Ybor City is not Austin, Texas. But anytime you have a neon strip lined with clubs, there's potential for a multi-venue music festival. Case in point: October's punk-centric Big Pre-Fest in Little Ybor, which will return for a third go-around this fall.
Promoters Dope Entertainment believe it's time for Tampa's hip hop scene to take advantage. The new TAKEOFFxLANDING Hip Hop Festival kicks off at noon Saturday at four venues around Ybor City, with headliners including Travis $cott (above), Robb Bank$, Denzel Curry and OG Maco.
Dope is the group behind February's Rolling Loud Festival, which brought artists like Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson and A$AP Ferg to an event warehouse in Miami. Co-founder Tariq Cherif said he hopes TAKEOFFxLANDING — dubbed "Takeoff Landing" or simply "TXL" for short — can build similar buzz in Tampa.
"The idea is to have yearly festivals in Miami and Tampa, and we're also working on creating one for Orlando," Cherif said. "There was a bigger gap between Rolling Loud and TXL this year, but next year we plan to narrow the gap to four months and plan to be able to rotate from Miami to Tampa to Orlando every four months, and have a hip-hop festival each with its own flavor."
Cherif said the festival's name and airborne theme refers to the fact that "we're kind of taking off and landing at each venue — each venue's essentially going to be another gate at our little airport." It also acknowledges the fact that while some artists have already "taken off" — like Scott, who recently made headlines after getting arrested for allegedly inciting a riot at Lollapalloza — others are still on the rise. "The festival is a launching point for them," he said.
Buzz on TAKEOFFxLANDING has built slowly but surely. Organizers are releasing snippits of information (set times, schedules, even venues) in drips and drabs in the days leading up to the festival, due to "how fast social media moves these days," Cherif said.
The festival promises dozens of local, regional and national rappers, plus industry panels on producing and technology, but most of that's been under wraps thus far. As of Wednesday, here's all we knew of the venues and schedule:
• The Ritz Ybor will host Travi$ Scott, Denzel Curry, Robb Bank$ and an art gallery curated by Robert Gallardo from 7 p.m. to midnight. The Ritz also serves as TXL's will call and ticket drop.
• The Orpheum will host OG Maco, Retch and Pouya from 4 to 8 p.m.
• Crowbar will host Key!, 21 Savage and Dola from noon to 4 p.m.
• The art gallery MF Arts Ybor, 1616 E Second Ave., will host an all-day party with live performance art, DJs and more, plus a wrap party until 2 a.m.
The secretive rollout strategy is a curious one, but Charif knows the Tampa hip hop scene well — Dope's upcoming local shows include Earl Sweatshirt on Sept. 1 and Joey Bada$$ on Oct. 24, both at the Orpheum. All early bird tickets sold out in advance, and Dope is capping tickets at 1,500 to ensure everyone who wants to get into the Ritz will be able.
"Tampa's a great hip hop market," Cherif said. "Every city's got its own beautiful niche, and Tampa's one of them, or else we wouldn't be bringing shows there."
Tickets to TAKEOFFxLANDING are $50 and up at takeoffxlanding.com. Click here for details.
— Jay Cridlin