Saturday, August 23, 2014

Afropunk 2014 Music Festival Descends on Brooklyn this Weekend

Music was a crucial, life-saving part of my adolescence and angst-filled teen years.  That's what led me early in my career to become a music and entertainment journalist.  I wrote a music column (my Dad still asks me about syndicating that '90s era column, "What's the 411?") for the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper -- my first full-time gig.  Then I ventured to the Big Apple on Amtrak with a suitcase and a dream to publish or perish as one of my journalism professors liked to say. And I covered music for a lot of top magazines and media outlets. Although I have since moved on to different types of writing and reporting, I miss writing about music.

So I'm excited about this weekend's tenth annual Afropunk festival in Brooklyn where the avant garde spirit and creativity is contagious.

Described by The New York Times as “the most multicultural festival in the US" and inspired by the provocative 2003 documentary Afro-Punk, in past years the eclectic lineup has included hip-hop legend Chuck D, New Orleans bounce phenom, Big Freedia, black rock pioneers Living Colour, and neo-soul high priestess Erykah Badu. And even though previously promoted headliner D'Angelo cancelled, this year's event still won't disappoint with its diverse lineup including Meshell N'degeocello, Bad Brains, and hometown success story, teen hard rock trio Unlocking the Truth.  
The event is free (donations are encouraged), but the turn-out promises to be huge. So you gotta RSVP.
Here are a couple under-the-radar (or at least under my radar) highlights:
Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler of Shabazz Palaces.
Saturday, August 23
5:15 p.m. (Red Stage)
Don't expect any pop-leaning hip-hop tracks like the classic "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) from Shabazz Palaces, the experimental Seattle-based hip-hop duo led by former Digable Planets front man Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler.  Instead, prepare to head nod along with the stream of consciousness vibe. The group is signed to the famed alt label Sub Pop that help launch the careers of fellow Seattle bands Nirvana and Soundgarden, and I've been a fan of Butler's since way back. I interviewed (and crushed hard on) him when he was with DP. Now we're both a little older (okay, a lot older), but still fly.
The Tontons lead singer, Asli Omar./Photo credit Megan Tipsslide
Sunday, August 24
2:45 p.m. (Green Stage)

It was love at first listen when I was introduced to the Houston-based band, The Tontons, via the Afropunk music sampler that landed in my in-box.  I'm a sucker for a sultry, kickass front woman (in this case Asli Omar) and '80s reminiscent melodies.  It let's me live out my new wave fantasy. Standouts from their new album, Make Out King and Other Stories of Love are the hauntingly melodic "Pony" and "Wild Kind" Think Santi Gold meets The Motels.