LIVE: The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival

by Winston "Stone" Ford

Photos by Tyrone Clemons. Please support. 

In the Fall of 2010 I wrote an article about how Kanye became one of the biggest names at an even simply by being rumored to show up. The Kanye talk was actually bigger than the names on the bill in some respects. But that time, Yeezy did not make it into the building.

Fast forward to summer 2011. The rumors started strong that Kanye would make an appearance at the Brooklyn hip-hop festival. I strongly doubted it. Why? Well for starters, BK Hip-Hop fest is a community festival. It’s not Madison Square Garden. The $15 entry fee is affordable and there is an emphasis on family and togetherness, with city aldermen speaking throughout the day. Certainly not the venue for a pop star like Yeezy.

But before we get to the encore, we must talk about the festival itself. Throughout the confusion (changed set times, etc) there were other performances that should not get overshadowed. Local rapper done good Homeboy Sandman had the most impressive performance out of the supporting acts, confidently working the crowd like a pro, and making the most of his limited set time.

Follow-up Eternia repped for the women (as the lone female MC on the bill) but unfortunately could not match Homeboy’s prowess. Slowly but surely she wore down the crowd’s resistance by the end of her set.

For all the hype that Kendrick Lamar has received (and some of it is justified), his set was rather…subdued. He commanded no stage presence at all, and unfortunately he didn’t live up to my expectations as a live act. Same with the supergroup Random Axe (Sean Price, Black Milk and Guilty Simpson) and sadly MOP.

But if you didn’t think you got your $15 worth by then, Q-Tip made sure that you would by the end of his set. Billed “Q-Tip and Friends,” the 1 hour was more like and entire festival of its own. Starting with a rather lovely-looking Monie Love and a unfamiliar (Shaun Penn), the set inter-mixed guest stars with Q-Tip’s almost punk rock like enthusiasm.

Besides Kanye, a surprising appearance by Black Thought, and Busta Rhymes gave the most impressive set of the heavy hitters. You gotta admire Bussa Bus. After almost 30 years in the game he remains relevant, sending the crowd into a frenzy with his pitch perfect rendition of his verse on Chris Browns “Look At Me Now,” then appealing to old-school hip-hop sensibilities by announcing that he always wanted to be a part of the Native Tounges when he had beef with Leaders of the New School. The pair then re-joined to rap the “” remix. Classic.

Of course having Kanye in the building would still the show, but it’s the way that he stole it that impressed me. During the track “Dark Fantasy,” ‘Ye emerges in the middle of the audience (security guard in tow of course) with a big smile on his face, then proceeds to play hypeman role with Q-Tip on Award tour.

Truth be told, I’ve always been curious about ‘Ye’s motivation with showing up to these events. Take SXSW or Gil Scott Heron’s funeral. I’ve always wondered if he was really genuine in his intentions or if he was there just to promote an album. On Saturday I feel like it was a little bit of both. He didn’t have to show up at a community festival, but he did. His demeanor was respectful, and not overbearing.  Love him or not you have to respect the dude.

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In it’s 7th year, The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival is still going strong, and no doubt brining Kanye and Busta has put the once small community festival on a lot more people’s radar. However creator Wes…  has stated that the festival will always be an affrordable price point. And even with some missteps, who can compete with a festival that bills hip-hop newcomers (like DC’s Gods’ Illa) with the biggest pop star in the world? It’s this diversity that will ensure that hip-hop will remain strong into the 21st century. Check it.