#BHF 12 – An epilogue of an epic event.
Saturday afternoon’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival was an absolute success. In writing an epilogue, the tale of the day can be told in mirrors of the story of event headliner Busta Rhymes. As a headliner, his performance was stentorian and regal. BHF’s “and Friends” concept is now the standard bearer of hip-hop preservation, a coronation of the industry’s kings as they are joined by their court. M.O.P.’s Lil Fame, seemingly the entirety of the Duck Down collective, Reek da Villain, Slick Rick, Leaders of the New School and A Tribe Called Quest were all present, and King Busta, The Mighty Infamous, reigned supreme.
But the day was also about the princes to his throne and hip-hop’s cultural advisers clearly raised in his kingdom as well. Detroit’s Clear Soul Forces have every right to consider themselves, as much as acts like Tanya Morgan, as heirs to the legacy of the Leaders of the New School. In an era where hip-hop is more self-aggrandizing and individualized than ever, seeing four young performers from Detroit share three mics while hitting the crowd with an undeniable blend of lyrical dexterity, raw energy and pure brotherhood was an inspirational message to the maintenance of the now classic rap ideal. Dusty samples, boom bap power and giant hooks swirled the energy of the day into a gale force wind of appreciation.
Brownsville, Brooklyn-native Ka is a 20-plus year rap veteran whose performance was inspirational in another sense. The most connective of concepts that has driven the career of Busta Rhymes is that you get the sense that he’s a loyal and friendly dude. His Flipmode Squad/Conglomerate has been over 20 years in development and preservation, creating a stage show that you rock with because you’re convinced that you’re partying with friends. As a largely independent performer, Ka is a one-man conglomerate, and when he advised from the stage that he “knew that there were a lot of other rappers in the crowd” who are saying to themselves, “yo, I know I’m a lot nicer than this ni**a,” his advice to “be patient,” and that “we’ll all have our time to shine,” didn’t come off like a warning as much as it was an acknowledgement that the river of talent in hip-hop is deeper and wider than ever, and as a rap veteran, he was grateful for that.
While I enjoyed the entire event, the other major moment that stuck out to me was the victory of young Jadon Woodard at the Rhyme Calisthenics pre-show festivities. He was dressed in a purple and pink horizontal striped shirt, vertical striped seersucker slacks, no socks and a well worn pair of brown, narrow-toed, dress shoes. Immediately, his unique and well thought out sense of style reminded me of a teenager with a shock of upswept braids and love of bizarre colors and patterns who pursued a case against the P.T.A. Lyrically, his bars, just like Busta’s, felt like freedom. There are those who rap for fame, and there are those who rap to let the words free out of their minds that just don’t fit into their amazing plethora of daily conversations. The emotional difference between the two feels amazing and always has the potential to create superstars.
Busta’s performance was a magical moment. If you’ve seen Michael Rappaport’s A Tribe Called Quest documentary, you’re already quite aware of the issues between Phife Dawg and Q-Tip. As well, if you watch the above footage, you’ll see the issues between Charlie Brown and Busta Rhymes come to a head, ultimately dissolving Leaders of the New School. You can’t tell the story of Busta Rhymes properly without peace in the Native Tongue family. Seeing Phife, Q-Tip and Charlie Brown all present at the event wasn’t necessarily powerful as a statement of the power of Busta Rhymes. What it was even more indicative of was the necessity for the preservation of hip-hop culture. Rap music’s in a new space at the present time where money, power and glory are occupying an absurd height of gratification. Bearing a slight resemblance to what it is, and with no clue of what it could be, the remembrance of the classic age was a touching a telling moment that the genre has a powerful place from which to gain health and wisdom.
The show ended promptly at 8:30. The power was cut, the crowd was stunned, yet there was Busta, still reigning supreme. Having touched upon less than a quarter of his excellence, his, as well as the crowd’s hands were held high, a united body politics screaming “we gettin’ Arab money!” Hip-hop’s in a bizarre new space, but as long as we can remember moments like those, we’ll know that we can survive.