Jay Electronica knows how to rock a crowd. He proved as much last night (June 1) as he kicked off New York City’s annual SummerStage concert series at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park. Grippingly performing both older and more recent tracks while also taking scattered requests and bringing fans on stage, he kept the people involved throughout.

Despite ominous skies and occasional drizzle leading up to the show’s 7 p.m. start, fans came out to see the New Orleans transplant perform his lyrical exercises in his current home. He touched on the project which gave him some of his earliest notoriety, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Act I), spitting a mostly acappella version of “Eternal Sunshine.” Later, with plenty of help from the audience, he recited more recent hits like the Just Blaze-produced “Exhibit C” and the Diddy-assisted “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace.”

Jay then spent much of the next half-hour giving a handful of concert-goers the chance to get in the spotlight and rip the mic themselves. “If it wasn’t for people letting me rock, I wouldn’t be here,” he explained to the people as countless hands jutted up, hoping to be selected to come on stage. After some aspiring MCs had their shot, a man who needed no invitation, the legendary Pharoahe Monch, graced the stage for a quick but hard-hitting acappella. Jay wrapped the show up by taking requests and then taking the time to meet the legion of fans who swarmed him once his set ended.

Public Enemy, Brand Nubian and EPMD are just some of the many acts also scheduled to perform in the coming months throughout the five boroughs as part of SummerStage. For more information and a full schedule of event visit www.summerstage.org. —Adam Fleischer

Turn to page 2 to see a photo gallery of images from the show, courtesy of E.C. Okoigun