Words By Jesse H.
There’s something about Brooklyn.
After you’ve lived in New York City long enough to understand the subtle nuances of the subway system (knowing the color of the train you need and the actual letter of the train you need is a very pivotal difference), you begin to have a certain respect for the intrinsic cultural differences of each borough-especially as a Hip-Hop fan.
Staten heads don’t even refer to the island by it’s formal name, thanks to you know what crew. Harlem heads champion Cam’s street stubbornness. Queens residents rock hoodies and Timberlands in mid-summer and fiend for grimey ghetto-narratives. Bronx folk are the old heads who glower at the mention of Solja Boy and the latest dance trend. But there’s something interesting about Brooklyn. Brooklynites like their lyricists pure, their drum snaps crisp and their looped samples mid-tempo. And while Brooklyn fans arguably are the snobbiest (ask any Brooklyn resident, and they’ll tell you ad nauseum about how they “refined” the craft), the list of top-20 caliber emcees that call Brooklyn home is indisputably impressive. So what better place for an independent New York Hip-Hop festival to call home? All the requisite pure-Hip Hop characteristics were on display in excess at Brooklyn Bodega’s 5th Annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival.
The event got a righteous initiation on Friday with the kick-off party (salute to Noah from BB for organizing). Brooklyn Brewery supplied the booze, DJ’s spun throwback magic throughout the night and a select few casually puffed hand-rolled J’s outside under the lights of the bridge until the comfortably buzzed crowd of upcoming artists, journalists and industry players coalesced at dusk, moving from the breeze swept deck to the inside of PNC studios to enjoy- what else? a cipher.
Rain threatened to ruin the main event, as irritating showers tore through the gray overcast Brooklyn sky to fall on the gathering crowd. But credit is due to the Brooklyn Bodega staff for planning ahead. A massive rain tent kept the mainstage dry while the early afternoon acts rocked it in spite of the weather. Early highlights included the near-impossible kinetic energy exchange between the Brown Bag All Stars, who absolutely tore through their charged up set. Brokn English also impressed with their keen interplay. Donny Goines kept the energy level feverish by jumping into the photo pit and closing with the clever Beach-Boys-sampling “These Times.”
By the time the major-label acts began to perform, the tent was overflowing with people. The backstage was lively, with all the performers happily interacting with the swarms of press. Smif-n-Wessun were early crowd pleasers, as were surprise appearances by Brand Nubian (Grand Puba was on the schedule, but not Sadat and Jamar) and Black Thought (who is more of a NY-emcee than most actual NY emcees). Dead Prez got one of the most massive receptions when the familiar intro to “Hip Hop” kicked in, but the biggest crowd reaction had to be after Styles P’s set. The D-Block vet wrecked the venue with a raucous rendition of “We Gon Make It.”
DJ Premier was in the building and received the typical (and deserved) reaction you would expect from a Brooklyn crowd (I kept telling everybody “he’s from TEXAS!” but they just wouldn’t listen!). When headliner Pharoahe Monch finally closed the show with an earth-shaking live rendition of “Simon Says” an eclectic crowd of New Yorkers, with their socks soaked and their voices yelled raspy, echoed their approval under a gray Brooklyn sunset, as the gentle fall of raindrops splattered on the ground outside.
There’s something about Brooklyn, yes indeed.
Special thanks to Brooklyn Bodega’s Pamela Bishop who somehow kept her composure while spending all day herding a large crowd of wet, grumpy journalists into a obnoxiously crowded press area.
To view more pictures, visit the Flickr Photo Set.