Kelis debuted a baby bump, Lauryn Hill was 45 minutes late and had her mic cut off early, and Grace Jones (who’s 67, by the way) gave the performance of a lifetime two nights in a row (the first being the Fancy Dress Ball on Friday night) — day one at Afropunk was definitely all about the ladies.
The festival that gathers beautiful beings to celebrate tolerance and diversity kicked off in style once again this year. Attendance seemed to be higher yesterday than in years in past, which came with its own set of challenges — good luck navigating the sea of festival-goers on blankets, sheets, and towels — but it was worth it to be in attendance at Brooklyn’s Commodore Barry Park. In addition to more than 40 scheduled acts, the festival also put a spotlight on books with author signings for Rock-n-Read, gave a platform to nonprofit organizations like Black Lives Matter in Activism Row, and helped a wealth of businesses ranging from food trucks to fashion make a few dollars.
Early performance highlights on the green stage included the aforementioned revelation that Kelis is very, very pregnant. Still, the fact that she is literally bringing life didn’t keep her from throwing a party with hits like “Acapella” and “Milkshake” as she was dancing and windin’, keeping the energy up. Lion Babe and SZA also represented well with solid sets early in the day, each bringing their own versions of Afropunk style and grace to the festival.
Over on the red stage, Suicidal Tendencies was as hardcore as ever, representing the essence of Afropunk’s origins by throwing back to their 80s punk-metal heyday. Danny Brown also more than held his own while playing a set that overlapped Lauryn’s (more on that in a second). With a guest appearance from Ab-Soul and an impressive crowd bouncing along to his songs, the party vibe was definitely over there.
The night swung back to the green stage to close things out with a “where is she…?” for Ms. Lauryn Hill, followed by a “yeeessss!” for Grace Jones. As mentioned, Ms. Hill’s set started a bit off schedule, only to have her sound cut off early in the performance. Despite the difficulty, her set reminded us of what we truly love about the singer as she went through her remixed versions of classics and paid homage to Nina Simone with music from the tribute album Nina Revisited. The undisputed Queen of Afropunk’s first day was no doubt Grace Jones, however, who played the hits including “Pull Up To The Bumper” and “Nightclubbing” as she went through multiple wardrobe transformations. By the end of her set, she was wearing body paint and a corset to hula-hoop her way through a finale of “Slave To The Rhythm.” And it was everything.