New York City’s week-long free hip-hop festival arrived in Staten Island Tuesday night, bringing a crowd of thousands to an outdoor, fully-vaccinated concert at Midland Park. Featuring a lineup of EPMD, Force MDs, Pharoahe Monch, and roughly 30 percent of the Wu-Tang Clan (depending on who’s counting), last night’s concert gave attendees exactly what they’d been craving: a wild night of classic hip-hop with practically no concern for COVID-19.
Like Monday evening’s kickoff concert in the Bronx, Tuesday’s festivities included appearances from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Chuck Schumer (and yes, Schumer reprised his "Killa Chuck" routine and once again delivered a “rap” on stage). Savoring their stage time, both politicians held up proclamations honoring hip-hop and its legacy on Staten Island before embracing Wu-Tang members Raekwon and Cappadonna.
But the elected official having the most fun at the show was clearly Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. After capping off a brief address from the stage with a few bars of beat-boxing, Williams could be seen sidestage dancing to EPMD.
“Hip-hop is New York City culture. Hip-hop raised me. I love it, so I’m just excited to be here,” Williams said. “But we still got to vaccinate, we still gotta mask up, particularly indoors.” When asked about his outlook on New York’s future under incoming Governor Hochul and the conversation the two had Tuesday, Williams smiled.
“From where we were, you can only go up. We had a very good conversation. I’m happy that she has a different view from the way the governor before was governing.”
Reggie White, 49, was celebrating his first live concert experience since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As long as you’re vaccinated, there’s room here, you ain’t cluttered, everybody’s hospitable.” White saw the concert’s requirements of proof of vaccination for entry as a positive incentive for music fans. “Get what you gotta get, so you can enjoy this,” he said.
“We’re part of saving the community and saving the culture, [COVID-19] is hurting the hip-hop and urban community,” White said of the ongoing push to vaccinate Americans. “A lot of us are scared but bruh, I did it, let’s go!”
Early highlights from the stage included Rob Base; and Crystal Waters, whose 1991 hit “Gypsy Woman” was sung word for word by seemingly the entire crowd, making it clear just how deep the classic era memories go for those in attendance.
The night’s intensity grew thanks to powerful (if brief) sets from borough natives Force MDs, followed by Queens MC Pharoahe Monch, old school duo EPMD, and, finally, Wu-Tang stars Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Cappadonna. By the time the opening bars of “C.R.E.A.M.” dropped, it was obvious that outdoor (fully vaccinated) music is once again alive in New York City.
The next Homecoming Week concert is on Thursday at the Brooklyn Army Terminal — get the full lineups for all of the shows here.