Photos and Article by Tyrone Z. McCants / Zire Photography
July 11th, 2016 marked the 11th annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival—a celebration of not only music but the progress of the culture in entirety. I had the honor of being present at the event, which for me is another box checked on the list. The festival was birthed in 2005, integrating some of the most revered names with a background in hip-hop. It is vital to understand that this gathering is not merely artists gracing a stage. This year’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival include the first Hip-Hop Institution conference, the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition, the Dummy Clap Film Festival, Beats and Eats and the Big Show. The number of attendees increases every year, and the energy of the events reaches immense levels.
For those of you who have never had the privilege of attending BHF, allow me to recreate the scene. If ever you have dreamt of a fantastical realm in which conscious hip-hop rules, let it be known that this dream exists in BHF. The headliner was none other than Common—the renaissance man himself. Other appearances on the set list included Mobb Deep, Freeway, John Robinson, Brooklyn natives Stro, Skyzoo, Rob Swift, and video pioneer Ralph McDaniels. You simply cannot err with such a cast of greats. Each performer contributed to the colorful atmosphere of the occasion. From Torae freestyling about What is Hip-Hop, to Lion Babe kicking it with the crowd, to live instrumental by the PVD band and Sean Taylor, every time the stage was blessed, the festival-goers showed nothing but admiration and respect. It was a musical love fest to the fullest.
The highlight of the 2015 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, for me, was Foxy Brown as a surprise performer. Foxy remains to be one of the most respected contenders in the game. Common brought out the reigning rapper himself, which he explained to AllHipHop:
“I feel like its fly to bring her [Foxy] out because she’s fly. You can picture certain people that Common may bring out but, Foxy Brown is no another level, it’s like something unique and fresh and different.”
I concur, Common. Known for her great panache, Fox Boogie put it down for us with “Oh yeah”, a favorite of mine. Imagine the tide of nostalgia that descended the crowd (definitely over myself) at the commencement of that unforeseen bestowal.
Besides Foxy Brown, other surprise happenings included Consequence, large professor (another favorite of mine), and Sean Taylor taking the stage. BHF 2015 embodied the true essence of “Hip-Hop’s Birthday in July”. Overall, the event has become a benchmark for the continuation of striving for a cultural celebration.
The founder, Wes Jackson, received a proclamation from the Borough President of Brooklyn, Eric Adams presented by Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo. What better testament to progression? I’d give this year’s gathering a solid “Starquake” on the Richter scale.
Photography by Tyrone Z. McCants / Zire Photography