hip-hop trio reunited for all of their classics including "Scenario" and "Can I Kick It?"
Kanye West Turns a Power Plant Into a Hip-Hop Community2011
Only Kanye West could take a converted Austin power plant and transform it into a star-studded late-night show. In 2011, 'Ye's SXSW set was the one everyone and their mama wanted to get into, but were unfortunately turned away because the venue was filled to capacity. A slew of stars like Kid Cudi, Mos Def, John Legend, Pusha-T, Big Sean and Jay Z shared the stage with Yeezy.
Prince Brings the 'Purple Rain'2013
What's better than A Tribe Called Quest show? A Tribe Called Quest opening up for Prince. In 2013, the living legend gave a stellar performance like only he could. For three hours, the superstar sang and danced his purple heart out. Despite the fact that the show was sponsored by Samsung, the Purple One banned phone use from his set, but that didn't stop fans from capturing the moment when he sang "Purple Rain."
A$AP Rocky Ignites Brawl During Set2012
A$AP Rocky has had his fair share of great SXSW performances, but it was a fight in 2012 that stole the headlines. A beer can was thrown at Rocky's crew during his set. "Please! Don't throw nothing at us because we don't want to end this early," the rapper said. "We want to have fun. People came to have fun." The can-throwing continued and a full-on brawl ensued, with the "Multiply" creator jumping into the crowd. Authorities arrived and the show was officially shut down.
Tyler, the Creator Incites a Riot2014
Tyler, the Creator's onstage antics got him in big trouble during his SXSW show in 2014. The Odd Future frontman incited a riot after he urged fans to bust down the gates. "All you guys back there that can't get in," he said, before leading the audience in a chant of "Push, push, push!" He was subsequently arrested at the Austin airport before he could board his flight.
Action Bronson Performs With a Fan on His Back2013
Action Bronson has become a SXSW mainstay in recent years. It's hard to pick just one memorable Bam Bam performance, but 2013's set ranks high on the list. The Queens rapper threw a fan over his shoulders (the dude continued to feel the vibe by nodding his head to the beat) and performed "Gateway to Wizardry," which was pretty amazing.
Usher & the Afghan Whigs Join Forces for 'Somethin Hot'2013
R&B is often overlooked at SXSW but Usher changed that in 2013. The crooner took over the Fader Fort both solo and alongside the Afghan Whigs for a memorable, cross-genre set that included the track "Somethin' Hot."
Jay Z & Kanye West Rock the House With "In Paris" 2014
Two of hip-hop's biggest names took the festival to a new level last year. Jay Z and Kanye West (aka The Throne) kicked off Samsung's SXSW concert series and were the hottest, most highly-coveted ticket of the week. Where else could you see "In Paris" performed over and over again? SXSW would never be the same again after these two rocked the house.