Sometime back in the middle of April, I wrote something down in my journal that said exactly this:
“I will be attending Afropunk 2017 the weekend of August 26th”
I have been wanting to go to Afropunk for a few years now, but now was the time to really speak it into existence and make it happen. Little did I know, four months later on August 26th, I would be in Brooklyn at Commodore Park watching my favorite artists perform live for FREE).
There truly is power in writing down a goal and seeing it manifest. It may not happen overnight, but trust that it will happen and anything is possible and it will happen.
I have only been to three other festivals before Afropunk, though, and they were just three straight years at Firefly (2013-2015). There were some incredible performances I saw those years and I was with some of my best friends while also in my home state of Delaware. Afropunk is an entirely different vibe, though.
For one, it was another excuse to come up to New York, which of course isn’t for everyone, but I’ve had friends and even strangers tell me while I’ve been up there that I would thrive in the city. But the festival itself was nearly euphoric.
With my drawstring going missing on the L-train, but fortunately all of my important items on my person, it’s safe to say that my phone was on life-support for the majority of the weekend. I had friends there that I meant to meet up with, but with a low battery and priorities to see certain artists, I had to make some rational decisions.
There was no way I was going to see everyone that had planned to see, because of overlapping and delayed subways, but I did get to see my favorites which include Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, SZA, Solange, Willow Smith, Sango, Dizzie Rascal, and Raphael Sadiiq, all of which put on incredible shows.
One main thing that made my experience nearly euphoric, was the people. I only got to meet up with my one high school friend who lives in Harlem at the festival, but I also got to meet, dance, and vibe with several people in the crowd. It was a huge field of energy from beautiful black people filled with so much love and gratitude. You could literally feel it.
Usually, when I go to music festivals I tend to focus on one thing: the music. That was the main priority for me that weekend (I also got to watch the Mayweather & McGregor fight). At past Firefly festivals, I would often ditch my friends if I wanted to see an artist that they didn’t (Raury, Washed Out, Childish Gambino, Snakehips, etc.). I treated Afropunk the same way, but since the lineup was smaller and priorities were practically the same for the majority of festival goers, this wasn’t much of the case.
I’ve seen SZA live before in Philly when she opened for Jhené Aíko, which obviously was before she released CTRL. This performance was great because about 80 percent of her set was from her new album which has received enormous praise so far this year (not to mention I am a huge TDE stan).
I was mainly excited for Solange because of A Seat at the Table. I was blown away by that album and seeing the songs in person with her background visuals, backup singers, band, and improvisations was a very profound experience. I’ve never seen Beyoncé live, but I believe Solange’s performance is just a stripped down, calmer, and smoother version of a Bey show.
The person that I was most excited to see was Anderson .Paak. After hearing Malibu and Yes Lawd! (a joint project with producer Knwledge [Nxworries]), he shortly became one of, if not my favorite artist of 2016. He brought tremendous energy to the stage and performed probably more than half of his set on the drums, while still singing! Anderson is probably now in my top five favorite live performances (and I’ve seen countless live shows in my youth).
Kaytranada was another person I was excited to see. Kind of like .Paak in a way, he became my favorite producer in 2016. I’ve seen DJ sets in the past, but nothing got me dancing the way his show did. He even brought out Anderson .Paak for their single together, “Glowed Up.” The best part about his show was that it was like a huge dance party.
Then I got to see the last headliner, which was probably on accident. Raphael Sadiiq, the previous lead singer of the group Tony! Toni! Toné!, performed in a black and white leopard print suit with a circle painted over his left eye. I didn’t know what to expect from his performance at all, but being the seasoned performer he is, it was actually pretty great. Though I don’t know a lot of his solo stuff, I love that he performed Lucy Pearl’s “Dance Tonight,” which was one of my favorite songs growing up that my parents had exposed me to.
Afropunk was truly an enlightening experience for me. So many beautiful, black souls in one place, all vibing to some incredible, soulful ass music. This being my first time automatically makes me want to come back next year and experience more perks of the festival.
On another note, the only famous person I met that weekend was Spike Lee (pretty cool right?). As I walked into the venue I saw him standing in the middle of a couple of guys and had to make sure it was him before I said anything. I confirmed it was him and said, “What’s up, Spike?!” to which he replied, “How’s it goin’ young man?” I didn’t want to fan out though because I put myself in his shoes for a second and thought about how many times a day he gets approached by screaming fans and people asking for pictures/autographs. So after our brief encounter, I just proceeded to fist bump him and be on my way with no photo evidence (if you didn’t post it, did it really happen?), but yes, I actually met Spike Lee.
It’s safe to say that this was one of my favorite weekends this summer and a great way to cap off the summer. I don’t usually recap shows or festivals like this but I thought Afropunk was definitely worthy of a post. I’ll be back next year, Brooklyn.