Flo Milli brings raw confidence to the SXSW Future of Music Showcase

Flo Milli brings raw confidence to the SXSW Future of Music Showcase

On Wednesday night, Peso Pluma headlined a night of music that ranged from música mexicana to urbano to folkloric with Norteño on A rolling stoneThe Future of Music showcase causing queues around the block. The following night, the showcase spun in another, no less powerful direction, mixing hip-hop with innovative sounds from Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria and more.

Preacher aka Keite Young came out and showed he doesn’t mess around. Flanked by a five-piece orchestra and a 10-piece choir, the singer launched right into a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It was a bold way to kick off the evening – and an effective one, as Preacher, who was actually an ordained preacher many years ago, rode the contours of the song while the chorus helped add the right emotional punch. Dressed in a sparkling black suit, Preacher then launched into an energetic mix of funk, blues and rock as the singer explored the peaks and valleys of his deeply soulful voice.

DJ L3ni, who spun raucous hip-hop and other sounds between sets all night, then gave way to Pheelz. “If you live Afrobeat music, make some noise!” he yelled as soon as he took the stage and the audience obeyed. The Nigerian star started as a producer — at one point he reminded the crowd that his resume includes Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid — then scored a hit in 2022 with the fantastic “Finesse” and now has a burgeoning solo career. (He just did a song with Usher.) Tonight, the tall, burly Lagos native bounced around the stage, tried out his flexible singing and threw in partial covers of “I Want it That Way” and “Young, Wild & Free.” Pheelz played a drum machine for a minute, then sat on a stool and strummed an acoustic guitar for “Stand By You,” which he described as “one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever written or heard.” He closed with “Finesse”. “This song changed my life,” he said before belting out a chorus good enough to change yours, or at least stick in your head for a few days.

Flyana Boss were pure light and energy — and hella fun. The duo of Bobbi LaNea and Folayan Kunerede create hilariously raunchy songs that rewind the zip of early hip-hop for a new, all-online generation. They introduced “Mango Bananas” with a brief talk about potassium (“You can’t spell potassium without an ass,” they noted, which is true), then traded lines like “Boys fall from trees/Right on my knees/I wanna be my main squeeze/Squeeze me, squeeze me.” Elsewhere, they danced in sync, continued to raise hearty hands to the crowd and told the world they were the best. They played ‘You Wish’, the excellent viral hit from 2023, where fan Missy Elliott joined the remix. Then they asked “Is that a queen?!” It was — or at least a sample of Freddie Mercury’s “mamma mia” from “Bohemian Rhapsody” fueled “Mamma Mia,” a song Flyana Boss released on TikTok and pretty much nowhere else (“No way we’re getting this sample cleared lmaoooo” , the caption read when they posted a clip to the app.) They closed, naturally, with a big hug for each other.

Black Sheriff

Dusana Risovic for Rolling Stone

Ghana’s Black Sheriff brought a different but no less powerful energy. Dressed in all black, with big boots and shades, the stage to himself apart from the DJ, he came out as the coolest guy in the room, then brought 40 minutes of intensity, bouncing around like an athlete. Performed in English and Twi, his music mixes traditional Ghanaian sounds, especially highlife, with modern ones, especially workout ones, for a deeply effective combination. He ended with “Oil in My Head,” a soulfully meditative song on which he says, “All I see are blessings.” Then, in one of his few banter, he told the crowd simply, “I love you guys.”

Uncle Waffles, a Swazi born DJ and record producer based in South Africa, came out and changed the mood again in a cool way. Waffles, born Lungelihle Zwane, has become a big name in amapiano, the South African style of dance music that has exploded in recent years, and on Thursday night she rocked the crowd with a hypnotic, free-flowing set. A hype man interjected here and there — “Go Waffles, Go Go Waffles!” — but mostly it was grooves that felt like they could go on forever. Waffles really mixed things up by coming out from behind his DJ set to bust out some loose moves for the crowd. Since she was making everyone else dance, she might as well.

Uncle Waffles

Dusana Risovic for Rolling Stone

Flo Milli took over the crowd at a key moment – ​​not just because she was headlining the night. “Tonight is so special to me,” she told the crowd, “because the album’s coming out in a few minutes.” It’s true: The Alabama rapper’s sophomore album, ok ho stay literally came out while she was on stage in Austin. It’s a more vulnerable set of songs from the rapper, but tonight Flo mostly showed off her preternatural confidence. Wearing cropped clothes and knee-high boots, hair that fell past her waist, she dived into anthems like ‘Like That Bitch’, which boasted, ‘Her boyfriend in my DMs says, ‘Oh I need the good you ass” .”

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Milli has been a rapper to watch—and incredibly fun to listen to—since her breakout hit “Beef FloMix,” released when she was still a college student. But this year she scored a chart hit with “Never Lose Me,” a colder love song. Tonight, she introduced it as a song “for all my favorite girls”, then gave a spirited performance to close out her set – or so it seemed. She then said, “I’ve got a little treat for you all,” and played the brand new remix — featuring Cardi B and SZA — as she hopped offstage and took photos with fans for a few minutes. And just when it looked like the night was over, confidence returned as ‘In the Party’ blared. Flo jumped back on stage to perform the 2019 track, full of not-so-love songs like “I smoked all his weed and told him to go away.” It was another overconfident moment in a career that should have been full of them.

(Full disclosure: In 2021, Rolling Stone’s parent company, P-MRC, acquired a 50 percent stake in the SXSW festival.)

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