Sound Advice: Ubahn Fest with Nas, Atmosphere, Machine Gun Kelly, Girl Talk and more (Oct. 21-22)

The Hip Hop extravaganza Ubahn Fest takes over the Riverfront Transit Center.

click to enlarge Murs - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Murs
The unique location of Cincinnati’s Ubahn Fest — an underground “tunnel” between Pete Rose Way and Third Street, near Paul Brown Stadium — instantly makes it one of the cooler musical events in Cincinnati. But previous year’s bookings — featuring a mix of established and up-and-coming Hip Hop and Electronic artists (including a hefty dose of local performers) — have helped make Ubahn a crucial destination festival for young regional music lovers. This year’s lineup has upped the ante, turning it into an event that could develop a national reputation on par with the legendary Cincinnati Hip Hop event Scribble Jam.

The Hip Hop acts alone at Ubahn make it a must-attend fest for fans. The biggest name — Nas — is a Hip Hop legend. Nas’ 1994 debut album, Illmatic, is inarguably a classic of the genre, establishing the MC as one of the best (lyrically and delivery-wise) in the game from the get-go. Though he famously hasn’t released an album in five years, Nas has remained a relevant artist since his first release — in the weeks leading up to his Cincinnati appearance, he’s been promoting his collaboration with Erykah Badu, “This Bitter Land,” from the soundtrack for the film The Land, while also drawing headlines for collaborations with DJ Khaled and Robin Thicke, his casting in an upcoming Jennifer Hudson film and his successful tech/business investment company.

Nas heads up Ubahn’s Friday night lineup, which also features poet/activist Malcolm London and respected Cleveland, Ohio MC Machine Gun Kelly. Meanwhile, on Saturday, DIY Hip Hop legends Atmosphere headline a night that also features the genius Murs (who just set a world record for longest rap session by rapping for more than 24 hours straight) and current hit-maker Desiigner, who hit the top of Billboard’s singles chart earlier this year with the track “Panda.”

While this year’s Ubahn Fest is more Hip Hop-heavy than years past, there are a couple of interesting non-Hip Hop (though certainly Hip Hop-related) artists topping Saturday’s lineup. Jon Bellion is a Pop star in waiting. Currently riding high on the release of his debut album for Capitol Records, The Human Condition (featuring the hit “All Time Low”), and prepping for a high-profile arena tour opening for Twenty One Pilots, Bellion (who produces, sings and raps) has a huge following and made his name as a songwriter — he’s the one behind Rihanna’s hook on Emenim’s “Monster” and also wrote Jason Derulo’s hit song “Trumpets.”

The other big act Saturday night is Girl Talk aka Pittsburgh-bred mash-up mastermind Gregg Gillis, who — like Danger Mouse did with his Jay-Z/Beatles blend, The Grey Album — has shown the artistry of meshing disparate tracks together. Like Nas, Girl Talk hasn’t released an album in more than five years, making his appearance at Ubahn a huge deal for fans craving more of his singular mixes.

Visit ubahnfest.com for the full Ubahn lineup, and check out Spill It for info on the stellar local acts playing the fest.

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