Hip-Hop Festival Takes Over People's Park

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If you were walking by People's Park last Saturday, the aroma of fruity weed, spray-paint fumes and B.O. may have caught your nose. If you had followed that scent into the park, you would have stumbled on Students 4 Hip Hop's 12th annual Hip Hop in the Park. The festival lasted from noon until 5 p.m., and the sunny afternoon weather was ideal. People from all over the bay came-some even bringing their kids-to enjoy the free festival that featured all the elements of hip-hop: music, break dancing and live graffiti art.

While waiting for the music to start, you could have checked out the graffiti writers who were spraying on wooden boards in the middle of the park. One stylish writer donning a mohawk and a '80s-style gold chain painted a piece of a demonic-looking face in wild purples and blues.

Or you could have headed over to the basketball courts to see some breakdancing. Old school funky bass lines and drumbeats were the backdrop for the b-boys' fancy footwork and gravity-defying freezes.

Considering that this event took place in People's Park, that bastion of social activism, it was unsurprising that most of the artists were very socially and politically conscious. While it's great to see a side of hip-hop that goes against the often negative mainstream that makes it on to the radio, political rap is always in danger of coming off as one-dimensional. Some of the performers escaped this and others didn't.

San Jose's Apakalips and local headliner Mystic couldn't seem to escape the pratfalls of political hip-hop. The former's raps came off as angry tirades delivered over hard but simple beats. Any sign of uplifting fun was missing in his brand of aggressive hip-hop. Though Mystic is a wise, poetic artist with lots of talent in both the singing and rapping department, her music gets bogged down by social and political pessimism. Somehow, it just didn't seem necessary for her to say, "If things keep going like they are, we're all going to die" in the middle of what was supposed to be an uplifting celebration of all things hip-hop.

But not all artists who have social and political messages are downers. In fact, throwing in some sharp social criticism enhanced the performances of Brown Buffalo and the duo of MCs Geologic from Blue Scholars and Kiwi from Native Guns. Brown Buffalo were a Latino-flavored group who rhymed in both English and Spanish. Their statements didn't come off as pulpit lectures, which helped keep their music positive, fun and loose. Geologic observed how the '80s are coming back into fashion-even though the '80s weren't as great of a decade as VH1 makes them out to be. He demonstrated that an insightful statement could be made in a way that's still audience-friendly by having everyone join together in an '88-style two-step while he pointed out the overlooked negativity of the era.

And then there was Clyde Carson. He veered far from the other performers with his club-oriented hyphy music. From the stage his posse tossed free cans of Hyphy Juice, a local drink that endorses him. In his signature Oakland A's hat, Carson performed crowd pleasers like "Doin' Dat" and "Two Step."

Aside from some unsavory odors, Hip Hop in the Park was a relaxing and satisfying way for local hip-hop heads to spend a weekend afternoon.


Give props to the Yay with David at [email protected]



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