It’s finally here! Thursday marks the kick off of Northside Festival’s music portion, and thanks to the hard work of everyone involved with the festival, there are so many excellent shows to attend that I’ve separated previews out by genre to help Brooklynites parse the extensive schedules. For those who associate Northside Fest mostly with indie rock, yes, that has traditionally been the bedrock of the booking. But, there’s also plenty of local rap to be found for those who are willing to dig below the surface. Namely, we have a free headlining show by Grandmaster Flash set to be the hip-hop highlight this year, but here are some other rappers to catch while you’re out and about this week.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Baby’s All Right, 12 AM
Grafh (Philip Bernard) is a rapper from Jamaica, Queens (“and Jamaica the island“) who got a deal with Epic over a decade ago before the label got mired down in its own financial trouble. Next, he went to Roc-a-Fella (around the same time Kanye joined the label) and then beef between Jay and Dame Dash erupted–Ye went with Jay and Grafh went with Dame, and unluckily, that deal fell apart too. Eventually, he put out Autograf in 2007 via Blackhand, and has quite a number of mixtapes under his belt, including 88 Crack Era and New York Dxpe which both came out in 2014. Despite the label issues, Grafh has built a loyal street following in Queens and New York at large, and put out the brand new project Pain Killers: Reloaded in April of this year. He’ll be performing songs off PKR along with a host of tracks from his past. This is gritty, golden era hip-hop from an NYC local who is finally hit a stride that’s been a long time coming.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Aviv, 8 PM
Dre Prince is a southern rapper to his core. Andre Davis Jr. grew up in the deep south listening to OutKast, Tupac and UGK–these influences show in his woozy, slow-rolling raps, as does an affinity for Kanye West’s charming candidness and AutoTuned emotion. Prince released his debut album BLCK Diamond–a collaboration with Houston’s’ DJ Mr. Rogers–in 2011, and followed that up with BLCK Dreams shortly after. Since then, he put an end to a stint at Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he was studying Business Marketing, to go put those principles in action instead; his third project Golden Child was released at the beginning of 2016, and he’s been touring behind the project ever since.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Baby’s All Right, 12:30 AM
Khary Durgans moved from Rhode Island to Brooklyn in 2012 to pursue a career in rap, and releasing his debut project Love + Anchors two years later via the French label Cosmonostr. In the next two years he continued to refine his tongue-in-cheek, slippery flow laid thick over glitchy, funky production, culminating in this year’s intern aquarium, a tape dedicated to anyone who has “ever been an intern or worked a part time job.” Even before the tape dropped a couple weeks ago, rcent looks last fall from Fader and Pigeons & Planes ensure the Khary is about to break out way beyond the copy room. This set is worth staying up late for–don’t miss it.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Palisades, 2 AM
You’d be a fool to miss the Fathers of Footwork show, featuring a number of incredible producers and DJs who are integral to the movement, including DJ Spinn (Morris Harper). Harper helped usher the footwork movement from Chicago neighborhoods that birthed it to the forefront of international consciousness, carrying on his legacy as a founding father even after the tragic death of another essential figure in the movement DJ Rashad, in 2014. Footwork has always been hip-hop and house adjacent, and the late night Palisades show will evoke moments of both. Take a midday nap, chug a Red Bull, and go out and dance. DJ Rashad’s legacy demands it, and DJ Spinn’s continued excellence in the face of such loss deserves it.
Date and Time: Friday, 6/10 @ Rough Trade, 10 PM
Another member of Chicago’s integral footwork crew Teklife, DJ Earl will be one of the opening acts for Dawn Richard’s headlining show at Rough Trade on Friday night of the festival. Born and raised in Chicago, Earl started his foray into the music community in 2005 via dance battles. It wasn’t until later when he was introduced to DJ Spinn and DJ Rashad in 2008 that he began to produce music of his own. His relationship with the Teklife Kingpins impacted his life deeply, leading Earl to become one of Chicago’s foremost DJs and producers, effortlessy bridging the gap between house, footwork, juke and jazz, and striding forward toward something new entirely.
Date and time: Friday, 6/10 @ Brooklyn Bowl, 9:20 PM
Stones Throw affiliate J.Rocc is a lowkey legend in his own right. After founding the Beat Junkies in 1992 with Melo-D and Rhettmatic, he went on to do plenty of solo work and become a trailblazing turntablist. Of course, his accolades don’t end there–he’s also the third member of the J. Dilla and Madlib supergroup Jaylib, and traditionally (since around the early 2000s) has served as the live DJ for Madlib shows. At Northside Festival this year he’ll be playing the Stones Throw 20th Anniversary show along with Peanut Butter Wolf on Friday at Brooklyn Bowl.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Palisades, 2 AM
Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Jadon Woodward ended up in New York for college and has put himself out there in a way few people are willing to do these days–rapping on the subway. Pigeons & Planes recently documented the plight and power of rappers like Jadon in their Street Dreams documentary, highlighting the vulnerability and dedication this pathway requires. In fact, Woodward is part of a suit against the NYPD that challenges the wrongful arrests of performers on the subway and informs them of their rights. All of this fiery spirit and stubbornness inhabit Jadon’s music, which is full of the loose spirit of freestyle and New York imagery.
Oddisee & Good Cmpny
Date and Time: Sunday, 6/12 @ Brooklyn Bowl, 9:30 PM
Oddisee has practically become a one-man-empire at this point. The extremely prolific D.C.-based MC put out the excellent The Good Fight last year, and is already back this year the Al Wasta EP and new instrumental release called The Odd Tape. He’s equally skilled as a producer and a rapper, translating life’s difficulty and loveliness into swift and smooth grooved out hip-hop.
Royce Da 5’9
Date and time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Baby’s All Right, 1 AM
Ryan Daniel Montgomery originally hails from Detroit and he’s worked extensively with the city’s hallowed demon rap son, Eminem, even forming the rap duo Bad Meets Evil, and later forming another duo, PRhyme, with the local Houston legend DJ Premier. Royce began his career in the late nineties but was plagued with label trouble, feuds, and a stint in jail, before he got back on track with music (and mended fences with Eminem.) He also got sober and has been for the last three years. After PRhyme’s self-titled debut came out in 2014 and was followed up by the deluxe edition in 2015, set the date for a new solo album of his own: Layers came out in early April and landed as the top rap album in the country. His newfound sobriety is something he raps about fearlessly on one of the album’s most popular songs, “Tabernacle,” and surely we’ll hear this triumphant, redemptive song during his set at Baby’s on Saturday night, and hopefully a few older ones too.
Date and time: Friday, 6/10 @ McCaren Park, 6:45 PM
I.O.D. is one of the only people in the world for whom the Ebola scare a couple years ago was a good thing. Back in 2014 he went viral with a hit of the same name, “Ebola,” and the Brooklyn rapper has stubbornly stuck around since. Of course, it’s hard to turn a viral hit about a deadly disease into long-lasting success, but in the hip-hop world, stranger things have happened–and there’s no denying that I.O.D. is a wildly talented rapper with a flow all his own. Then again, maybe he isn’t trying to hang on at all, maybe he’s been confident in his own greatness all along. Take a listen to “Armme” below, it’s a song he wrote before “Ebola,” and it casually outshines that track without even resorting to a hook. It looks like things are just starting to get interesting for I.O.D.
Date and Time: Friday, 6/10 @ McCaren Park, 7:15
A Bed-Stuy native, Radhames “Radamiz” Rodriguez is a fan of puns. That should be evident from the title of his latest project, Writeous, which came out in spring of last year. Rodriguez grew up in Brooklyn, but he’s originally from the Dominican Republic–as are both of his parents. You can hear this influence on his style, and he channels an international sensibility that embraces everything from diasporic influences to an immense appreciation for Jay Z’s entrepreneurship.
Date and time: Friday, 6/10 @ McCaren Park, 7:45 PM
Kweku Collins is a 19-year-old rapper from Chicago that Stereogum just named an artist to watch. He’s opening for Grandmaster Flash this Friday, a pretty good look for a guy who can’t even legally drink yet. (I kid, I kid.) On a more serious note, take one listen to his full-length debut Nat’s Love and you’ll be sucked into the same genre bending production and rap combination that ensues when Sade and Kendrick Lamar are two of your primary influences.