It’s fitting that Monday night’s opener of the week-long, city-wide series of free hip-hop concerts went down in the Bronx, the birthplace of the genre back in 1973. And considering the Universal Museum of Hip Hop, set to open in 2024 near Mott Haven, was one of the event's organizers, it also makes sense that the entire slate of performers for the six-hour show was strictly old-school, from headliners KRS-One and Slick Rick down through a solid lineup of legends like Melle Mel and Scorpio, Soulsonic Force, Kool Moe Dee, Kool Kieth, Busy Bee, and Kid Capri.
Appropriately, the crowd of thousands who scored a free ticket to the festivities, and who had to show proof of vaccination to get in, also skewed heavily toward those who, like me, remember all these songs from when they first came out.
"I was born in the Bronx," Carlos Morales told Gothamist as Kool Keith blasted in the background. "And it feels great to be here today. This is where hip-hop was born, and it's the best. It's beautiful, there's no problems out here, everybody's acting well."
The setting was the parking lot at Orchard Beach, which could have been a sweltering nightmare but worked out fine in yesterday's relatively cool August weather. Many of these old heads in the audience brought chairs, too, to maximize their comfort. Food vendors from the Bronx Night Market made sure everyone was fed, and though no alcohol was sold on site, somehow a lot of folks seemed to have procured a nutcracker or two.
A bunch of politicians showed up to help celebrate the start of NYC Homecoming Week as well. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and State Senator Jamaal Bailey proved to be credible freestyle rappers; US Senator Chuck Schumer, much less so. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Denise Clark also made it to the stage.
Tuesday night's concert will be held at Midland Park on Staten Island, with local heroes Raekwon and Ghostface Killah headlining. On Thursday the festivities move to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where Big Daddy Kane and C+C Music Factory lead a full slate of acts, and on Friday Queens gets into the action, with George Clinton (on his 80th birthday!) and Too $hort headlining at Forest Hills Stadium.