Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring 2019 Lineup Revealed

21 Savage

An Atlanta-based rapper who kicked off his career with the crew Slaughtergang, MC 21 Savage hit as a solo artist with his 2014 single “Picky”. First single “Picky” launched his solo career in 2014, and his debut mixtape, The Slaughter Tape, dropped in 2015. The Free Guwop EP, with Sonny Digital, landed that same year, as did a second solo mixtape, Slaughter King. In 2016 he joined Metro Boomin for the collaborative EP Savage Mode, which climbed into the Top 25 of the Billboard 200 and peaked at number seven on the Rap Albums chart. Savage’s debut full-length arrived in the summer of 2017. Issa Album (/) featured production by Metro Boomin, Southside, Zaytoven, and DJ Mustard, as well as an appearance by Young Thug on “Whole Lot.” – David Jeffries

Moon Taxi

“We can come together, we won’t give up on the fight,” sings Nashville’s Moon Taxi on their smash single “Two High,” a song that catapulted them to the top of the streaming charts and the forefront of the national stage. Filled with emotive vocals, a percussive beat and some unexpected, infectious horns, it’s a track that shows the band – which has been together for over a decade – venturing into more adventuresome territory than ever. Fearlessly melding rock with pop hooks, clever synths and roots touchstones gleaned from their home in Music City, Moon Taxi’s forthcoming fifth record and first for RCA will find the five-piece doing what they do best: coming together and fighting for music that triumphs above all. 

“Two High,” the band’s newest single, has been taking Moon Taxi – Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitarist), Spencer Thomson (lead guitarist and producer), Wes Bailey (keyboardist), Tommy Putnam (bassist) and Tyler Ritter (drummer) – to new heights, topping over 60 million streams on Spotify and making heavy rotation on SiriusXM. Written in response to the push for peace, but not reacting to the politics, of the Women’s March this past January, it’s a song that encourages listeners to keep looking for a positive way forward – from their own internal battles, to the ones suffered by the world at large.

It’s perhaps due to Moon Taxi’s inspired, inclusive worldview when it comes to their music that they’ve been able to have songs featured as the soundtrack to multiple commercial and TV placements – from BMW, Nashville, MLB, NFL to HBO Sports – but it’s their infectious live performances that keep fans coming back night after night. Touring for the better part of the decade, they’re the kind of band that inspires a loyal following willing to drive miles and miles (or fly many more) to catch them again and again. 

“If there’s one thing we want when people hear this record or see our shows,” says Terndrup, “it’s to leave elated.”

Big K.R.I.T.

An uncannily loose yet precise rapper and accomplished producer, Big K.R.I.T. has continued in a lineage of Southern rap legends who include UGK8Ball and MJGOutKast, and David Banner. He spent years honing his skills on the mixtape circuit before signing with Def Jam, a deal that led to the Top Ten albums Live from the Underground (2012) and Cadillactica (2014). K.R.I.T. has since been independent with his Multi Alumni label, the outlet for his third consecutive Top Ten full-length, 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (2017), and a set of later EPs summarized as TDT (2019). He has either produced and/or appeared on material from the likes of Wiz KhalifaCurren$yFreddie Gibbs, and Rick Ross.

Born Justin Scott in Meridian, Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T.learned to play cello in childhood. Later on, as a fledgling rapper, he started producing tracks out of financial necessity, starting with MTV Music Generator on the Sony PlayStation. His early mixtapes began with See Me on Top in 2005 and culminated in 2010 with K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, released the year he signed with major-label Def Jam and was featured on tracks by Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y. In 2011, K.R.I.T. was included in XXL magazine’s annual Freshman Class feature, released Return of 4eva — acknowledged by Rolling Stone and Spin magazines as one of the year’s best releases — and assisted deep cuts from Freddie GibbsSmoke DZALudacris, and Chamillionaire.

K.R.I.T.‘s Def Jam stint began officially with Live from the Underground in 2012. Bolstered with input from 8Ball and MJGBun BDevin the Dude, and Anthony Hamilton, the proper album entered the Billboard 200 at number five. The increasingly eclectic and substantive Cadillactica, another Top Ten hit, followed in 2014, the year K.R.I.T.‘s productions also graced output headlined by Rick Ross and A$AP Ferg. While intermediary mixtape releases plugged gaps between albums, K.R.I.T. parted ways with Def Jam and launched Multi Alumni, an independent label. A third proper full-length, 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, arrived in 2017 and continued his streak of Top Ten albums. The following year brought a trilogy of brief releases, Thrice X, Double Down, and Trifecta, eight tracks of which constituted the acronymically titled 2019 release TDT.

Soulja Boy

Combining the party-oriented snap music of Atlanta with the harder underground styles of Chicago and his native Mississippi, Soulja Boy conceived an uncomplicated sound he called “Shylantasippi” and greatly profited from it with “Crank That (Soulja Boy).” The single topped the pop chart in 2007, received multiple platinum certifications, and was up for a Grammy (Best Rap Song). After a three-album period with Interscope that generated additional crossover hits like “Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” “Turn My Swag On,” and “Pretty Boy Swag” through 2010, the rapper and producer returned underground and became truly prolific as an independent artist, releasing numerous full-length projects on an annual basis each year. At the same time, Soulja Boy has continued to take on occasional outside production work, including a cut for Lil Wayne (“Wowzerz”), and he counts the likes of Migos (“We Ready [Remix]”), the Game (“Really”), and Nicki Minaj (“Yasss Bish”) among the artists who have sought him out for guest appearances.

Soulja Boy‘s unique fusion comes from having been born in Chicago but raised in Atlanta and then Mississippi, where he hooked up with the Palm Tree Promotions team. Palm Tree putSoulja Boyin local showcases, but the fledgling rapper — a savvy proponent of social media — also uploaded his music to the Internet. Numerous downloads of early tracks such as “I Got Some Bapes” and the over-the-top “Yahhh Bitch Yahhh” came first; then the posted videos ofSoulja Boydoing his dance moves took it to another level. Following in his steps, fans uploaded their own dance videos anywhere and everywhere, spreading the word and consequently turningSoulja Boyinto a grassroots phenomenon. “Crank That Soulja Boy” became both his anthem and breakthrough track in 2007, when major label Interscope picked it up and gave it a commercial release. On its way to triple platinum status, the song went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Song. By the end of the year,Soulja Boyalso had a Top Five album, his full-length debut, and three additional charting singles, including the number 32 pop hit “Soulja Girl.” He soon hit the Top 40 yet again as the co-producer ofV.I.C.‘s “Get Silly.”

Soulja Boyreleased two more studio LPs through Interscope.iSouljaBoyTellem, driven by “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” and “Turn My Swag On” — respectively number three and number 19 pop hits — entered the Billboard 200 at number 42 near the end of 2008.The DeAndre Wayfollowed two years later and peaked at number 90, highlighted by the number 34 pop single “Pretty Boy Swag.”Soulja Boythen went independent and has released dozens upon dozens of commercial mixtapes and subsequent albums. More visibly, his discography of productions and guest appearances has similarly ballooned, highlighted byLil Wayne‘s “Wowzerz” and the remix ofMigos‘ “We Ready,” along withthe Game‘s “Really” andNicki Minaj‘s “Yasss Bish.”

 Photo by Bradley Murray

Photo by Bradley Murray

Jamila Woods

Tempering sharp and powerful lyrics with a sweetly melodic voice, Jamila Woods is an activist, poet, and R&B singer/songwriter whose inspirations include Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison, as well as Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar. A native of Chicago, Woods started performing in church. After she graduated from Brown University, she returned home and formed the self-termed “adventure soul” duo Milo & Otis, aka M&O, who released The Joy (2012) and Almost Us (2014), the former of which featured an appearance from Chance the RapperWoodsand Chance connected again for “Sunday Candy,” a highlight from Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment‘s Surf (2015). Early the following year, signed to Chicago’s Closed Sessions label as a solo artist, Woods released her first single, the charged and proud “Blk Girl Soldier.” Around the same time, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis issued “White Privilege II,” for which Woods delivered the song’s closing lines. Shortly after that, she could be heard on “Blessings,” the finale of Chance‘s Coloring BookHEAVNWoods‘ highly anticipated debut album, arrived digitally on Closed Sessions in 2016. The following year, an expanded edition was released on multiple formats by the Jagjaguwar label.

Ari Lennox

Discovered after she uploaded a couple examples of her work to the Web, Ari Lennox is an R&B singer/songwriter signed to J. Cole‘s Dreamville imprint. Based in Washington, D.C., Lennox began uploading her music around 2012 and released her debut EP, Ariography, in 2013. A couple more stray tracks were uploaded in 2014, along with the independently released single “Bound.” In 2015, she signed with Dreamville. An appearance on labelmate Omen‘s 2015 release Elephant Eyes followed, and in 2016 she appeared on the Dreamville compilation Revenge of the Dreamers, Vol. 2. Her second EP, PHO, followed later that year and featured production by DJ Grumble and Felly, among others. In 2017, Lennox appeared on Cole‘s track, “Change,” and joined him on tour as the opening act. In 2018, after featuring on a pair of tracks for labelmates EarthGang, she began teasing tracks from her forthcoming full-length debut, including “Whipped Cream,” “40 Shades of Choke,” and “Pedigree.”

Nordista Freeze

Nordista Freeze is known across the US for his high energy performances. His unique blend of 60s pop (Velvet Underground, Beach Boys) with modern psychedelia (Black Moth Super Rainbow, Animal Collective) gives him a modern, timeless sound.

Through his tireless touring (300 shows in two years), he has already made a name for himself across the US & Canada. With monstrous stage presence, high-energy dance moves & Beach Boys harmony, he wins over new fans night after night. NPR described Freeze’s work as “the most beautiful and perfect example of the Nashville music scene” while Nashville Scene declared “cosmic Tom Petty” as one of the most likely artists to “rule” in 2018.

Freeze has also worked hard to unite Nashville’s DIY music scene, encouraging other artists to seize their full potential. Freezefest artists have since gone on to open for Willie Nelson, Cage The Elephant, and even win national competitions like The Voice. Charlie Peacock (Bono, The Civil Wars) & other Grammy producers are enamored by his young talent, hard work & endless motivation.


Growing up with Indian and Pakistani parents meant young Aly “Lackhoney” Lakhani heard more Bollywood hits and Muslim spiritual music than hip-hop. But when he first heard artists like Audio Push in middle school, his world changed.
“I spent hours studying their videos, stage presence, and radio freestyles,” Lackhoney says. Though he was just a fan at the time, those early binge sessions laid the groundwork for Lackhoney’s own artistry. 
Before long, Lackhoney was producing songs in Garage Band with ripped instrumentals from YouTube videos and a borrowed microphone. He slowly taught himself production techniques on the Internet — a skill he soon expanded when he enrolled at Nashville’s famed Vanderbilt University, where he met frequent collaborators Curt and Lucy DK.
During his freshman year at Vanderbilt, Lackhoney forwent the typical college party scene and instead spent all of his weekends in the campus recording studio, often walking back to his dorm around the same time others were going for their morning jog.
The hard work paid off. Taking a cue from artists like Russ, Lackhoney released a steady stream of singles like “Wrong,” “Bounce,” and “Self Work,” building a passionate niche following on campus. He fused his early influences with inspiration from acts like Smino and Monte Booker, Chance the Rapper and indie rockers Arlie. 
A clever lyricist and charismatic vocalist, Lackhoney is carving out a unique place in hip hop by embracing his own reality, from dealing with the racial prejudice he experiences as a Muslim to the everyday highs and lows of life as a college student. He details his truths in upcoming projects throughout 2018.

About Rites of Spring

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Vanderbilt students, faculty, and administrators went to great lengths to increase the amount of contact the school had with the Nashville community. One example of this community outreach was the student-formed “Free University” which offered instruction to Nashville residents in topics ranging from short wave radio to the arts. The “open campus” policy also resulted in many Nashville residents taking part in Vanderbilt campus events such as the implementation of the Rites of Spring Music Festival in 1971.

Rites of Spring Lineups from the Past

Gucci Mane, DNCE, Cheat Codes, H.E.R., Goldlink*, Kiiara, Lil Bibby, Born Animal

The Shins, Rae Sremmurd, St. Lucia, Ty Dollar $ign, JohnnySwim, Aminé

Future, Porter Robinson, Lil Dicky, Bad Suns, Kat Dahlia and The Candid

Chance the Rapper, Young the Giant, Portugal. The Man, T-Pain, RAC, The Lone Bellow, Matoma, Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes and Louisa Wendorff

2 Chainz, Steve Aoki, Delta Rae, Twenty One Pilots, Ace Hood, The Mowgli’s, Smallpools, Harper Blynn, MisterWives, Amy Wilcox and Stix Izza

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