Early Saturday afternoon, in the borough that’s claimed by countless music greats, clouds loomed overhead while small herds of hip-hop junkies began gathering along the East River for the annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Pier 3 at Brooklyn Bridge Park started transforming from an industrial eyesore to the grounds of a potentially legendary celebration, as you couldn’t help but overhear countless conversations about rumored acts like Rakim, Raekwon, and Q-Tip. Clear Soul Forces, Ka, Chuwee, and the duo Fat Tony & Tom Cruz provided quality performances for the majority of the afternoon, despite the fact they were greeted by a minute amount of crowd support. The audience seemed overly eager and at some points impatient for Busta Rhymes and his mysterious clan of colleagues to conduct the finale.
Until after about an hour of waiting, Busta finally emerged from a number of Zulu Warrior looking body guards, making his way to the stage despite faulty DJ sets and political speeches. The crowd’s support seemed to have taken a 360 degree turn. Busta as the general he has portrayed throughout his career as figurehead of Leaders of the New School, to Flipmode Squad, he commanded the BKHHF with impeccable stage presence. Salute. The hometown emcee started his set with rapid fire hits, only finishing single verses (sometimes less), proclaiming that “I have a lot of stuff to play and not a lot of time.” During this span of short-lived songs, Busta took time to commemorate the great J Dilla, while coincidentally the sun made a break from the clouds and made an appearance that lasted until the end of the set.
The celebration really began to take off when Busta invited Brooklynites Buckshot and Smif-N-Wessun up to play a few jams. As their performance of “Bucktown” ended, the Mash Out Posse (better known as M.O.P.) ripped into “Ante Up,” one of the hypest songs of all time that also featured Busta. The awakened crowd followed along with every word. After the high adrenaline performance, Busta ushered Fame and Billy Danz off the stage and began changing his outfit, returning with at least six massive gold chains on his neck just to announce Slick Rick as the next act.
This was the pivotal point when the show went from enjoyable to legendary. Rick came out in all his nostalgic attire: eye patch and chains, equipped with rhymes. “Children’s Story” rang out from the speakers, making its way out to the river, while hip-hop heads of all ages sang along with him, showing the power of hip-hop and the amount of people in separate generations it has impacted. Slick Rick’s one song show could have been enough for the crowd, but Busta promised he had more in store as he invited the members of Leaders of the New School up with him to reunite for the classic “Case of the PTA.” It was another classic that brought the crowd back to the golden era, and it was obvious that the earlier impatient eager crowd was now overly pleased with Busta’s surprises. But the fun didn’t stop there.
Busta’s next announcement was by far the biggest of the night, as he introduced Phife Dawg up to the stage to perform the beginning verse of the Tribe and LONS classic, “Scenario.” LONS members Charlie Brown and Dinco D recited their verses, and just as Dinco finished, Q-Tip appeared in time to scream, “It’s the leader Quest vision and we got the goods here.” The night was complete. A reunion of Tribe on-stage together, the presence of legendary Slick Rick, LONS united, Boot Camp Clik members and M.O.P in attendance. It was a truly surreal moment for NY hip-hop, as any grudges that stand between artists were overcome to give the crowd a show of a lifetime. It demonstrated the what hip-hop was and is all about: fans and artists of all backgrounds and ages coming together, witnessing and partaking in history.
Earlier in the week we had the chance to sit down with the creator of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, Wes Jackson. This is what he had to say about the festival that’s been in place for eight years now.
CLICK THE PAGE NUMBERS BELOW FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW, PLUS SHOTS OF THE SHOW’S PERFORMERS.