Sole DXB, a three-night lifestyle festival filled with the latest sneaker designs and the hottest underground music acts, will return to Dubai Design District (d3) from December 6-8. Live performers are the beating pulse of the event, and this year promises to be no different, from experimental neo soul duo Lion Babe (fronted by actress Vanessa William’s daughter) to the critically acclaimed rapper Nas.
Here’s your guide to who’s who on stage — plus, a couple of secrets on how you can embed yourself with hip hop royalty.
Friday (Dec 7)
AKA — 4.30pm (Reebok Space)
South African rapper AKA has opened for Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar in his home country. At the 18th South African Music Awards in 2012, he won Best Street Music Album and Male Artist of the Year.
Masego — 5.40pm (Puma Space)
Masego is a self-taught saxophonist, rapper and producer, who was mentored by DJ Jazzy Jeff. The Jamaican born musician, with roots in South Africa, describes his style as “trap house jazz”. His song ‘Tadow’ with French instrumentalist FKJ has more than 76 million views on YouTube.
Reem Ekay — 6.30pm (Main Stage)
Reem Ekay is a Dubai-based spoken word and soul artist. She got her start by winning AUS Got Talent at the American University of Sharjah; she had been part of the organising crew before deciding to compete. She performed an R‘n’B version of Pumped up Kicks by Foster the People.
Chyno — 7pm (Main Stage)
Chyno is a Syrian-Filipino rapper based in Beirut, Lebanon. His 2015 album, ‘Making Music to Feel at Home’, tackles everything from politics and war to inner turmoil.
Sho Madjozi — 7.30pm (Main Stage)
Sho Madjozi is a South African rapper and poet. Born Maya Wegerif, the 26-year-old is known to rap in her native tongue of Tsonga, or Xitsonga. She released her early work under the moniker MayaThePoet.
Slowthai — 8pm (Main Stage)
Slowthai is a UK rapper known for his high-energy live performances. Born Tyron Frampton, his moniker Slowthai emerged from a childhood nickname — Slow Ty — that came from his tendency to slur his words and get lost in his own world. He released his latest single with Mura Masa, Doorman, last month.
Blood Orange — 9pm (Main Stage)
Blood Orange is a man of many identities. Born David Hynes, he released two albums under the name Lightspeed Champion. He was also part of the band Test Icicles for two years on guitar, synth and vocals. But he’s been Blood Orange for 10 years now and has released four albums under his latest moniker. The in-demand producer-singer-songwriter has worked with everyone from Solange Knowles and FKA Twigs to A$AP Rocky and Mariah Carey.
Giggs — 9.30pm (Main Stage)
British rapper Giggs climbed the UK charts to No 2 last year with his third album, ‘Landlord’. The 35-ear-old Londoner is also featured on two of Drake’s songs, ‘KMT’ and ‘No Long Talk’, as part of the 2017 album ‘More Life’.
Saturday (Dec 8)
DaniLeigh — 5.30pm (at Puma Space)
DaniLeigh is a Dominican-American singer. She entered the industry as a dancer, and directed a music video for Prince’s song ‘Breakfast Can Wait’; Prince later became her mentor. Her latest single, Lil Bebe, draws on her musical inspirations, from Drake to Aaliyah.
Zenden Lavon — 7pm (Main Stage)
Zenden Lavon is a Dubai-based producer-rapper, who proclaims himself ‘hip hop’s biggest nerd’. His Kendrick Lamar-esque debut album, ‘BE, Vol 1’, released earlier this year. Lavon recently wrapped up his latest tour in Japan.
Abra — 7.30pm (Main Stage)
Abra is an American singer-songwriter, who released her debut album, ‘Rose’, in 2015. Abra also released her EP ‘BLQ Velvet’ that year, followed by her sophomore EP ‘Princess’ in 2016.
YoungstaCPT — 8pm (Main Stage)
YoungstaCPT is a hip hop emcee hailing from South Africa, whose sound is inspired by his upbringing in Cape Town. His latest record with Yungloon Taliboom and Maloon TheBoom, ‘To Be Continued’, released this year.
Roxanne Shante — 8.30pm (Main Stage)
Roxanne Shante is an American hip hop artist and battle rapper, who hails from Queens, New York City. A dramatised biopic of Shante’s life, ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ — co-produced by Forest Whitaker and Pharrell Williams — screened at Sundance Film Festival last year, receiving generally positive reviews.
Lion Babe — 9pm (Main Stage)
Lion Babe are an experimental New York City neo soul duo, fronted by singer Jillian Harvey, the daughter of actress Vanessa Williams. Harvey and record producer Lucas Goodman released their debut album, ‘Begin’, in 2016; it included the single Jump Hi, featuring Childish Gambino. Harvey’s soulful delivery has garnered comparisons to Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu.
Nas — 9.30pm (Main Stage)
Hailing from New York City, American rapper Nas will headline the final night of SoleDXB. The 45-year-old wordsmith, born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, rose to fame with his 1994 debut album ‘Illmatic’, widely accepted as one of hardcore hip hop’s greatest albums, both due to its multi-syllabic internal rhymes and its hard-hitting lyricism. His eleventh and latest album, Life is Good, released in 2012 and was nominated at the Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album.
ALSO AT SOLE DXB:
WEAR THE CROWN FT. BIGGIE SMALLS
In 1997, Brooklyn-based photographer Barron Claiborne snapped what would become an iconic portrait of American rapper Biggie Smalls, in which he was wearing a crown and sitting against a bright red back drop. Biggie died three days after the famed photo was taken. Claiborne’s image of him was carried throughout his funeral procession, making it all the more impactful. A few fortunate fans will now have the chance to take photos with the very same crown on Friday and Saturday at Sole DXB’s Reebok corner, in the presence of none other than Claiborne himself.
TALK THE TALK FT. YASIIN BEY
Yasiin Bey, the artist formerly known as Mos Def, will be attending a restricted-access closing party for Sole DXB, but he’ll also be holding a talk on Saturday as the creative director of South African fashion brand Unknown Union. The one-hour discussion, which will take place at 2pm, will be titled ‘Visual Culture in Africa: Religion, Art, Graphic Writing Systems + Design’. Bey retired from music in 2016, but months ago announced that he and Talib Kweli — known together as the rap duo Black Star — would release an album together in 2018.
*Single-day tickets for Sole DXB start from Dh195. The event is open from 12pm to 10pm on December 7 and 8.