People are still talking about last year’s HARD Summer Music Festival, as 2017 saw the unforgettable 10th-anniversary extravaganza become the biggest EDM experience of the season. Following instant-classic performances by the likes of Dog Blood and Anna Lunoe, HARD returns Aug. 4-5 with a trendy next-gen crop of EDM and hip-hop talent.

This year’s HARD Summer Music Festival is the first without the involvement of HARD founder Gary Richards. Replacing the old nostalgic formula, this year’s Hard has a more youthful focus, its lineup littered with first-time performances. From the hip-hop world, this year includes fresh new sensations Saweetie, Trippie Redd, Lil Skies, Lil Xan, YBN Nahmir, Rico Nasty, Hippie Sabotage, Wifisfuneral and Jack Harlow.

“It’s a big deal,” Harlow says of performing this year. “This festival is huge. Great look for me. Seems like hip-hop is becoming a must everywhere. … Not surprised.”

Launched in 2008, Hard Summer has bounced around the City of Angels over its 11-year run, the multiday music festival landing at locations including the Shrine Expo Hall, Glen Helen Amphitheater and the L.A. State Historic Park. Averaging 80,000 festivalgoers, Hard Summer's impressive list of former performers includes Justice, Rusko and Destructo.

Although it's an EDM fest at heart, HARD Summer Music Festival began to incorporate hip-hop back in 2013 with the debut of 2 Chainz and Azealia Banks. Since then, Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Mob, Ty Dolla $ign, Migos, Mobb Deep and Snoop Dogg, who performed classic album Doggystyle in its entirety last year, have made the crowd dance manically.

This extremely young lineup of hip-hop acts confirms the new direction, with the majority of the acts under 21 years old. It’s clear that HARD is embracing the next generation, setting a trend that is sure to have rival festivals following suit. Saweetie is counting on it.

“Adding another festival to my résumé is important ’cause it shows that my music is hot,” she says. “It’s cool that I’ve been a part of these lineups. My ultimate goal is to headline some major festivals next year.”

Warner Bros. recording artist Saweetie, 25, is riding a huge wave right now thanks to the success of her debut single, “Icy Girl.” The breakout hit has accumulated more than 20 million views on YouTube and led to the  release of her March 2018 EP, High Maintenance,  a nine-track collection featuring production from high-profile producers Zaytoven (Migos, Future) and CashMoneyAP (Young Thug, Chief Keef). Backed by a trio of dancers, the Bay Area native is excited to perform her new project for Los Angeles.

“L.A. crowds are interesting,” she says. “There’s either a lot of energy or none at all. I love that because it shows how hip-hop is crossing over and appreciated in other spaces.”

Little Xan; Credit: Erika Goldring

Little Xan; Credit: Erika Goldring

Accompanying the hip-hop new school is a blockbuster EDM lineup of 80-plus acts, headlined by heavy-hitters Flosstradamus, Louis the Child, Marshmello, Diplo and Porter Robinson’s audiovisual project Virtual Self.

Fans may be curious about the short set times allotted to the new-school hip-hop artists, which is due in part to the performers' lack of deep catalogs to rely upon. Many of the newcomers have only one or two recognizable hit songs. However, expect several surprises from these youngsters as they look to make a hot first impression.

“Watch out for the white rabbit jumping out of the LED wall” of the set by Sacramento duo Hippie Sabotage. They approach HARD not as a debut but a homecoming. “Being from California, we've always had amazing crowds in L.A. So we're expecting pure energy and chaos during our show.”

Composed of brothers Kevin and Jeff Saurer, Hippie Sabotage are best known for their hit song “Stay High.” Hippie Sabotage collaborators include Tove Lo and Ellie Goulding. Signed to iHipHop Distribution, the brothers began recording music in 2015, and they reflect on the amazing heights they’ve achieved this early in their career with no initial aspirations of being superstars.

“To be honest, back in the day when we were only producing and in the background at studios, we never could have imagined we would be playing huge dance festivals with just our beats,” Kevin says.

The duo, who are eager to see Floss this year, describe HARD Summer Music Festival 2018 as a stamp of approval from mainstream dance music.

“HARD Summer can really stamp you as a festival act in the West Coast and gives you a chance to be exposed to a more mainstream electronic audience,” Kevin says. “Literally the whole genre stems from primarily hip-hop production, so to deny hip-hop from the dance genre is stupid. Also, hip-hop performances showcase artists’ charisma and ability to interact with crowds, whereas DJ performances typically are so boring and non-interactive. We love that the performance element of hip-hop is bleeding into the dance genre and making DJs actually perform and actually play their own music.”

Familiar with EDM crowds, Hippie Sabotage are fully prepared to deliver an amazing set and offer some helpful advice to their fellow hip-hop acts on the HARD bill. “We make a lot of beats/songs and smoke a lot of weed,” they say. “Also put a bunch of big risers in your beats for dance festivals, and people go crazy.”

While the new kids invade, this year’s HARD is amply supplying festivalgoers with tag-team sets from the bass universe. The announced sets include duos Diplo with Dillon Francis, Zeds Dead with Jauz, Borgore with Getter, LoudPvck with Bighead, A-Trak with Baauer, and the newly formed Kill The Noize and Snails group Kill The Snails. There will be some tough decisions to be made among HARD's four festival stages.

The trendsetting bill only gets monumental. HARD Summer Music Festival 2018 brings Astroworld this year as Travis Scott headlines. Another Kanye West associate performing this year is new Louis Vuitton artistic director/DJ Virgil Abloh. Celebrating his many accomplishments this year, including the Time 100 List and his Paris Fashion Week debut, the 38-year-old DJ will bring a crazy set filled with exclusives, surprises and special guests.

Taking advantage of Insomniac Events' infrastructure and returning to the Speedway for a second time, the once-controversial festival is putting the past behind it and preparing for the next decade with massive acts in both electronic music and hip-hop. For a more comfortable, immersive experience, brand-new redesigned stages will be moved to the spacious and cooler grass infield of the Speedway. Shaded areas and water stations will be added throughout the venue. Getting into the venue will be improved through added entry lanes.

With a custom lineup welcoming the new generation, backed by must-see greats, the 11th edition of HARD Summer Music Festival is refreshing, trailblazing and exciting. 

HARD Summer Music Festival 2018 returns to the Speedway in Fontana, Sat.-Sun., Aug. 4-5. Tickets are available now on the official HARD Summer website. Festival doors open at noon.

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