Early in the afternoon, the festivities at Afropunk Fest 2013 (Day 2) got underway with young rap collective MEATLOAF MUZIK on the Red Stage while New Jersey’s rock/rap fusion Sunny Gang and L.A.’s PYYRAMIDS held down the Green Stage. DJ sets by m0ma and MikeQ kept the crowd moving in between acts. Photographers Mel D. Cole and Kevin Ornelas were on hand to document the entire day of festivities.
While the sun moved into full blast mode, things started to heat up mid afternoon as Okayplayer favorites The White Mandingos tore up the Red Stage with their politically-charged brand of punk-meets-rap off their recent debut, “The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me.” MC and frontman Murs led the crowd through a vocal warm up of sorts before bringing bandmates Sacha Jenkins (of Mass Appeal and ego trip note) and Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer out to barrage the audience with tracks including “Mandingo Rally” and their album’s title cut. As Murs questioned the crowd, “How the fuck you raise a son inside a cell?” a few confused white boys standing near me may have screwed their faces up, but never took their fists down – proving in that moment exactly how the group’s aggressively boundary-defiant approach to music represented the very spirit of Afropunk: celebrating music and culture as it defies expectations of race and genre.
Over on the other side of the park, Canada’s own k-os and his live band went through his singles “the seekWILL,” and “Sunday Morning” with his live band, insane turntablist DJ, and big ass hat, ending the latter with a quick rendition of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Early into the set, the band brought the crowd into a frenzy by dropping the early bars of a Dr. Dre beat as k-os delved into a cover henceforth known as “Forgot About K.” As the rendition came to an close, the artist demanded an end to the “hip-hop Republican party” as we know it, before getting even the hardcore-est of punk rockers to bust out their house dancing skills (or lack thereof) with Soho’s “Hot Music” as the instrumental sample for his final song, “superstar pt zero.”
Back at the Red Stage, self-proclaimed Queen of New Orleans bounce Big Freedia proved once and for all why Miley Cyrus has no business calling her antics “twerking” (though as everyone would see later that night at the VMAs, she will never stop trying, bless her heart) – charging through a high intensity booty bass set with all the cheek-isolation moves anyone could wish for. By the time “Rock Around The Clock” came on at the end of the set, Freedia and his dancers had so much clapping going on (on and off the stage, if you know what I mean) the gender-body lines were so obscured, we think it might be time a “Politics of Booty” class started up at a local college somewhere (word to Major Lazer) – you heard it here first.
After a DJ set by TV On The Radio drummer-turned-party rocker Roofeeo, Fool’s Gold’s prince of drug rap Danny Brown lit the stage up in what was clearly one of the most highly anticipated appearances of the afternoon. From the jump, it was obvious the front of his audience pit was not one for the faint of heart, as the sea of elbows was visible from across the park. As Brown jumped around the stage with songs like “Wit It,” the excited crowd hollered back as if to say, “Damn right, we are.”
As Danny Brown kept one side of the festival appropriately #TURNT up, Vintage Trouble rocked an equally sizeable crowd with their distinctive brand of blues rock (with an appropriate measure of soul references) including lead singer Ty Taylor’s fresh summer suit keeping up with the theme of everyone looking super fly all throughout the fest. VT’s melding of classic American music styles kept the crowd high energy, reflecting the diversity and cohesion of the crowd in attendance.
By this time, the sun was starting to set over Brooklyn as the evening’s headliners began to make their way into the final performances of the weekend. Public Enemy’s Chuck D was joined by DJ Lord (and a harmonica) for what was perhaps the only show of the day to keep everyone’s fists raised in the spirit of both rock and justice. As Chuck ranted through classics such as “Fight The Power,” everyone was hyped up on the legend’s presence and music alone. Not being one to miss a chance to fight for the greater good, however, it was Chuck D and his political messages that had everyone talking afterwards. From pausing the middle of his set to urge folks to get involved in the “Occupy Free Air” movement and ending the performance with a direction to “Be smarter than your smartphone,” one of hip-hop’s most enduring political leaders made sure everyone left with more than a little to mull over in the post-festival afterglow.
At this point, the crowd was thoroughly exhausted (or I was, at least) – but as that wonderful late summer breeze rolled through the park reminding us all briefly of the season to come, Prince Paul laid into a DJ set of classic hip-hop, R&B and even a little grunge (courtesy of Nirvana) that woke everyone the hell up.
The mood was so pleasant and bright spirited that one could almost forget the final performance we were all waiting for from OKP El Jefe himself, Questlove. Everyone danced while the stage hands set up what was to be ?uesto’s DJ set up, but anticipation was quickly mounting as the set time creeped past the slated 9:30 mark. Keeping the good times rolling, The Afro’d One opened with the quintessentially feel-good dancefloor killer, “P.Y.T.,” eventually slowing the track down into a rolling halt before cutting right into Kanye’s “Good Life” that famously employed the Michael Jackson sample. A few songs deep into the set and it was clear that ?uestlove was not here merely to entertain, but rather to educate the audience with an hour and a half long ride through some of hip-hop’s best-known and best-kept-secret-samples. Soul and rock tracks from the 60s and 70s such as Willie Hutch and Bobby Byrd would fall upon a quieted crowd, until that precious moment when the unknown became suddenly familiar as audience members began to recognize the various drum, guitar or vocal loops reused in their favorite hip-hop tracks – releasing a surging “AHHH!’ from the then-packed field. To borrow a phrase from one of the set’s early jams, it was as if Questlove was asking everyone, “What You Know About That?” And even when the answer wasn’t immediately there, the musical payoffs were big and frequent. Not too hyped up, but constantly enthralling, it was obvious the bandleader of the Mighty Roots Crew wanted to take some risks, and the result was the perfect vibe to end an already epic weekend – leaving us all ready to admit that Questlove himself clearly knows all about that.