Fashion and style were definitely an emphasis at Afropunk Brooklyn, but what brought all the beautiful people serving looks to Commodore Barry Park over the weekend was the insane lineup.
Saturday headliner Solange put on her signature captivating show, complete with mesmerizing choreography, a minimalist stage design and lots and lots of brass instruments. Sunday headliner Raphael Saadiq’s soul sounds hooked the crowd to close out the main stage. But smaller acts over the weekend, playing to a positively inclusive crowd, really stole the show.
Here are the five best performances we saw all weekend:
Brooklyn’s Afropunk festival is about music, culture and change
The Harlem rapper, real name Destiny Frasqueri, came out like a ball of energy for an early Saturday evening set on the red stage. Princess Nokia was decked out in school-girl threads and already crowdsurfing within her first few songs. The rapper effortlessly performed hits “Tomboy,” and “G.O.A.T,” and invoked Emily the Strange and “As Told by Ginger” in a stripped down take of a song about goths. Nokia also bluntly spelled out her New York City experience with “ABC’s of New York.” While eyeing the crowd, full of black and brown fans, Frasqueri got emotional, declaring the festival “a place of God.” She didn’t hold back about the current state of politics and race relations in this country, either: “We gotta have fun because they’re trying to take it away from us,” she said before railing against our “fascist” government and “terrible” President Donald Trump. Her advice to her peers? “When white supremacy has you down, honey, go out dancing.”
The sensational R&B singer’s star has soared this summer behind her excellent hit record “CTRL,” and the out-of-control crowd that closed in on her stage is surely a testament to this.
SZA, real name Solana Rowe, got off to a late start but treated fans to most of the songs off that album and delivered them beautifully. Her vocals matched her record, though she switched things up on occasion with vocal runs. Her fun dancing also kept the crowd enticed. Highlights included “Love Galore,” “Garden (Say it Like Dat),” “Normal Girl,” “Prom,” “Go Gina,” “Wavy (Interlude),” and “Doves in the Wind.”
Afropunk Fest brings NYC talent, political fashion to Brooklyn
The rapper from across the pond made a triumphant return to Afropunk after nine years away. Dizzee Rascal, aka Dylan Kwabena Mills, came from London to spit bars and hook fans with intense bass and dark beats. He performed many songs off his latest “Raskit,” and really had the crowd going with “Space” and “Wot U Gonna Do?” Dizzee Rascal’s sheer skill is plenty reason to keep following him.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
The R&B singer and his high-energy band were suited just right for Afropunk. Anderson .Paak brought the funk but also slowed things down throughout his Sunday night set on the red stage, which attracted a ridiculous crowd. The Grammy nominee performed many songs off his latest “Malibu” and “Yes Lawd!” Standouts were “Come Down” and “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.” .Paak also launched into a new take on “Glowed Up,” his song with producer Kaytranada, who was performing his own set on the festival’s gold stage. .Paak’s vocals were very crisp live, and his show is really one that belongs in an arena — here’s hoping he’ll do a headlining tour with a stop at Barclays Center in the future.
The popular Canadian producer had the beats bumping and crowd dancing to close out the gold stage Sunday night. He played new beats and many songs off his latest “99.9%.” Kaytranada brought out Shay Lia to sing live on “Leave Me Alone,” and also performed his live take on “Glowed Up.” He played “Glowed Up” again shortly after, with none other than Anderson .Paak coming out on stage to sing his verses, immediately following the end of his own set. While Kaytranada sounded solid, his set felt mismatched for the space — he should’ve been on a larger stage to accommodate the dancing masses. A club setting is likely the ideal way to experience the producer live.
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