Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival 2016 photos by Elijah C. Watson for Okayplayer.
After three days of conferences, forums and side events, the 12th Annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival closed another successful year with a finale concert that featured a trio of New York City icons showing off their own legacies while paying homage to other New York greats before them.
The first performer of note was Rapsody, who used her set to reveal good news for her longtime supporters: a new deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation marketing + management company. She and a live band paid homage to legends like A Tribe Called Quest and Prince. Embedded within that ATCQ tribute medley were songs like “Check The Rhime” and “Electric Relaxation,” and she flipped Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” into a freestyle. She then performed Anderson .Paak’s “Without You,” dedicating the song to a male fan she called on stage. Rapsody was followed by Maségo, a young Virginia artist who has fittingly described his music as “Trap House Jazz;” he deftly switched between blowing notes through a saxophone, rapping and scat singing.
The next headliner was Brooklyn-bred rap veteran, Talib Kweli. He paid tribute to Tribe, rapping his lyrics to Black Star’s “Knowledge of Self” over the beat to “Check The Rhime” as the audience withstood the rain to rock out with their fellow Brooklynite. In another notably Brooklyn moment, Talib welcomed Buckshot, Masta Ace and Special Ed to perform “Crooklyn,” satisfying the audience by reuniting the Crooklyn Dodgers supergroup. He also brought Rapsody back on stage to perform some of their collaborations together. Near the end of his set he performed the fan favorite, “Get By,” and honored the life of J Dilla by playing a string of his instrumentals.
Fabolous continued the momentum for the home borough, having thousands of fans chant “whooo hooo” as he rocked his 2001 hit “Young’n”. Other highlights from his set include bringing Dyme-A-Duzin onstage for their remix of “That Chicken,” and Fabolous performing his remix of Desiigner’s “Panda”. The latter move confused the of-age hip-hop heads, but the young’n’s wildly dabbed in approval. Fab relied on his lady-luring radio songs like “Into You” and “You Be Killin’ ‘Em;” but real rap heads were rewarded with performances of “Brooklyn” and “Breathe,” along with a surprise Smif-N-Wessun guest appearance for their remix of Mary J. Blige’s “I Love You”. Fab doesn’t get the acknowledgment that he deserves, but his Saturday set was a testament to his talent and longevity.
By the end of the night, the legendary Nas closed out the festival for summer sixteen. God’s Son has about a dozen albums under his name, but his magnum opus will always be Illmatic – and he gave the fans exactly what they wanted, energetically running through gems like “The World Is Yours,” “If I Ruled The World,” and “N.Y. State of Mind,” along with later favorites like “Made You Look” and “One Mic,” which he dedicated to Alton Sterling. His performance was backed by the New Orleans band The Soul Rebels, who added some new flavors to Nas’s extensive catalog.
Festival season always has a lot of competition, but the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival ’16 continued to prove its worth with another show that showcased some of the best that New York City has to offer.
is a journalist who covers music, pop culture, film/TV, race, culture and social justice. He is an editor at Okayplayer, and his work has appeared in Complex, Billboard, Guardian, NPR, MTV, Ebony, HipHopDX, The Flint Journal-MLive, and other publications.