BHF10: Live Under The Brooklyn Bridge
It wasn’t the vendors, graffiti hats, Japanese gourmet (maybe it was a little bit), and beer in tow that kept me captivated. It wasn’t the mass of volunteers, the all-access earpieces that kept the communication flowing, or the brightly colored passes that deciphered Bodega family from the onlookers either. It was the weather. A metaphor for Hip-Hop’s longevity; the sunshine standing for our initiation into the musical world, the rain for the soldiers we’ve lost and the turbulence along the way, and the light after the storm, symbolic of falling and getting back up again. All of this was overcast by a bridge leading uptown to where it all began. Every staff member was a simile, audience the stanzas, and performers the iambic pentameter. After all Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival could only be described in one word….poetry.
At a Bodega affair, who else would be fitting enough to open the show? A Bodega signee and two Show & Prove Alumni. Savannah Boogie Music’s, Aquil, alongside Kalae All Day and The Crowd opened the show by storm. Although that’s exactly what was brewing, the grey clouds rolled in with Aquil’s tight verses over a compilation of classic Hip-Hop beats.
“This is for the emcees, DJ’s, rap writers, beat breakers….”
The Crowd, an eclectic crew repping Philly, The Bronx, and Paris, France followed up with a variation of beat box, quick spits, and a soulful voice. The trio comprised of Akil Dasan, Randy Mason, and Adeline, brought two guitars and incomparable harmony to the stage. They started with their YouTube hit “Music”, followed by “We Came to Rock” and versatile impromptu verses spit between sound difficulties and Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody”. Even with the constant adjusting, “The Crowd” kept the audience severely entertained. They truly embodied the phrase, “The Show Must Go On.”
Kalae All Day—Ms. Black Dynamite—rocked out after The Crowd, literally. With a star studded jacket, fro-hawk, and SERIOUS frames shading her eyes, she entered stage right with no fear. “You couldn’t read me if I was a…..book.” A lyrical songstress, as I like to call her, embraced her sets with her rhymes over a solid drum beat, freestyle over the introduction to “The Boondocks”, and her single “OG Lyrical Bookbagger” sans Homeboy Sandman. After her performance she stated, “I feel hot, and sweaty, and dope. I’m happy for the opportunity.”
Following the newcomers, another Savannah Boogie production, Those Chosen, alongside Diamond District and The Money Making Jam Boys took the stage one after the other. Emcees duo and trio style sauntered to the very tip of the stage on to the speakers near the edge to convey their messages to the attendees. While Diamond District— Oddisee, X.O., and yU — were awkwardly synchronized Temptations style during “Streets Won’t Let Me Chill”, the main emcee spitting would withdraw from the last word on each bar so the other two could emphasize for him. I’m all for working as a team but, just like on the track, each emcee should get his shine. The overt sync took away from their live performance and allowed Those Chosen and Money Making Jam Boys to shine a little bit brighter. Those Chosen — Japetto, Kornbread, and Foreshadow — brought amazing energy to BHHF and had young cats bobbing their heads and memorizing their hooks. The Money Making Jam Boys came through with their own theme music which onset a gradual “Ooooo” from the crowd. While other groups came with repetitive hooks, they decided to keep it predominately lyrical. Switching the roles of hype man—accurately fading into the background—allowed each emcee enough time on the microphone to show their capability.
Celebrating fifteen years of independence, artists from DuckDown Records came through to elevate the spot. Mario, a 47-year-old from Brooklyn, stated, “Smif N Wessun, that’s all I came here to see.” The celebration also brought through Skyzoo, Buckshot, Black Moon, 5FT, DJ Evil Dee and other members of the Boot Camp Clik. Although Torae was an excellent host, these dudes needed no introduction. As each emcee took his turn to the mic, the fans spit word for word the old school and new joints performed.
Emcee and producer, Black Milk also had visible fans. Spitting his lines bar for bar was Terry, a 16-year-old from Sunset Park who said, “I came to see De La Soul and Pete Rock but I didn’t know Black Milk was going to be here. I was about to leave to get something to eat and then I saw him and said, ‘What!?’” Black Milk performed songs, “So Gone” and “Welcome (Gotta Go)” as well as many others. Chain swinging low and Nike’s on serious fresh status, the emcee is a force to be reckoned with.
One of my favorite emcees, Fashawn, stood backstage rhyming the words to “Kweli” before his set. Rocking a Fresno jersey with his name inscribed on his back he wasted no time telling us his life story. Ripping with songs such as, “The Ecology”, “Samsonite Man”, and “Life as a Shorty” — he lives up to his storyteller reputation during his live performance. Coming through incredibly clear on the microphone and a master at working the stage; Fashawn left the multitude pleased.
Curren$y Spitta also came through with tracks from his new LP — Pilot Talk — that dropped on his self-made label, JETS. As I’ve said before, Curren$y isn’t a rapper, he’s a mood. Setting an aura, making music mostly for the smokers, he causes his fans to zone out with usually the faint smell of smolder in the air. Having just experienced his live show at SOB’s during BIG K.R.I.T.’s Def Jam Signing Party, I can definitely say he had way more energy. Perhaps this is due to his album drop on July 13th? Yeah, indubitably.
After the new school blessed the stage, the veterans came through. Masta Ace, Marley Marl, and Craig G brought “The Symphony” to BHF10, literally. “I keep just going and flowing, just like a river.” (I bet you don’t know why I chose that quote.) The crowd went wild upon hearing Masta Ace introduce his fellow comrade “Next up, it’s Craig G on the mic!”
J. Period also came through with a line of special guests such as Dres, Premo, and Nice and Smooth. However soon after, something epic occurred — Pete Rock and CL Smooth back on stage after a 6 year hiatus, performing together like they’d never left. The duo commanded attention performing classics like “Straighten Out” and “TROY.”
The grand finale, headliner De La Soul took the stage with the largest crowd. The gates were gradually filling through the evening but, were almost to capacity with the entrance of the trio. Posdnuos took the lead—front and center—most of the time. The trio didn’t cease to amaze as they’ve done for decades. The three emcees—also comprised of Dave and Maseo—took BHF10 through a time machine. They performed, “Getting’ Down at the Amphitheatre”, “Potholes In My Lawn”, “Stakes is High”, “Me, Myself, and I”, “Saturday”, “BreakADawn”, “Grind Date”, “Bionix” and “Oooh, Ooh, Ooh” — covering songs from every album except Are You In?.
Between sets the “J Dilla Emsemble” from Berklee College led by faculty member Brian “Raydar” Ellis and lead Jonquel performed recomposed works by J Dilla himself. The group stated, “We just get together and play Dilla joints. We hear the original and play it by ear. This is our first real show.” The ensemble also performed at the Bodega Education Initiative panel discussions with Ma Dukes Yancey, J Dilla’s mother, and rapper Q-Tip at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
There was a high after the festival—no not just after Curren$y’s set—drifting underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, lacing the promenade, lingering in the ears of old Hip-Hop heads and hipsters alike. It was over, allowing mainstream minds to descend into the underground and elevate to a euphoria that’s only possible once a year. Prodigies, philosophers, and composers met in a safe space and rose from ashes unstirred for years. The emcees—not entertainers—committed arson on microphones (thank God we were near the water) while police and volunteers guarded our treasured genre. This is that unforgettable high, leaving the ghosts of smoldering microphones somewhere in Dumbo, Brooklyn. If you’re lucky, you might just catch contact.
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