“WHAT I LIKE”: AG picks for BUKU 2020

As you’ve probably heard by now (like literally heard, when the bass rumbles up and down the river every year), The BUKU Music + Art Project packs a lot of punch into the riverfront Mardi Gras World campus it’s called home for the past near-decade. It’s been an impressive run so far, and this year’s lineup doesn’t disappoint, featuring over 60 artists on five stages, including the always fun and surreal float den. With plenty of flavor to go around, here are our favorites for this year’s BUKU.


I left Flatbush Zombies’ 2018 BUKU set bruised and dizzy in the best sense I could hope for. The New York hip-hop trio offers ambiance and action, keeping the audience thrashing and dancing on anybody near. Their most recent album, Escape From New York, is a collaboration with their larger collective Beast Coast, but I think their finest work comes when they’re left to refine their sound alone. Their 2018 album Vacation In Hell is Flatbush Zombies at their peak, oscillating between harder bangers like “HELL-O” with bass to throw your body into; and more flowy, psychedelic tracks like “Crown” (which features Portugal. The Man). On “HELL-O” Meech raps, “Man fuck that mumble rap / It’s that skully low rumble rap,” summing up their sound and where they attempt to situate themselves in the larger rap conversation, namely that they are not SoundCloud rappers, but conceptual and rumbling, ready to enchant and devour. —Marisa Clogher

Last year, BUKU snuck 2000s emo staples Dashboard Confessional and Mayday Parade into its lineup. This year, the festival returns with Taking Back Sunday, one of the defining bands of that emotionally charged era. The group’s first three albums are widely considered staples of that era and have inspired many bands to wear their feelings on their sleeves. Taking Back Sunday is perhaps best remembered for the 2006 tune “MakeDamnSure,” a catchy singalong featured on many angst-ridden Myspace profiles back in the day. Other memorable titles include “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” and “This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know).” This year, Taking Back Sunday is officially old enough to drink, and it’s safe to assume that at least a few people will be crying into their beers as they shout along to the soundtrack of their youth. —William Archambeault

Brandon Lattimore (DJ Heelturn) wears many hats within the New Orleans scene. He’s hosted a beloved show on WTUL, worked at the Ogden, organized the POC-focused punk festival Deep Cuts, and even contributed to ANTIGRAVITY. Most importantly, he’s one of the best DJs in New Orleans. His meticulously-curated mixes draw on styles that run the gamut from house to bounce to baile funk. Over the past few years, Lattimore has become a local staple, guest-DJing for the much-hyped Set De Flo series at the Hi-Ho Lounge, playing shows with bounce legend Katey Red, holding a residency at 3 Keys (at Ace Hotel) and, along with blk, co-hosting weekly Issa Vibe parties across the city. He currently plays Monday nights at Justine in the French Quarter and is frequently found at The Saint, Okay Bar, and Sidney’s Saloon on weekends. (DJ Heelturn takes the BUKU stage for the first time this year.) —Raphael Helfand

100 GECS
100 gecs feels like the musical accompaniment to a middle schooler’s Mountain Dew-induced sugar rush. The experimental pop duo’s sound spans a wide spectrum, but is clearly rooted in a childhood of Myspace-era internet browsing and late-night Naruto AMV binges. Their debut, self-titled full-length album features the duo smashing sounds together with a blatant disregard for genre conformity. On “stupid horse,” Laura Les’ signature high-pitch autotuned nightcore vocals soar over upstroked ska guitar. On “800db cloud,” the duo dive into pretty melodies and hard-hitting electronic beats while also incorporating distorted metal vocals and 2000s emo. Throughout the album’s overwhelming chaos, 100 gecs somehow still manage to consistently piece together catchy, deep-burrowing earworm hooks. The crowd at BUKU will be split into two distinctive camps: those shouting along to the lyrics “Hey, you lil piss baby / You think you’re so fucking cool? Huh?” and those staring in complete and utter confusion. —William Archambeault

Remember those “I Want To Die in New Orleans” posters plastered around the city? That was local rap duo $uicideboy$ promoting the release of their 2018 studio album. I have a soft spot for horrorcore rap (thanks to my early exposure to Three 6 Mafia), so I appreciate New Orleans-bred artists impacting the genre—especially when they have the blessings of Juicy J himself. Comprised of cousins $crim and Ruby da Cherry, $uicideboy$ pulls heavily from local culture (and local news broadcasts) to color their contribution to the underground hip-hop scene. Their songs explore everything from depression, addiction, and the toxic trappings of modernity to more mainstream rap tropes like sex, money, and fame. $uicideboy$ continues to earn recognition despite their lyrical treatment of taboo subjects (as well as a few copyright infringement controversies along the way). They recently released an EP collaboration with Blink-182’s Travis Barker in 2019 and dropped their latest album, Stop Staring at the Shadows, in February, so anticipate some new content at this year’s BUKU. —J.V. Mina

Roddy Ricch’s 21 years on earth add up to a familiar rap story. Born in Compton, California, he was raised by a religious mother and a father who only appeared episodically. As a preteen, he met Kendrick Lamar—who was about to explode nationally—at church. He freestyled for the older rapper, who told him he had a future in hip-hop. Soon after, Ricch fell in with a rough crowd. At 18, he was briefly jailed on a gun charge, and the experience drove him to get serious about rapping. In 2018, his sophomore mixtape, Feed tha Streets II, gained him some buzz, but he wasn’t a household name until last year, when his feature on Mustard’s “Ballin’” became the song of the summer. Ricch’s rise from poverty to celebrity may be relatively unremarkable in a genre filled with similar rags-to-riches tales, but he tells his story in a raw style that separates his music from the endless stream of mediocre trap being force-fed to the hip-hop public. He’s got vocal chops to rival those of his musical forebearers (Young Thug, Future, Chief Keef) and a lyrical sensibility that outmatches them (Young Thug excluded). His debut album, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, came out in December and still sits atop the Billboard 200, an anomaly considering its brooding, reflective subject matter. —Raphael Helfand

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you have undoubtedly grooved to this Australian producer-DJ (pictured at top) at some point. I was hooked when I heard his self-titled debut album, specifically the track “Left Alone” featuring Nick Murphy (then known as Chet Faker). That album set the bar for Flume, who has worked with acts like Tove Lo, Little Dragon, Raekwon, SOPHIE, and fellow BUKU 2020 artist JPEGMAFIA. Years ago, I watched the Patrouille de France (the French Air Force equivalent of the Blue Angels) perform trippy aerobatics to Flume’s remix of “You & Me.” The combo of commanding electronics and full afterburner was intense. Listen to Flume’s latest mixtape, Hi This Is Flume, to get a feel for his newer sounds, but also hit up the deluxe edition of the titular debut. Expect a well-gauged assortment of chill tracks and danceable beats from this BUKU performance, and don’t be surprised if he rallies a special guest to the stage. —J.V. Mina

If you are like me, you went through a phase of listening almost exclusively to the pop music of the British singer-songwriter Charli XCX. You played songs on repeat off YouTube, singing along to lyrics like “Oh now I got a plan, I hope you gonna be my man / I can see us cushy in the house right by the ocean sand” (“What I Like” from 2013’s True Romance). When you texted your friends the singer’s music videos, several of which incorporate cars set on fire and one that involves synchronized jet skis, they either didn’t respond, or replied with non-sequiturs like “lol what.” Charli XCX is what, my now former friend. If anything is funny, it’s Charli’s uncanny musical abilities. Feeling ghosted and rebuffed, you scrolled through the comments for solace—wtf she’s so underrated, deserves better [butterfly emoji]. You agreed. When you read this is what old people imagine modern music sounds like you felt less alone. Even when Charli XCX’s music fits into the mold of garden variety pop, you’d argue (with no one), it’s still quality. Plus a fair bit of her output falls outside of the norm, and you could even say that Charli is a constantly evolving pop artist with a super high-energy show, not to mention a fondness for doing that rhetorical “What the fuck is up (name of city)?!?!” thing that pretty much guarantees everyone a good time. —Andru Okun


The ‘80s were good to Video Age. The band’s core members, Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli, were born in 1990, but through an in vitro injection of tight, simple rhythms and bright, major chord progressions, the decade’s ethos stuck with them all the way into their late 20s. Farbe (a local) and Micarelli (originally from Boston) met as freshmen in Loyola’s Music Industry program in 2008 and have been playing music with (or adjacent to) each other ever since. Their homebase was unpretentious, danceable garage rock until 2016, when they dropped the first Video Age record, Living Alone, as a duo, trading in live drums and fuzz pedals for kitschy synth keyboards and proto-drum machines. They released their latest project, Pop Therapy, in June 2018 to positive reviews across the board. The album adds live bass (Nick Corson), keyboard (Duncan Troast) and guitar (Jordan Odom) to the duo’s arrangements and dives even deeper into the nostalgia pool than Living Alone did, coming up with a joyful poptimism that hearkens back to simpler times. At their BUKU debut, they’ll bring their nostalgic purity to a festival dominated by a very different energy, striking a playful contrast. —Raphael Helfand

Ari Lennox is for the girls. Originally from Washington DC, she’s the first woman signed to J. Cole’s label, Dreamville Records, and has continued to tour and collaborate with the rest of the Dreamville crew, including EarthGang and J.I.D. She released her debut album, Shea Butter Baby, in 2019. At the end of the album’s intro song, “Chicago Boy,” Lennox asks the men to leave, saying, “I need to talk to my bitches… it’s about to get disgusting / It’s about to get so fuckin’ freaky / Get out.” This feminine camaraderie carries through the rest of her music. Ari Lennox makes music for dancing in your underwear, dancing with your girls, or both. It’s sensual, her voice wrapping around you like a warm bath so you can feel unashamed excess. Lennox offers relationship advice and complete distraction. Her set feels like the perfect place to bring your best friend and sing out your woes and appreciation, getting emotional and “fuckin’ freaky.” —Marisa Clogher

Rapper-producer Barrington Hendricks—better known as JPEGMAFIA—creates distinctly internet-era hip-hop characterized by sudden changes that feel reflective of our modern web surfing-induced short attention spans. Hendricks has been a rising star in experimental hip-hop in recent years, initially drawing underground internet praise for early albums like Communist Slow Jams and Black Ben Carson. The former Louisiana resident even featured his Louisiana state ID on the cover for his 2018 album Veteran. His latest album All My Heroes Are Cornballs continues to showcase Hendricks’ ability to twist styles at his will. Opener “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot” kicks off the album with the jarring sound of smashing glass. On the track, he switches between soaring R&B-inspired vocals and aggravated shouts over laidback vaporwave-esque production. JPEGMAFIA hasn’t made any artistic concessions in attempts to go mainstream, but he has moved to bigger stages. In 2019, he rocked Pitchfork and Coachella, indicating that wider audiences are slowly gravitating towards his twisted take on hip-hop. —William Archambeault

Some might guess that a hardcore punk band would be at odds with BUKU’s rap and electronic-oriented lineup, but Turnstile is no stranger to eclectic bills. In August, the band performed at Mardi Gras World as tour openers for local rap sadboys (and BUKU veterans) $uicideboy$. Despite different musical approaches, the two groups are united under the banner of their lament-heavy lyrical content. Turnstile’s latest album Time & Space showcases the band executing their hardcore fury with razor-sharp precision. Aggressive screaming over thunderous guitar chords and pounding drums define many of the album’s short songs. In addition to hardcore’s trademark aggression, Time & Space touches on instrumental lounge jazz (“Disco”), funky vocal jazz (“Bomb”), and Andrew W.K.-esque thumping piano (“High Pressure”). These experiments broaden the band’s palette and, in turn, elevate the intensity of their sound. This set is guaranteed to be one of BUKU’s most mosh-friendly. —William Archambeault

I still remember when Tyler, The Creator’s collective Odd Future made its first and only New Orleans appearance at Voodoo in 2011. Members harnessed the audience’s borderline riotous energy and took after pit photographers, smashing cameras in the process. It was one of the few occasions in which I’ve ever experienced a festival set with a real element of danger (that isn’t an endorsement). While youthful arrogance and raw energy propelled his initial popularity, Tyler has grown leaps and bounds since his days as a slur-spitting renegade youth. He may have debuted with a risque mixtape entitled Bastard, but nowadays Tyler is closer to music awards and the big screen than edgelord button-pushing and Tumblr blog buzz. In 2018, he contributed music to the remake of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, which is sure to be a family Christmas staple for years to come. His 2019 album IGOR debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. Tyler offered a powerful choreographed performance at this year’s Grammys and left with the award for best rap album. Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, he has undergone a transformation and emerged as a mainstream staple. —William Archambeault

After summer 2019, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t willing to fully succumb to their hot girl tendencies in Megan Thee Stallion’s honor. When she was younger, her mom would bring her to recording sessions, and Megan Thee Stallion has been writing her own raps since the age of 16. She’s the first woman signed to 300 Entertainment, and at the age of 24 has toppled the internet. After the release of her album Fever, summer of 2019 became hot girl summer. Megan Thee Stallion raps about unabashedly sucking dick and loving money, and every live performance opens a new level of awe. Her flow is quick and tight, never missing a beat. Her live performances are effortless, her knees and ass doing things that feel inconceivable. She has raised a hot girl army, and the confidence she’s inspired is magnificent. It’s only the beginning for Megan Thee Stallion, who’s rising exponentially in stardom. I’ll be showing up to shake it out with the rest of the hot girls. —Marisa Clogher

For those who are unfamiliar, Pussy Riot is a feminist, anarchist art collective founded in Moscow, Russia in 2011. After gaining notoriety in Russia for their guerilla punk rock protests, they earned international attention in 2012 when three of the founding members were arrested on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for performing their “Punk Rock Prayer” at Moscow’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Garnering support from the international community, Pussy Riot have since become an important voice in both Russian and international punk and activist circles, with collective members speaking and performing on behalf of feminism and LGBTQ issues and against authoritarianism worldwide. Pussy Riot’s sound is heavily indebted to riot grrrl and classic punk. In contrast to the subjects about which they write and sing, their songs tend to be energetic and even upbeat, accompanied by simple yet powerful punk beats and riffs. Expect to be challenged by this band—Pussy Riot performances are not for those who just want to chill out. They are radical, multi-sensory audiovisual experiences, yet another example of the important and powerful role that art and music must play in shaping political and social change. —Mary Beth Campbell

The BUKU Music + Art Project will take place Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at Mardi Gras World, 1400 Port of New Orleans Place. For more info, check out thebukuproject.com.

Live photos by Josh Brasted

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