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Review: Afropunk Festival 2013 @ Commodore Barry Park

2013 Afropunk Festival

The 2013 installment of the Afro Punk Festival made its way back to Commodore Barry Park this past weekend. Rock climbing, BMX action and some motorcycle displays were on hand for everyone's enjoyment. Oh, and some great live music was present as well.

Rebelmatic certainly put the "punk" in Afro Punk on Saturday. The Brooklyn based band had a sound that was certainly inspired by NYC punkers Bad Brains but possessed the street attitude of Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan. With band members having names like Alkatraz and Karniage, you thought you were witnessing a group of NYC superheroes using music as a way to thwart evildoers' dastardly deeds. With plenty of moshpits, the crowd showed their love for the group with the chants of "Rebelmatic" being tossed in the wind near the end of their set.

Unlocking The Truth are some of the luckiest sixth graders right now. With a barrage of national exposure and a slot on this fall's Fun Fun Fun Fest, these preteen kids are certainly shooting for the stars. A massive amount of people came to catch the young metalheads perform on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse blazed through a cover of "The Star Spangled Banner" which would have made Jimmi Hendrix grin. 11 year old drummer Jarad Dawkins and 12 year old bassist Alec Atkins also gave the crowd something to cheer about with every sinister bass pluck and each strike at the crash cymbals.

While Jada Pinkett Simth's band Wicked Wisdom were onstage rocking out during their first show in 6 years, all eyes were glued to her husband Will Smith. The Hollywood star made a surprise appearance at the Afro Punk Festival which had everyone losing their minds. Jada got the metal horns raised that day during tracks like "Yesterday Don't Me", "Something Inside Of Me" and "The Reckoning".

"Y'all got me up here feeling like I'm Beyonce", said rapper Mykki Blanco who came to the Afropunk Festival rocking boxers shorts and long dominatrix gloves. The rapper's impeccable stage presence was especially aggressive during "Ace Bougie Chick" and the acapella number "Time Life". Mykki, along with Brooklyn rapper Psycho Egyptian, found some time to get down in the middle of the crowd. "This is what Black America goth music should sound like", Mykki said before spitting Latin rhymes on the industrial number "The Initiation".

During The Heavy's completely groovy set, many people were talking about the rumored special guest for Saturday night on the Green Stage. Some people were banking on Afro Punk Festival veteran Janelle Monae while others hoped for legendary hip hop act Wu-Tang Clan. Unfortunately, there was no special guest but CX Kidtronix and Saul Williams were moved to the Green Stage at the last minute.

Most digital hardcore fans recognize CX Kidtronix as one of the members of legendary act Atari Teenage Riot. A vast majority of the crowd, however, didn't and were treated to something completely different. As Kidtronix's set progressed, which featured Spiderman banging on a cymbal, the disappointed crowd left the area in droves. Many people who didn't hear about the stage switch felt that Afropunk trolled them with the special guest announcement. Brooklyn rap duo M.O.P. did make a surprise appearance performing their hit "Ante Up" but that didn't do much for pulling the crowd back in.

The MTV Video Music Awards (or, as Chuck D called it during his set later that day, "The MTV Video Music Shit Awards") were in town on Sunday but that didn't stop people from heading out to Commodore Barry Park for Day 2 of the Afro Punk Festival.

LA rapper Murs is out to take over the punk scene with his new band The White Mandingos which features Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer and former Rolling Stone journalist Sacha Jenkins on guitar. The band even delivered a crunchy cover of Minor Threat's "Guilty of Being White" with Murs spitting the line "I'm a convict and I only served 19 years of my time".

Miley Cyrus should've taken twerking lessons from Big Freedia. The Queen of Bounce, along with her twerking trio, certainly gave the photographers near the stage an eyeful during an amped performance. The rapper, who recently toured with fellow bounce act The Postal Service, let the crowd take control during the chorus of "Gin In My System" and even played air guitar during "Rock Around The Clock". "How many of y'all wanna see some ass everywhere?", asked Big Freedia before calling members of the audience to join her on stage. Girls and guys crowded the stage for the cut "Ass Everywhere" which featured copious amounts of twerking.

Ninjasonik even managed to make a surprise performance that day. Telli was already holding down the co-hosting duties on the Red Stage and felt like getting rowdy with his partner in crime Reverend McFly. The Brooklyn duo performed a short set including their cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around", "Party Animal" and "Daylight".

Chants of "Danny" were heard from miles away as the Brooklyn crowd awaited the arrival of Danny Brown. The Detroit rapper got the crowd completely insane during "WitIt" as security barely stopped the barricades from falling over. Danny worked his way inside the crowd during the cut "Monopoly" while the track "Blunt After Blunt" had the rapid crowd screaming its infectious hook.

Danny Brown's set was tranquil compared to future tourmates Trash Talk. The California hardcore band are no strangers to New York City (they're recording new material in the Big Apple) and their overly excited fans showed why the band has one of the most energetic crowds out there. Vocalist Lee Spielman walked up and down between barricades before heading into the crowd for "Destroy", a track which had him plead, "As soon as this song starts, get the fuck away from me." Fans went completely mental as they followed the long haired vocalist up and down the crowd.

Noticing how the right side of the crowd was more amped up than the left, Lee demanded those amped moshers switched sides. In a complete reenactment of the Running Of The Bull, the entire right side knocked down every barricade in sight and eagerly worked their way to the other side. Some managed to use barricades as diving apparatuses. Security could do nothing but watch in complete shock and fear at the mayhem that transpired. While the crowd gave the band a huge ovation at the end of their set, security guards angrily yelled at Lee for the sudden chaotic occurrence. Lee looked at the calamity he caused and simply said, "Come on. It wasn't that bad."

"Some of you motherfuckers might have to leave this place. You don't want the truth", said Chuck D. during his explosive set that evening. The legendary rapper isn't one to shy away from speaking his mind with speeches about the recent Trayon Martin case ("Fuck that 'stand your ground' bullshit"),  his animosity for radio stations like Hot 97 playing "hate music" and major music publications exploiting rappers for their negative ventures.  To really bring it home, Chuck D set logos of Hot 97 and Power 105.1 on fire before throwing them in the trash can onstage. The same went for the covers of XXL, Hip Hop Magazine and The New York Post which had the rapper demanding, "Do a story on that, New York Post." As he held up a cover of Rolling Stone which featured Bruce Springsteen, Chuck D stated before setting it ablaze, "I like Bruce. This ain't about Bruce."

During all of this, music was obviously played. Word on the streets was that Chuck D and DJ Lord were doing Fear Of A Black Planet in its entirety. Chuck D shot that rumor down on stage stating that would be a Public Enemy thing. With Flavor Flav and Professor Griff obviously being absent, the crowd got what was called the "Too Much Posse" which featured a great live band. Chuck D was very lively on stage with mic tossing and swinging the stick around like a sword while rolling through crowd favorites like "Welcome To The Terrordome","Bring The Noise" and "Fight The Power". Chuck D even let DJ Lord demonstrate some wicked DJ skills by turning Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into a monster scribblefest. "That's not your average IPod DJ", said the vocalist as a stab towards most of the hip hop DJs spinning at clubs nowadays. After the final track "Rebel Without A Pause", which had Chuck D. holding it down on the harmonica, people of all races and religions proudly put their fists in the air as a sign of respect towards one of hip hop's most influential rappers.