Our team on the Buku 2019 lineup.

lana del rey photo
Lana Del Rey

The Buku Music and Arts Project released its lineup during the holiday season, and its update came close enough to Jazz Fest’s announcement of The Rolling Stones that the news got lost in the shuffle. This year, Buku will feature Lana Del Rey, Dog’s Blood (Skrillex and Boys Noize), A$AP Rocky, Toro Y Moi, Excision, and many more when the festival returns to Mardi Gras World March 22 and 23. Tickets are on sale now.

Team Spilt Milk pored over this year’s schedule and here are our takes, but before we start, this year we’re going to score festivals on the number of acts that have women on stage. If we pay attention to a festival, we’ll see how they do. Since this conversation started nationally more than five years ago, festivals have had plenty of time to address this. How did Buku do? So far, women are part of six of the 36 acts on Friday (17 percent) and seven of the 37 acts on Saturday (19 percent). We’ll see how that stacks up against other festivals this season. 

Friday

- Lana Del Rey: The streaming music ecosystem moves so quickly now that Lana Del Rey seems like a legacy artist. (Alex Rawls)

- Toro Y Moi: Another legacy artist? Chaz Bear (aka Bundrick) has now been at it long enough to hit mid-career doldrums and rediscover the joys of smart, elegant, funky R&B pop tinged with chillwave (remember when that was a thing?) on the recent Outer Peace. (Rawls)

- Buku’s booking of Toro y Moi may mean one of two things: that chillwave is actually being legitimized as a cohesive musical genre, or that it’s not and is instead gradually being reclassified as the ultimate non-genre genre. On his newest album, Outer Peace, Toro y Moi trades in his usual wandering ambience for a more upbeat, funky pop. If disco meets ambient music sounds appealing to you, it’s hard not to like and want to dance to. (Devorah Levy-Pearlman)

- Kero Kero Bonito is bringing its punchy, playful electronic pop to the Friday lineup. The London-based trio is interesting for a few reasons: musical elements inspired by equal parts J-pop and video games, a commitment to “radical positivity,” and bilingual English-Japanese rapping. I’d be interested to see how the crowd reacts to their set at Buku. I’ve heard their shows are at both times playful and edgy, and well-received by energetic audiences. (Levy-Pearlman)

- From our October 2018 interview with Kero Kero Bonito’s Gus Lobban and Sarah Midori Perry:

Perry’s shiny-sparkliness gleams through the walls of noise that cover it on Time ‘n’ Place. It’s the driving force behind KKB’s viral success, making the band an instant meme and a message board darling. As one Twitter user recently put it, “It’s that genre of music you like because you think it’s your girlfriend.” Their fandom exists mostly in the perpetual daydream of the Internet, as ubiquitous as the sea and sky, and equally impossible to occupy physically. “Those pockets are where it’s at for us,” says Lobban, referring to forums like Rate Your Music and r/indieheads. “It’s like a dog whistle. We have this instant kinship with people who see the world and communication in that kind of way. It was really key in allowing us to bypass the trad gatekeepers.” (Raphael Helfand)

- Rico Nasty: The opening track on Rico Nasty’s new album, Nasty, is “Bitch I’m Nasty,” and it’s perfectly encapsulate of everything she is and offers. She’s unapologetically aggressive and sexual, and the harsh beats that run behind her lyrics locate something visceral in listeners. (Marisa Clogher)

Saturday

- Dog’s Blood: Remember when Skrillex seemed cutting edge? His skills haven’t changed, but when I saw him teaming up with Boys Noize in Dog’s Blood, I flashed on a Third Eye Blind/Semisonic team-up. (Rawls)

- Ella Mai: Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” has become a monster song very slowly. She played the Essence Festival last July, and the song was ubiquitous, played nightly between sets. When she played a superlounge, crowds stood in lines so long that they jammed up the concourses of the Superdome. It has grown organically since, with the video viewed 327 million times and the lyrics video seen another 13 million. Still, the song was fresh enough for much of America that it was her featured song when she recently performed on Saturday Night Live. (Rawls)

- $uicideboy$: Our reviews of $uicideboy$ at Buku in 2017: 

$uicideboy$ haven’t quite blown up yet. They still work day jobs and play single-room shows and house parties. Still, the local rap group held down a prime time slot at Buku’s Float Den, got a prime time response from the audience, and put on one of the most exciting shows I saw all weekend. The duo, which consists of Scott Arceneaux Jr. ($crim) and Aristos Petrou (Ruby Da Cherry), have a sound that mixes trap with hardcore punk, and the refreshingly dark lyrics to go with it. The sound has roots in the “sad boy” aura pioneered by Yung Lean and Co., but while the Swedish wunderkind’s success seems to have plateaued of late, $uicideboy$ are just getting started. 

They’ve caught on to a new trend in sad rap, opting for more serious lyricism over random shoutouts to the early 2000s (the saddest years). The budding subgenre (let’s call it trap punk) has been creeping slowly into the public ear for some time now, with rappers like the currently incarcerated XXXtentación and his friend Ski Mask the Slump God carrying the torch for now. On Saturday, $uicideboy$ drew a large and enthusiastic crowd that stayed with them as they bounced around and head banged—letting their long, scraggly hair billow in the breeze from the overhead fans—for a 45 minute set that felt half as long. $uicideboy$ may not have much critical or commercial acclaim as of yet, but they do have multiple videos with multiple millions of views on YouTube, and these days, that’s as good a sign as any of impending stardom. Considering their subject matter, they probably won’t be on the radio any time soon, but if they keep putting on shows like they did Saturday and putting out videos as good as this one, they’ll be rocking sold out shows in no time. (Helfand)

And

$uicideboy$ radiated not giving a fuck Saturday night from before they belatedly stepped onstage. Their DJ told the soundboard to start their video, them called for a rewind because they weren’t ready. When $crim and Ruby hit the stage, they came with a crew that threw water on the crowd, lurched around on their own, drank liquor from the bottle and rolled joints at the back of the stage. They gave us the wasted youth look and attitude more common in heavy metal, a genre with which $uicideboy$ share some aesthetics. 

In fact, the band’s web presence suggests that it has a solid graphic designer on the team if not running it. The stickers for sale on Etsy are smartass, accomplished and edgy, and one T-shirt unsettles with ease as a drawing of a hand with a scarred wrist is accompanied by the slogan, “Woke up dope sick with a cut wrist.” If White Zombie and Ministry never used the cheap movie recreations of Bible scenes that $uicideboy$ ran on screen behind them, it’s only because they didn’t find them first.

Their visual and verbal imagery guarantee that they won’t become radio stars, but it doesn’t matter if their nihilistic outrageousness is calculated because they’re really good at it. (Rawls)    

- Gunna: The Young Thug protegé shows Thug’s influence, but on his own and with Lil Baby, he’s on a stylish, restrained musical path that feels sleekly, suavely accomplished in the current Soundcloud-influenced hip-hop environment. (Rawls)

- From our review of Earl Sweatshirt at Buku 2016:

Saturday, Earl Sweatshirt’s set stood out because the Odd Future rapper asked the audience for more than just energy and sweat. Between Cudi and the omnipresent thump, Buku is rarely subtle, but Sweatshirt is often contemplative with a distinctive cadence closer to poetry than rap. His songs unfold, rarely arriving at a chorus, and his beats are lumpy, rarely delivering a clear groove. At one point midway through his set, Sweatshirt had done the seemingly impossible and stilled a Buku audience. Even one lone girl near the back who kept trying to get something going with her blinky hula hoop gave up, but people didn’t leave. 

Sweatshirt spoke between songs with a stand-up comedian’s bemusement. It’s not a common hip-hop onstage persona, and it was doubly intriguing considering his grim stories of wasted youth. His charisma was strong enough to hold the crowd, even when he faced technical difficulties. A clearly audible crackle at times accompanied the beats played by his DJ on his laptop, and it returned a number of times throughout the set. When it first happened, Sweatshirt encouraged the crowd to sing European soccer chants to kill time. When the crackle returned, he paused to wait for it to get fixed, then said “Fuck it” and started a song to plow through, then said, “Renege” as it was too distracting. The crowd started an enthusiastic “Olé / Olé Olé Olé / O-lé, O-lé,” which clearly amused him despite the situation. 

His own music was rarely so crowd-pleasing, occasionally bringing to mind trip-hop hero Tricky with the self-conscious British drama replaced by a smoked-out L.A. fatalism. More than patience though, Sweatshirt asked the audience to buy into his world, which is very different from Buku’s most of the time. The festival is largely geared for very immediate, very physical rewards, and the extended nature of DJ sets implies a space/moment where the good time doesn’t end. Earl Sweatshirt’s idea of a sing-along was the confused and suspicious chorus of “Grown-Ups”: 

Don’t know where I’m going, don’t know where I been
Never trust these hoes, can’t even trust my friends
Tell that bitch to roll up, fucking with some grown ups (Rawls)

- J.I.D: J.I.D is another fast-paced Atlanta rapper whose projects are often very conceptual and slightly surreal, and his new album, DiCaprio 2, reflects this. His rapid-fire flow is impressive and seamless, and manages to shine through in a time where mediocre rappers are oversaturating the genre. (Clogher)

- Earthgang: Earthgang is the closest we’ve gotten to OutKast since OutKast, with a vibrancy and lyricism distinctive of Atlanta, and are similarly underrated nationwide in the way many southern rappers are. (Clogher)

- Doja Cat: Hardly anyone knew Doja Cat’s name before she went viral for her joke song “MOOO!”, but her first full-length LP, Amala, was released a few months before that and went mostly overlooked. It’s full of summer bops and slow jams, and I think she will pleasantly surprise fans who show up just for the novelty of her Internet presence. (Clogher)

- Local DJ/Producer Lil Jodeci will be the unofficial delegate of New Orleans’ (relatively tiny) house music scene at Buku. Given the number of out-of-towners that the festival draws, this has my wondering what potential New Orleans has as a future club music destination. Is there any chance of putting the city on the map for techno, or is Lil Jodeci’s appearance just a nod to a small but devoted local scene? (Levy-Pearlman)

- Thou: Buku smartly stopped booking actual dad rock and made the festival about the moment and audience right in front of them. In the process, it largely shook off rock music in favor of DJ-spawned music, whether hip-hop or EDM. The ultra-heavy Thou should compensate for three or four years’ of absent rock in a single set. (Rawls)  

For more, check our interviews with AF the Naysayer, Thou, and Tristan Dufrene.