In 1986, Run DMC took on the Aerosmith record "Walk This Way" and reached no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart, becoming the first rap song to do so. This blending of culture between rap and rock-n-roll was likely one of the earlier beginnings of what we know now as AfroPunk. During the '70s a culture movement was brewing in London, England. Developed through anti-establishment themes and strong armor held political expression, punk rock was born. Much like hip hop, punk rock served as a culture for individuals looking to change or bring light to certain living conditions or treatment from greater establishments of laws and corporations.
Even before punk rock began to dominate England, other black music figures seemed to hint at the evolution that was ahead; notably, acts like Jimi Hendrix were earlier pioneers of cultural blending. Figures in the rap community like Pharrell Williams began to adopt more skater-themed aesthetics, which brought an onslaught of genre blending, style-wise through the 2000s. Alternative music culture began to see figures like Lenny Kravitz, who hails from a biracial mother and father, and this allowed for music to blend even further, taking Afro-centric elements like dreadlocks and blending them with more rock star imagery. All of these culturally poignant moments have actively allowed for AfroPunk, the movement, to become more strongly rooted in culture in what might appear to be subtle nuances over the last three decades. While the punk rock movement has roots in London, and the rap movement in hip hop was hailed in the Bronx, New York, the current cultural intersection of AfroPunk motions toward the allegiance of black communities who favor the sound and aesthetic of alternative music and punk elements. AfroPunk is cited as a North American punk scene. Home to the movement is the AfroPunk festival, founded in 2002, held in Brooklyn, New York.
At the festival, a range of established and emerging acts have come together to promote and punk rock out in a true marriage of two dynamic sub-genre musical cultures. While musical festivals are of current liking by many audiences across the world, the AfroPunk festivals are the playground of diversity, respectful of difference with an incredible sense of passion. The New York Times has called the AfroPunk festival "the most multicultural festival in the U.S.," and the festival itself is prided on open-mindedness, non-conformity and unconvention. Held yearly at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, festival attendees rock everything from thrift store finds to high-priced luxury labels, creating a unique style scene that is largely to credit by the many influences that have culminated the musical movement. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and her rock band, Wicked Wisdom, have played, DJ Questlove has spun at the festival, and Theophilus London, Erykah Badu and Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey) are among the more mainstream musical acts who've performed, allowing the spotlight to beam more intensely on the potential of the festival and the culture from which it derives.
The festival returns this coming August, again being held at Commodore Barry Park, where Brooklynites are eagerly waiting. An annual "Battle of the Bands" was held from June 23rd to the 27th, where bands were given the chance to earn a spot in the AfroPunk festival, which will be held in August, from the 22nd to the 24th. Last year, new artists from other emerging musical cultures took the stage, like NYC downtown, modern club kid Mykki Blanco, or New Orleans indie fave Big Freedia.
Acts from other regions like Los Angeles and the U.K. will be expected to perform. Last year's performance roster was carefully put together and saw mainstream and independent artists share the stage in an inspiring showing of creativity. From rappers to rockers, the festival and cultural movement are rapidly gaining notoriety as the next big thing, even though this intersecting has been happening for the past several years. Whether a punk, a DJ, a guitarist or an emcee, AfroPunk is a festival of the minds where true art can be showcased for all those willing to accept its history and forge ahead into the future. For more information on this year's festival, to sign up as a performer, a volunteer, an attendee or to donate to the cultural festivities, visit http://afropunkfest.com. False Prophet will be there as well, so stop by to say hello and join the movement.