CINCINNATI -- Ubahn Festival organizers went big last fall, figuring that if they booked the most high-profile acts possible they could take their 4-year-old underground hip-hop/EDM event to the next level.
In most ways they did; this year, however, they’re going even bigger.
Ubahn co-founder Josh Heuser will bring one of the strongest rap-centric festival lineups of its kind to the city this fall. Rap heavyweights including Gucci Mane, OutKast legend Big Boi, Big Sean and 2 Chainz, Christian rapper Lecrae and another dozen-plus artists to be named soon will perform at Ubahn, which is scheduled for Sept. 8-9 at the Riverfront Transit Center.
“I personally am passionate that we’re the most unique and diverse festival in Cincinnati,” Heuser said.
Last year’s event drew around 6,000 fans to the little-used transit tunnel beneath Second Street for an eclectic celebration that bounced between DJs, electronic dance music and rap. The biggest crowds came out for headlining sets from Ohio native rapper Machine Gun Kelly -- whose profile has only increased due to “Bad Things," his hit collaboration with former Fifth Harmony star Camila Cabello -- as well as rap legend Nas, party starter Girl Talk and a few other names that have since emerged as “artists to watch," such as Jon Bellion and Malcolm London.
Heuser once again worked with local promotions agency Nederlander Entertainment for help on the booking end of the all-ages gathering, aiming to double attendance in 2017 to 10,000-12,000.
"We collaborated with Nederlander and tried to book a diverse lineup that will bring out a variety of people," Heuser said. “Lecrae, a Christian hip-hop artist, will be welcomed by a whole new variety of people. Gucci is the trap god, and putting that in the tunnel along with a great emcee like Big Sean, a conscious rapper from the Midwest (Detroit) who is on the verge of pop but is still hip-hop? Every artist we’re looking at has music that is breaking through.”
After setting up a “battle of the stages” last year, which encouraged attendees to walk from one end of the 3,000-foot-long tunnel to the other to hear performances, Heuser said he plans to enlarge the secondary stage this year and expand the roster of vendors and concessions in the 112,000-square-foot space.
Attendees will be greeted by more interactive art installations, skateboard and graffiti demonstrations, clothing vendors and other attractions that will set Ubahn apart from other above-ground events, Heuser said.
"We’ve done a great job of creating a sense of discovery of the festival," he said. "We believe when you put the lineup out that we’ve gotten this year, it will open that up even more."
When: 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Sept. 8-9
Where: Riverfront Transit Center: 220 Central Ave., Downtown (between Third Street and West Pete Rose Way)
Tickets: $99 for two-day passes; $250 for VIP passes. On sale now at Ticketmaster.com and by phone at 800-745-3000.