Talking With Wes Jackson, Founder of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and Brooklyn Bodega

Wes Jackson, center, at last year's Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival kick-off party
Wes Jackson, center, at last year’s Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival kick-off party

Though Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival has been going strong for nearly a decade as one of the largest festivals in the city, attracting more than 30,000 people each year, founder Wes Jackson revealed that the festival is feeling the pressure of the rising cost of real estate. “The performance spaces where we’ve been doing the fest are surrounded by the Brooklyn homes of the one percent,” Jackson explained. “They wield power sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly, and they have no interest in having concerts and performances outside their homes.”

Jackson admitted that gentrification in North Brooklyn is partially due to the quality of cultural events like the Hip-Hop Festival and the prominence of the arts concentrated in those area. “We made it hot and now we can’t do it [in Dumbo] because they can’t even tolerate one day of music, even when it’s on a Saturday in a public park. Permitting becomes difficult and the space becomes more expensive.”

“We’ve become the victims of our own success,” he said. “It’s really the snake eating its own tail. They are there for the art scene, which is the whole reason why the value is up. First it was DUMBO, and now it’s going to be Williamsburg that will become homogenous like SoHo and Tribeca, almost like a mall.”

Jackson’s greatest fear is that in a couple of years, “there will be nowhere to do our festival.” He said that location is key. “Afropunk, thank God they got a spot next to the projects where nobody seems to have a problem with loud music, maybe because the people in the projects are muted.” He added, “it’s a shame that at the municipal level there’s no support.”

But Jackson was quick to point out the continued appeal, too. “People are still coming here because this is where the energy is,” he said. “There’s no other place you can go and have West Indians and Black folks and Hasidic Jews and Russians all mashed together. So you gotta come here, because that’s where the source is.”


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