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Talib Kweli
Smif N Wesson
Crooklyn Dodgers
Fabolous & Busta Rhymes

Despite weather conditions that were fickle at best, the masses still turned out for the Saturday finale of the 12th annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. The long-running affair kicked off Wednesday, July 13, with a series of panels presented by the Hip-Hop Institute in partnership with the Medgar Evans College English Department. Activist DeRay Mckesson, who is one of the most prominently recognized figures behind the Black Lives Matter organization, delivered the keynote address, detailing both what it means to be an activist in this time and outlining the realities of the political and social upheaval the nation is currently facing.

There was also a discussion on the state of hip-hop journalism which was spearheaded by notables from Complex, Stashed and Forbes. Yet another panel was dedicated to women in the hip-hop business, seeing the likes of celebrated journalist Kim Osorio and Tia Williams, copy director at Bumble and Bumble and beauty blogger behind Shake Your Beauty, imparting advice on what it’s like to be a women in a fiercely male-dominated industry, and in the case of Williams, what it’s like to be a woman of color in industry where few minorities hold high level positions.

Following the kick-off panel a string of other educational and community enrichment events lead up to the finale concert. Thursday evening saw many turn out for the Dummy Clap Film Festival which screened films and documentaries evoking the golden era of hip-hop, and also provided Masters classes from notable film luminaries. On Friday, scores of emerging talents in dance, visual art, music and more converged on the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition to showcase their skills.

The festivities culminated with Saturday’s day-long finale concert hosted, for yet another year, by Torae. Two separate stages played home to appearances from numerous hip-hop heavyweights and contemporary names such as producer and DJ Melo X, and self-proclaimed King of TrapScat, Masego, who charmed the audience with his saxophone skills. On the main stage, TIDAL, one of the festival sponsors, held court for emerging artists such as Radamiz who also moonlights as a manager at Opening Ceremony, to warm up the audience up for the headliners.

Talib Kweli also took to the mic to tip a hat to Black Star, his one-time group with Mos Def, while simultaneously honoring A Tribe Called Quest. Kweli performed the duo’s single “Knowledge of Self” over the beat of Tribe’s “Check the Rhime” from the group’s seminal album, The Low End Theory. The Brooklyn-born emcee ended the set by welcoming Buckshot, Masta Ace and Special Ed of the Crooklyn Dodgers to the stage.

Rapsody (who revealed she’d penned a deal with Roc Nation) also blessed the venue in preparation for headliners Fabolous and Nas. Smatterings of rain weren’t enough to prevent the enthusiastic audience from rapping along with gusto when Fab aka the Young OG was finally introduced. His hour-long set included special guests appearances from Brooklyn legends Smif N Wesson of Boot Camp Clik, and youthful Atlantic Records signee, Dyme-A-Duzin, who made it a point to launch his chain into the audience (we still don’t know who caught it).

Nas ended the night strong performing classics like “If I Ruled the World” backed by New Orleans’s own Soul Rebels band. The notoriously insular rapper also drew much applause when he dedicated crowd favorite, “One Mic,” to Alton Sterling, further hammering home the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, which had became a focal point over the course of the day.

Take a look through the gallery above to see a little of what went down.

  • Photographer: Rob Best
  • Photographer: Evan Pierce
Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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