Busta Rhymes Headlines Brooklyn’s Annual Hip-Hop Festival

Kanye West and Q-Tip
Hip-Hop superstars Kanye West and Q-Tip at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in 2011. This year's festival, the eighth, runs through July 14, 2012. Photographer: Robert Adam Mayer/Brooklyn Bodega via Bloomberg

The eighth annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival opens tonight across the borough, culminating Saturday with a performance by hip-hop superstar Busta Rhymes and some promised, but unnamed, friends.

Last year’s festival closer was rapper/producer Q-Tip; one of the friends who joined him was Kanye West.

“They’re absolute monsters,” said Wes Jackson, who founded the festival and is its director. Monsters, just to be clear, are good.

Some 20,000 people attended one or more shows during the weeklong run in 2011. The festival takes over venues from Williamsburg to Dumbo. Tonight’s concert, a battle of emcees featuring a number of hip-hop performers, is at the Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling alley doubling as a music spot and restaurant.

Other events include a symposium focusing on intellectual analysis of hip-hop and the genre’s growth; a tribute to some of hip-hop’s most influential DJ’s; a film festival screening new and old films touching on hip-hop culture; and a block party recalling hip-hop’s earliest days.

Cultural Impact

Jackson envisioned the celebration as hip-hop’s version of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, which he attended in 2004. Moved by the energy and the cultural impact he witnessed there, he concluded that hip-hop needed, and deserved, a similar event.

According to Jackson, the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival is an opportunity for the “the uninformed and the super nerd to appreciate different aspects of hip-hop culture.” His main goal, he said, is to push the art form forward.

To do so, Jackson and his team -- mostly volunteers at the mom-and-pop marketing hub known as the Brooklyn Bodega -- make it a goal every year to keep ticket prices as low as possible. This allows greater access to all the events, distinguishing the week from what Jackson calls “monochromatic” hip-hop festivals with tickets priced upwards of $100 for one or two days of events.

That same $100 gets you into every event at the Brooklyn festival. (Tickets for the Busta Rhymes concert are $30.)

Jackson, 38, grew up in the South Bronx and still recalls the time when hip-hop was performed outdoors, in parks, where everyone could enjoy it. The festival’s success led to bigger audiences and higher-profile artists, challenging the team to find innovative ways to keep prices low.

A Kickstarter campaign was launched on June 5 to close a $15,000 deficit. The money was raised in just over two weeks.

Jackson credits the quick success of the campaign to a core hip-hop community within what he calls hip-hop’s current “hyper-capitalism” age.

“There still exist people who support something natural,” he added, “and that’s awesome.”

The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival begins tonight. Information: http://www.bkhiphopfestival.com.

Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Richard Vines on food.

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