Tonight marks the opening of the 2014 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, which has grown from what was once a single-day party in a Williamsburg parking lot into a massive event that now spans multiple days and showcases some of the most powerful names in the genre. The Wu-Tang Clan's very own Raekwon will headline this year's bill, which also includes Jay Electronica (the most beloved MC-who-has-never-released-an-album), upstart Brooklyn rapper CJ Fly, master DJ Rob Swift, and the recently-added Cyhi the Prynce. A full artist rundown can be found at the festival's website.
While the marquee music acts won't perform until Saturday, the Brooklyn Historical Society is hosting "Told it First Hand: Conversations with Hip-Hop 'Do-Ers'," which will bring film director (and, we should add, the president of Brooklyn Bodega, which is presenting and promoting the entire festival) Wes Jackson, Northside Media Group founder Scott Stedman, and others together in a conversation on hip-hop, cultural appropriation, and (what else?) gentrification in Brooklyn. The legendary and ingenious beatmaker Pete Rock was temporarily slated to be a part of tonight's conversation but...
— PETEROCK.COM (@PeteRock) July 9, 2014
The main event will be the day-long celebration of beats, rhymes, and life on Saturday. Raekwon, who is apparently "on-strike" from the Wu Tang Clan, has kept himself dizzyingly busy in the past few months. Not only did he rap for chicken and waffle-lovers in Williamsburg, but he's also collaborated with the likes of Talib Kweli, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, and freestyled over old Gang Starr beats while his former group keeps titillating the blogosphere with their "secret album."
Jay Electronica, of course, is the festival's wild card. The creator of some of the best hip-hop made, period, the artist has become notorious for his cagey and coy mien. He could turn out a legendary set, or not play at all. It remains to be seen on Saturday. Between now and then check out some raucous footage from past Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festivals below.