10 Great Things We Saw At The Afropunk Fest 2013
For 10 years, Afropunk has brought a mixture of punk attitude and African-American culture to Brooklyn. The 2013 edition of the festival was perhaps the most ambitious yet, expected to draw over 30,000 people to Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park for two days of hip-hop, hardcore punk, metal, funk and more. The festival's eclecticism wasn't only limited to the the lineup—which included rap luminaries like Chuck D and Questlove, bands like Trash Talk and Pryamids, and emerging hip-hop artists like Danny Brown and Theophilus London—but also to the food, the fashion and the artwork on display. They even had a rock climbing wall. Everywhere you looked, there was something new, surprising and wholly original. To try to keep track of all the cool events and moments of the festival, we went ahead and selected 10 great things we saw at Afropunk this weekend.
10. Jean Grae
Jean Grae's early afternoon set on Saturday was filled with highlights that were both volatile—Pharoe Monch joining her on stage—and relaxing. With the sun beating down on the crowd, Grae closed out her set with a moving performance of her Cake Or Death stand-out "U And Me And Everyone We Know," fostering the sense of community that would go on to define the festival all weekend. - Dan Jackson
With 2012's Dark York and 2013's Fly Zone, New York rapper Le1f has carved out a distinct aesthetic centered around bubbling synths, hard-knocking drums and a mumbled, frenzied delivery. Sporting summer ready shades and shorts, Le1f tore through cuts like "Wut" and "Spa Day" with a playful, laid-back charm without sacrificing the intensity of the material. - DJ
08. Theophilus London
Fresh off a flight from Palm Springs, where he's been holed up recording his new album Vibes, Theophilus London graced the Afro-Punk stage at the magical twilight hour on Saturday and treated fans to a diverse trip through his many hits. From a remix of Rihanna's "Jump" to his A$AP Rocky collab "Big Spender" to a few choice cuts from his upcoming album, Theo showcased his versatility to the excited audience. Capping his set off with his new single "Rio," Theophilus closed his set out by giving fans a glimpse into the Vibes he's been feeling as of late. - Dan Buyanovsky
07. Effortless Fashion
One thing that sets Afropunk apart from the litany of other music festivals is its patrons' effortless and always-impressive style. Where other fests bring out the bros and ravers who do too much to overcompensate with their fashion choices, Afropunk's guests are made up of those kids in school who dressed five years ahead of everyone else, but weren't too snobbish about it. From incredible high-tops to rope chains to detailed accessories, everyone at Afropunk celebrates both the Afro and Punk sides of the fest with truly effortless styles. - DB
06. M.O.P. Doing "Ante Up"
It was apparent that the crowd wasn't quite sure what to make of Cx KiDtroniK and M.O.P.'s anarchy-filled set: equipment was smashed, lyrics were screamed, a dude in a Spider Man costume played a cymbal the whole time. But when the beat started up for M.O.P.'s ubiquitous 2000 hit "Ante Up," everyone knew what to do: Go nuts. Watch for yourself here. - DJ
05. Saul Williams
The crowd was buzzing with rumors that Saturday's headlining spot—listed in the program as a "surprise guest—would either be a massive act possibly in town for the VMAs (Prince was one rumor) or a local artist making a hometown return (Mos Def was mentioned). Saul Williams, who was on the schedule for earlier in the day, ended up being the final headliner and he delivered a set filled with fiery lyricism and glam-rock grooves. However, the most powerful moments came between songs when Williams used his voice to speak on a range of issues from Trayvon Martin to Stop-and-Frisk to Jay Z and Harry Belafonte. With his willingness to provoke and his commitment to truth, Williams felt like the soul of Afropunk made flesh. - DJ
04. Danny Brown
With the release of Old on the horizon, Danny Brown is looking to capitalize on the mountain of buzz he's accumulated since the release of his last Fool's Gold full-length, the wild and brazen XXX, and if Sunday's show is any indication, Brown isn't going to dissappoint. It'd be nice if Brown could find room for some of his less drugged-out, crowd-friendly cuts like "Scrap Or Die," but it was incredible to watch him control the grown sea of people with loud, shout takes on anthems like "Blunt After Blunt" and "Kush Coma." Hair upright, arms outstretched and tongue peaking his teeth, Brown was a vision of pure, howling energy. - DJ
03. Big Freedia
A Big Freedia show is always a party, and Sunday's set was no exception. The Queen Of Bounce put on a riotous, bountiful set, and at the end he showed some love for the Brooklyn crowd, explaining that besides his hometown of New Orleans, Brooklyn has always shown Big Freedia the most support of any other city. - DJ
02. Chuck D
Chuck D has never been afraid to speak his mind, and his set at Afropunk was no exception. The legendary hip-hop pioneer was joined by DJ Lord and other members of Public Enemy—Chuck said they were performing as Too Much Posse—for a set packed with classics like "Welcome To The Terrordome, "Fight The Power" and "Rebel Without A Pause." Before performing "Don't Believe The Hype," Chuck held a symbolic burning ceremony where he set fire to pieces of paper with Hot 97 and Power 105 on them, along with copies of the NY Post, Rolling Stone, Hip-Hop Weekly and—yep—the latest issue of XXL.
I actually caught up with Chuck D before the show and he told me he was planning on burning a copy of XXL on stage. "I’ve always thought that a lot of the hip-hop press have done a disservice by accentuating the drama of it," he said. "So people think it’s about the drama, instead of the brilliance that’s been happening with it."
What would his ideal hip-hop media look like? "Something that’s balanced," he said. "Something that covers classics, women, local artists and international acts." - DJ
Headlining the closing night of a multiple day festival is an unforgiving task. For one thing, you typically need to play music that will appeal to a giant field of people. Also, by the end of a couple days of revelry, most festival-goers just want to take it easy and listen to some music while laying on the grass—not necessarily wild out. That's what made Questlove's DJ set such an inspired choice. Relying heavily on comfort food tracks like "Ignition (Remix)" and "International Players Anthem," the Roots drummer delivered a set that had enough energy to keep the front rows dancing without alienating anyone looking to pass out on the lawn. - DJ