Rhyme time! Jay Z makes surprise showing amid B’klyn rap round-robin

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Brooklyn was most definitely in the house.

Seven thousand rap fans turned out on Saturday afternoon for the 10th annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in the sun-soaked Williamburg parking lot called Williamsburg Park. The bill featured big-name, Brooklyn-born veteran Raekwon, enigmatic New Orleans MC Jay Electronica, whose breakout songs are peppered with Kings County references, and up-and-coming Bedford-Styuvesant native CJ Fly. But four times as many guests took the stage during their sets, all but a handful of them hailing from the borough, including the biggest name in the rap game, Jay Z, making the concert more local hip-hop revival than music festival.

“It feels good to be home,” said Marcy Houses-raised Jay Z after joining his Roc Nation artist Jay Electronica on stage.

Nor were all of the cameos by rappers. Between the Southern performer’s songs, legendary filmmaker Spike Lee made a brief appearance, referencing the hot-button February rant he delivered at Pratt Institute about how gentrifiers in his onetime home neighborhood lack respect for what was there when they arrived.

“Fort Greene!” he yelled as he took the mic. “Dare I say, non-gentrified Fort Greene?”

Meanwhile, Jay Z was waiting in the wings, ready to turn the audience into a sea of raised phones and hands making his trademarked diamond symbol. The erstwhile Barclays Center investor closed out Jay Electronica’s set trading verses with his protege in a breathless run-through of deep cuts.

Later, between sets, Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush) took the mic to urge those in attendance to keep the peace in the streets, erroneously citing the deployment of the National Guard to quell violence in Chicago after 82 shootings there over the Fourth of July weekend.

“We do not need the National Guard out here,” said Williams, a self-described hip-hop head who attends the festival annually.

The Independence Day shootings happened in Chicago, but the National Guard deployment, despite a prominent editorial and at least one Illinois lawmaker’s request, did not.

Leading Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon, who grew up on Staten Island, touted how formative his experiences as a very young child driving around Brownsville were as he closed out the evening. Between songs off the hit Wu-Tang album “Enter the 36 Chambers” and his own “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” he performed the anthemic “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” from the late Bedford-Stuyvesant lyricist Ol’ Dirty Bastard and ushered out a steady stream of Brooklyn rappers to prove that his professed love of the borough across the Narrows was no idle talk.

Show organizer Wes Jackson said the event as a whole was nothing short of epic.

“This was a dream come true,” he said. “It was a culmination of 10 years of hard work and the greatest hip-hop show I have ever seen. It will be remembered for years.”

Nathan Tempey is a Deputy Editor at the Community Newspaper Group. Reach him at or by calling (718) 260-4504. Follow him at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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