“Hip-hop was set out in the dark/ They used to do it out in the park” begins MC Shan’s classic 1986 single “The Bridge.” Yes, it was a mere 30 years ago that the biggest hip-hop events of the year would go down in New York public parks and block parties. Fast forward a few decades and the neighborhood has become worldwide, including every major venue in the world. New York City is the birthplace of hip-hop, and, naturally, two annual events that the mainstream and the underground gravitate towards: Hot 97’s Summer Jam and the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Both known for storied histories, legendary moments and capturing the hip-hop climate, the just-released schedule for both 2014 events look to be no different. But if you’re on the fence, we’ll help you decide which hip-hop jumpoff is right for you.
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Hot 97’s Summer Jam happens on Sunday, June 1st at MetLife Stadium. The 21st installment, it has quite a long legacy to live up to. From being immortalized as ground zero of Jay-Z’s Nas/Mobb Deep beefs to 50 Cent’s career-defining arrival moment in front of 50,000 at Giant Stadium to Michael Jackson’s surprise appearance, it’s an event the whole hip-hop world watches. That includes the controversial moments such as Peter Rosenberg insulting Nicki Minaj, resulting in Lil Wayne removing all Young Money acts from the bill as the show was in progress in 2012, and Kendrick Lamar bafflingly bringing Papoose out to close the show in 2013. In the age of social media, it’s one of the most potent nights of the hip-hop calendar.
The 10th annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival goes down July 9th-12th with three days of community hip-hop programming leading up to the final day’s big family day show. A hip-hop family reunion of sorts, the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival has had all-time greats like Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul and Ghostface Killah, up-and-coming underground stars like Homeboy Sandman and Torae as well as the unforgettable surprises like Q-Tip bringing out Kanye West in 2011 or Busta Rhymes reuniting with Leaders of the New School for the first full live performance of “Scenario” in over a decade in 2012.
Since the shows are a full month a part, you could conceivably live the “hip-hop ya don’t stop” mantra and attend both. But, if that’s not an option and you need to come to a decision, here’s what both are serving up.
Summer Jam is absolutely stacked. Headlining the event is Nas, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Illmatic. Summer Jam’s early years had a reputation for mixing audiences of different hip-hop generations together, something revisited in recent years for events like their Wu-Tang tribute. Nas doing Illmatic in the mecca of hip-hop that birthed it is a pretty big deal, so even the most jaded “anti-commercial” hip-hop head who sleeps on a pile of discarded Rawkus slipmats every night would have to at least consider it.
As if that weren’t enough, the rest of the bill resembles a veritable Summer Jam Greatest Hits. The newly independent 50 Cent is scheduled to perform, as is Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. But while these memorable cornerstones of Summer Jam’s past are invading our present, there are also the sets that capture the genre’s future like DJ Mustard, who is set to rock with YG and Ty Dolla $ign, as well as Kid Ink and Troy Ave. Those up for more radio-friendly romps also get sets from Wiz Khalifa and Trey Songz. The hip-hop purists get blessed by The Roots “and Friends” and Action Bronson. Overall, it’s one of Summer Jam’s most diverse line-ups, and it might be worth the price of admission to see the crowd reactions alone.
But the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival is also following their longstanding loyalty to hip-hop tradition and observing the culture’s future. Headlining this year is Raekwon, whose performance is likely to give us our first Wu-Tang headline of the year that doesn’t involve a million-dollar album or a severed penis. Given how classic his work with the Clan and his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx albums are, seeing him rip these timeless standards in front of a crowd that will passionately rhyme along with every word will truly be a sight to behold.
Right behind Rae is Jay Electronica. Yes, while “Exhibit C” is now five years old and his debut album still hasn’t hit store shelves, it would be foolish to forget that it’s also one of the absolute best rap songs this millennium. The allure of Electronica right now is that he’s yet to oversaturate, or even satiate, listeners with music. The fact that his name is second on the bill is basically a promise we’re going to be hearing a lot of new material. Possibly even more in one set than we have the entire past half-decade. Electronica has a chance to really do a lot of good for both himself and hip-hop.
Rounding out the BHHF’s announced acts is Pro Era’s CJ Fly. A mainstay of even the most jaded New York Boom Bap traditionalist’s “I hate all new rappers EXCEPT…” list, Pro Era’s made a lot of music that’s resonated with old school heads who haven’t felt anything since the Clinton Administration. With Joey Bada$$ and the late Capital Steez already etching themselves in New York rap fanatic’s Google Alerts, CJ Fly is expected to be the next to blow. Also planned for the event are a July 9th panel discussion at The Brooklyn Historical Society discussion first-hand accounts of Biggie’s Ready to Die, a July 10th hip-hop film festival, and a 10th anniversary party on July 11th.
Both line-ups are certain to be both historically significant and thoroughly entertaining. While the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival is still to announce more guests, and the surprises at both are sure to be plentiful, the line-ups for both are something to be excited about.