This weekend, I spent about 3/4 of my time with Rahway’s Billlzegypt and Dead Rebel Society/NJ Rebels. From filming Bille’s weekly studio sessions for her documentary I’m shooting, producing and released as a bonus DVD to accompany her highly anticipated EP set to drop this fall (and I mean, highly with the highest regard), to kicking it heavy with Krash Battle and his people from Newark and Rahway, it was all about family and community this week. I took the trip from NY to New Brunswick yesterday to get some live footage from NJ Rebels and Dead Rebel Society at Rutgers University’s annual Unity Day. Hosted by its Black Student Union (BSU),
the all-day festival is dedicated to unifying the wider Black Diaspora of the college through art, music, and an assortment of black performance culture that relatively goes unnoticed for the first 8 months of the school year. Having not attended the festival in almost 2 years, it was odd to be there with and document some of New Jersey’s top heavy hitters in music, fashion, and creativity. Each artist, local and mainstream alike, all brought something dynamic to the stage, presenting the crowd with a wide variety of sound for all sorts of listeners to vibe to. Of course NJ Rebels & Co killed the set, throwing full water bottles and DRS t-shirts into the crowd, opening up mosh pits near and away from the stage, performing with no apology and energy for decades. Krash and NJRFSU rolled in deep, about 20 bodies dense, and performed signature tracks “Jrugs Rock + Roll” ” and “Bodies”. Being my third time seeing them perform, I was already anticipant of the sort of set they were going to put on. I’ve noticed that there is always something new that they bring and leave with them, from improving chemistry between group members to track selection choice, more energy or less calm. Krash, son of Young Zee from The Outsidaz, is one of the most dedicated and focused emcees I’ve met out of Jersey. Despite their set being cut to only two songs, it still remains enigmatic to know that they not only committed lyrical murder but still managed to (literally) body a crowd with their aggressive and hardcore 808’s in under 20 minutes.
After coming off stage, I noticed on the right of the stairs that I recognized Willingboro’s Mike Zombie waiting to perform next. In my typical inarticulate vocabulary I conveniently translate all of my excitement and shameless enthusiasm into when meeting creatives, I dapped him up, told him good luck and watched from backstage as the OVO producer flowed with stylized temperament and focus. Me being me of course, I somehow told Mike about my pre-mature attitude I held when I first listened to “Started From The Bottom,” of which was, ‘Not really feeling it.’ Being humored by my honesty, we conversed for a bit on casual topics, New Jersey as a hub for creative renaissance, Newark Club Music, Just Blaze, sample preference, and my general sentiments on my alma matar. Last on stage was the Las Vegas rapper Dizzy Wright, spitting bar on top of bar, kicking to his audience a vast catalog of tracks showing off his eclectic sound between trap and traditional rap. “Let’s give ’em some Hip-Hop!” Moskie, Wright’s hype man, roared as he rushed upstage to accompany Dizzy perform tracks off of his latest record The Golden Era. I also had an opportunity to help with an interview with XXL after his performance and watched him talk about his heavy influences from Bone Thugz N Harmony, Nas, Bob Marley and “anything rich with harmonies,” – funk, soul, and rnb; Earth Wind and Fire, The Gap Band, etc. It’s ironic that I included him on a compilation I dropped back in February as an artist to watch for 2014, and then meeting him and our interaction confirm my previous idea of him, was wild. A really relatable artist, I look forward to seeing what Dizzy has in store for Hip-Hop this coming year.
It was cool to be so personal with all the performers, especially those from Trenton and South Jersey, some closer to Philly, others as far as Atlantic City. Regardless of my rather large indifference toward college and institutional learning, I can still appreciate the small things that they provide their students of color – resources and opportunities to create and build communities within an open space that gives young people outlets they would not have otherwise if they did not attend or live near a university. Thank you to RU’s BSU chapter as well as all participating organizations who helped architect the event as well as maintain a healthy relationship between patrons and performers.
Check out the visual recap of the festival below, and look for the video recap early next week.
Support your neighbors, build with your community™.