The music portion of the 2023 South By Southwest Conference and Festivals schedule kicked off in Austin, Texas on Monday, March 13. Thousands of music lovers, hundreds of performers congregated to dozens of stages to see five days-worth of sets by the industry’s biggest names and rising acts across various genres.
Glossy flyers advertised performances from the likes of Jadakiss and Lil Yachty, panel discussions with Hip-Hop veterans like Curren$y and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. There was an abundance of entertaining and educational events for music heads to keep the week lively.
With so much to do and see, it was impossible to watch every show and catching numerous performances in one night became a handful. Still, there were many acts that stood out against the big-name headliners and memorable showcases with their overwhelming lineups.
In the midst of the SXSW swarm, here are our favorite standout moments from this year’s late winter event.
Baby Rose At Rolling Stone's 'Future Of Music'
Baby Rose made her South By Southwest debut at Rolling Stone’s Future Of Music event with a vocally sound and emotionally stirring performance pleasing new fans and old alike. Performing with a live band at Austin City Limit’s Moody Theater, the 28-year-old singer shared the meaningful moments behind her personally penned tracks. Commanding a crowd of lively fans, the Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter explained the personal experiences that led to songs such as “Stop The Bleeding” and “Go.” Both songs are from Baby Rose’s upcoming EP Through and Through are set to drop later this year. – DeMicia Inman
Conway The Machine At 'Beer N Tacos'
SXSW has long been a stage for artists to make statements and Conway The Machine did just that with his headlining set at the Beer-N-Tacos SXSW showcase. A marquee artist on a robust slate of performers that included Erica Banks, Kodie Shane, DJ Kid Capri and DJ Paul, the Drumwork Music Group founder dominated the stage at Parish on Saturday night (March 18). Bouncing around his catalog, The Machine served up choice cuts from his acclaimed 2021 album God Don’t Make Mistakes, but also used his set to introduce Austin, Texas to his label roster, namely Buffalo rapper Jae Skeese, with whom Conway recently collaborated with on the joint-album Pain Provided Profit.
In addition to Skeese, fellow Drumwork signee 7xvethegenius also made an appearance and graced the crowd with her lyrical prowess, further proving the well of female talent in upstate New York is overflowing. Conway showed there’s strength in numbers with his Beer-N-Tacos performance as Drumwork Music Group solidified themselves among the latest rap crews to watch out for. — Preezy Brown
Iman Europe At UnitedMasters' House Of Independence
UnitedMasters partnered with Intuit for The Breakthrough, a showcase of rising talent at the music company, and Ally’s SXSW Takeover this past week. Held at the United Masters’ House of Independence at The Belmont on Thursday (March 16), the two-day event included a fireside chat with Earn Your Leisure and headlining performances from LaRussell and Jadakiss. While those big names put on a hell of a show, the supporting acts on the bill were also impressive. Los Angeles native Iman Europe brought her West Coast vibes to the Lone Star State for a medley of vibrant selections.
Beginning her set with her popular cut “No Creases,” Iman served up a few unreleased joints, including the revenue-minded track “Moneymorphasis” and the Fat Ron-assisted “Get Widdit.” After giving Fat Reezy solo airtime to perform his song “Bad Bi**h,” the rap-singer flexed her lyrical skills with an a capella freestyle before launching into “MWWM,” the collaborative cut with fellow L.A. native Thurz. “Y’all smiling, y’all so cute,” the indie stalwart told the crowd at one point during the performance. Positive energy permeated the room, due in large part to her infectious musical presentation. — PB
Chlöe At Rolling Stone's 'Future Of Music'
At the dawn of a new era in her solo career, Chlöe stormed the stage on Friday (March 17) to a party-ready crowd chanting her name. The singer, dressed in a red latex leotard made sure her microphone was on and her moves were ready for what she later described on Instagram as her “last time performing this set.” “Future Of Music” served as the perfect name for an event where Chlöe shined.
The singer-songwriter delivered a mesmerizing set of her solo efforts including “Have Mercy,” “Pray It Away” and “Treat Me.” The 24-year-old made sure to put as much effort and energy into her choreography as her vocal delivery while commanding respect as a powerhouse performer.
“There hasn’t been a day where I’m not filled with such gratitude,” she shared on-stage, introducing her pending debut album In Pieces.“Because you don’t know this album is a piece of my heart, literally. I’ve been through a lot, as I’m sure all of us have been in here. And I use the music as therapy to get me through, to help me believe in myself more.” — DI
Demi Grace At The 'Carefree Black Girl Cookout'
SXSW falls in March, which doubles as Women’s Month, and the ladies were definitely putting on for the ladies at the Carefree Black Girl showcase on Thursday evening (March 17). Held at Revival Coffee and hosted by Quanna MC, the show’s lineup was filled with talented women from all corners of the country and spanned multiple genres. One of the stronger R&B performances came courtesy of Demi Grace, a songstress out of Harlem, N.Y. who lit up the crowd with her bright smile and sultry vocals. Wearing a blueish tracksuit, black halter top, and white shades, Demi opened her set with the upbeat ditty “Calling Me,” which boasted a festive backdrop and prompted the audience to bounce and sway along to the beat.
After telling the crowd to step closer to the stage, the intimacy of her performance increased as she dived into a succession of slow-burners from her catalog. Pulling out the “emotional” number “Queen,” Demi continued to engage with attendees. “I like how y’all moving cause it hits you in your soul,” she said at one point, giving fans additional joints from her most recent release Blackcurrant. For her last number of the evening, the vocalist closed her time on stage with the empowering track “I’m Okay,” which she described as “liberating” and about “being comfortable in your own skin.” Among the opening acts of the evening, Demi helped set the tone for what proved to be a celebration and congregation of carefree Black women. — PB
Kenyon Dixon At 'RnB Forever'
The pouring rain outside of Austin’s The North Door set the perfect tone for a night of cozy R&B music. Watts, Los Angeles native Kenyon Dixon stepped up to the challenge with a soothing performance of his fan-favorite records. With a fun two-step and sincere vocal delivery, the soulful musician delivered a live version of “Get High, Get By,”, and previewed a new track “Slow Dancing” which features fellow R&B artist Marcus Kincy and is set to be released on March 31.
Calmly representing for the West Coast with a red L.A.-fitted cap, the talented songwriter caressed the microphone as he delivered his tender lyrics, keenly aware of his vocal range and appeal. The performance served as a reminder that Kenyon Dixon is one of the modern R&B artists ushering a classic genre to new horizons. — DI
Chameleon Lime Whoopiepie At The International Day Stage
The multitude of artists at SXSW and the diversity of the sounds displayed during the festivals means its likely you’ll be exposed to new artists that may stand outside your typical musical taste. Yet, oftentimes, the unfamiliar can be as good or even better than what you’d normally consume. This was the case after we came across Chameleon Lime Whoopiepie, a group out of Japan that made an appearance at the SXSW Registrant Lounge on Saturday afternoon (March 18).
Led by Chi, a singer with influences ranging from punk to Hip-Hop and everything in between, the band includes masked musicians Whoopies No. 1 and Whoopies No. 2. The trio made the trek from Tokyo to treat fans to a rollicking show on The International Day Stage. Wearing bright orange in her hair and clothes, Chi’s colorful energy matched her outfit, as she appeared to be enjoying every second of the performance.
After peeping their set and doing some research on their most recent releases, songs like “LaLaLa,” “Crush Style,” and “Dislike” were among those performed by CLP. If you ask us, those song could be embraced by many music fans looking for a change of pace from their usual playlist. — PB
Schuy At The 'Carefree Black Girl Cookout'
Ft. Worth, Texas native Schuy lit up the stage at the Carefree Black Girl Cookout on Friday (March 17) at South By Southwest. The cold evening at Revival Coffee House was warmed by the fiery presence of the 24-year-old who showcased not only her lyrical talent and agile delivery but also high-energy dance moves and a rightfully confident attitude. While watching Schuy for the first time, we became familiar with a self-aware, whimsical rapper, fully capable of telling stories and talking her sh*t. Wearing long red braids and a metallic blue bodysuit, the audience was entranced by not only her music but also her persona. — DI
M-RRRR The Producer At The Trap-A-Holics Showcase
Nowadays, rap’s talent pool is deep as it’s ever been. Artists from untapped regions set on throwing their city on their back is a recurring theme in Hip-Hop; many of those aspiring stars descended on Austin, Texas last week. One newcomer that caught our attention at SXSW is M-RRRR The Producer, a creative out of Chester, Pa. who rocked the Trap-A-Holics SXSW showcase on Saturday afternoon (March 18). Donning a white designer jacket and black shades, the rhyming beatsmith gave a short introduction before launching into his performance.
Commanding the DJ to cue up his pulsating self-produced single “Go Getter,” M-RRRR pranced across the outdoor stage, bragging, “If you ain’t count a hundred thousand by hand then we ain’t the same” amid ominous threats to his rivals. In addition to his repenting cut “Dead Wrong,” the L.O.A.D. Entertainment rapper debuted a new single, which he tells the crowd he and his team “just did a few days ago” in their hotel. “Ima go hard, I was born to shine with it,” he sneered on the blustering salvo, rhyming every syllable with intent while making it clear he’s determined to reach the top of the food chain.
Receiving warm reception from the cannabis-friendly crowd, M-RRRR The Producer’s set left listeners on a high and ranked among the more memorable, yet unexpected showings we came across during our stay. — PB
D-Sturdy And The Philly Goats At VIBE x Def Jam's Hip-Hop Showcase
D-Sturdy has the whole world shaking their hips and this is only the beginning. Joined by the Philly Goats, the rising rapper brought his kinetic energy to VIBE and Def Jam Recordings’ “Hip-Hop’s Next & Now” SXSW showcase in partnership with SAG-AFTRA. On Wednesday night (March 15), D-Sturdy kicked off the evening affair and made sure to bring not only his rap skills to the audience but also his viral dance moves. Performing in an all-black sweatsuit, D-Sturdy’s diamond chains caught every camera flash as he grinned on stage. The exciting freestyle dancing paired with the gritty lyrics and high-paced beats created a lively and enjoyable show for all.
After his performance, D-Sturdy shared who he’s music inspired by—Lil Durk, Lil Baby, and Meek Mill—and revealed he has a pending collaboration with Lil Uzi Vert. — DI