From a country standpoint, 2018 was both amazing and tiring. A lot of incredible things happened, while a lot of hardships took place. The one thing that (always) kept the train moving, however, is the amazing music and everything else that the industry provides. From a hip-hop standpoint, you could argue that 2018 was one of the best in recent memory. For the Swisher Sweets Artist Project, that’s especially true as we certainly had our strongest year yet.

This past weekend in New Orleans, the Artist Project took all the great moments of 2018 and looped em all together for an unforgettable year end finale event. Taking place at the Orpheum Theater on the busy Roosevelt St. (just blocks from the French Quarter), preparation began early Friday morning as the Swisher team was inside decorating the venue, the production team was ensuring the sound and lighting is right, as well as the artists coming in sporadically for their sound checks. And of course, let’s not forget about a pack of our die-hard fans, who were waiting in line hours before doors opened to make sure they got a front row look.

For the 2018 Pack Night tour, we invited the likes of Gucci Mane, Machine Gun Kelly, Fetty Wap and Desiigner to each headline a different city, along with 3 local, opening acts to support each showcase. As you may already know, for the NOLA Takeover, we invited each of the headliners to come party, along with one of the opening acts from each city, who won a fan-voted contest.

As 9PM approached, the venue was ready to rock. The event was complete with the Swisher Whip parked right out front with a variety of Swishers on deck for purchase, the amazing Swisher models and dancers were greeting the fans as they entered the theater, a signing wall and multiple Swisher backdrops were set up for fans to get their selfies, and of course, the music was bumping. It was time to close out 2018 the right way.

The host for the evening, Swisher vet Ponce De’Leioun, hit the stage and immediately set the tone. As the crowd began to fill in, we welcomed the legendary DJ Mannie Fresh, who joined us for his 2nd NOLA Takeover event in a row. Soon after, our first performer of the evening, J Soulja took the stage and had the crowd locked in with his catchy bars and captivating energy. For the first hour of the show, we saw performances from J Soulja, Los Angeles winner Charles Bryan, and Houston’s own Rizzoo Rizzoo, who brought out fellow Houston hitmaker Sauce Walka.

After that explosive first hour, it was time for the first headliner performance, Desiigner. Once the “Panda” star was called upon, the entire Orpheum Theater became his stage. Literally. As he blared out his many hit records, mid-way through his set, Desiigner proceeded to climb the balcony at the Orpheum and continued to perform above the entire crowd. While everyone’s nerves were slightly on edge, the G.O.O.D. Music performer was under control and kept things safe and exciting. Once he finally made it back down, he closed his set with a few more songs and a huge thank you to NOLA and Swisher. He also ensured us 2019 would be a big year for him.

Next up was the Detroit Pack Night winner Snap Dogg, who’s energy could be felt even before he hit the stage. Giving fans the raw music and heartfelt emotion we love him for, Snap’s timing was perfect and memorable. His good friend and collaborator Fetty Wap was standing on the side of the stage watching him rock out as well, right before he took the stage himself.

Known for his anthems and melodic club bangers, Fetty has enough songs in the stash to be able to perform for the entire evening. Running through his smash records like “Trap Queen,” “My Way” and “679”, Fetty reminded the entire Orpheum Theater how impressive his catalog truly is. Fetty unintentionally started a sing-a-long with the crowd as they seemed to know every word to pretty much every song. At this rate, our biggest 2019 wish is for Fetty to drop a new album.

After Fetty was the Philly winner Iman, followed by our long-time partner, and ATL winner, Kelechi. Both of these emerging artists had incredible 2018’s, setting themselves up in a beautiful way for 2019. Each of their sets at the NOLA Takeover was sort of the culmination of that, and truly put on display just how talented Iman and Kelechi truly are. Creating meaningful music and connecting with their fans, Iman and Kelechi certainly left NOLA with some new fans.

To wrap up the show were the remaining two headliners, Machine Gun Kelly and Gucci Mane. Just like Kellz did in Philly and Gucci did in ATL, these two stars tore down the NOLA stage and pumped out hit after hit for close to an hour each. Backed by his longtime band, MGK gave us hard-hitting anthems, more balcony climbing, and as always, an emotional connection between him and his fans. Gucci, although with a different energy, delivered the same exact thing (sans the balcony climbing). Kellz even made his way to the VIP section during Gucci’s set to enjoy and sing along like the rest of the fans. Until you see Gucci perform live, you can’t fully appreciate his resume and what he’s contributed to the game. We’re thankful our fans got to experience that not once, but twice in 2018 alongside the Artist Project.

Be sure to follow @SwisherSweets on all platforms to stay updated on our plans for 2019. Believe us when we say it’s going to get a whole lot sweeter!