It wasn’t so long ago that Brooklyn was synonymous with hip-hop. From anthems like Cut Master D.C.’s “Brooklyn Rocks the Best” to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn,” the borough was the undisputed home of the musical movement.
But as Jay-Z moved, in his own words, “from Marcy to Madison Square,” and hip-hop supergroups were made by record company focus groups rather than fans, Brooklyn somehow lost its cachet.
But beginning on June 7, the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival again proves that Brooklyn can still deliver the goods.
“We want to give back to real hip-hop fans,” said Ryan Hobbs, one of the organizers of the three-year-old festival in DUMBO. “There is so much watered-down music, and fans don’t get to decide what they want to hear. They’re like robots to Clear Channel, BET, and MTV.” The festival, according to Hobbs, is hoping to add a little more substance to the borough’s current rap diet.
The festival kicks off with a tribute to Stax Records, the legendary soul label whose records have been endlessly referenced and sampled by hip-hop acts. Ralph McDaniels, host of the long-running “Video Music Box” television show, a precursor of “Yo! MTV Raps,” will emcee the event.
The Festival will continue through June with photo exhibits, performances and workshops — on June 22, the 1983 hip-hop movie “Wild Style” will be screened — and will culminate on Saturday, June 23 with a concert in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park headlined by Ghostface Killah.
The concert, certainly the festival’s most-anticipated event, begins at noon and goes all day. And the artist list reads like a rap-geek guidebook: Fans will be able to catch Dres (of Black Sheep); Large Professor; and underdog heroes like Skillz and Consequence, the former A Tribe Called Quest collaborator who is currently signed to Kanye West’s record label.
Of course, everyone is talking about Mr. Killah.
“Getting Ghost meant a lot,” beamed Hobbs. “He’s the epitome of New York City.”
For many of the artists associated with this year’s festival, there is a feeling that the stakes are a little bit higher. Many of rap’s elite have recently been reading hip-hop’s epitaph, most notably Nas, whose 2006 album was titled “Hip-Hop is Dead.” The record sent goose bumps up the spines of fans and artists alike. “I think Nas’ comment was more of a challenge,” rapper Consequence told GO Brooklyn. “If you want to change things, you’ve got to start doing it. I don’t get mad at the game, I change the game.”
And he isn’t the only one. With an eye on the ever-changing scene, festival organizers have booked a number of emerging artists like the curiously named trio, Tanya Morgan. When asked why they believed hip-hop purists were flocking to their sound, Tanya Morgan member Donwill responded, “I think we’re bringing some personality into the game. Beats and rhymes will get you only so far.”
The Festival is proof positive that hip-hop is not only alive and kicking (sorry, Nas), but that Brooklyn remains at its cutting edge. Last year’s festival found 3,000 fans standing in the pouring rain just to be part of the event, and this year promises to be even bigger.
“We want thousands of satisfied fans walking out of the park saying they can’t wait for next year,” Hobbs said.
So even if it never really left, hip-hop in Brooklyn looks to be well taken care of. “Hip-hop is hip-hop,” performer Poison Pen remarked, “but it feels good to be able to represent it for the hometown.”
Love hip-hop but feeling woefully out of date? GO Brooklyn understands. With the Third Annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in mind, we’ve compiled the need-to-know stats of some of the festival’s most exciting performers so that nobody will be the wiser. — Chris O’Connell
|Alias||Real name||Album to know||Choice lyric|
|Ghostface Killah||Dennis Coles||Supreme Clientele||“Under my wing like Sanford and Son, I’m a big gun like Big Pun, Big L and Jason”|
|Large Professor||William Paul Mitchell||The LP||“You see it’s all in my blood so I could never be a dud / The street mentality, I’ll have you like ‘What?’”|
|Dres||Andres Titus||A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing||“I got brothers in the Jungle, cousins on the Quest / Deaf retarded uncles, in parties where they rest”|
|Consequence||Dexter Raymond Mills, Jr.||Don’t Quit Your Day Job||“While you playin’ hokey pokey, there’s no time to be dokey / ’Cuz I come out to play every night like Charles Oakley”|
|Skillz||Donnie Shaquan Lewis||From Where???||“Your favorite rapper, I got his ass not breathin’ / You seen me with Missy so it’s VA season”|
“The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival” begins on June 7 and runs until June 23. Tickets to most events are free, but must be reserved ahead of time. For information, visit www.brooklynbodega.c....