Attending a festival for the first time can be somewhat of a spiritual experience. We all remember our first festival right? Well my first Afropunk in London last year was nothing like Carling Weekend 2007 (ahem…), it was a complete eye opener and proved to be an overwhelmingly positive and emotional experience for me. It’s a fair assessment that British rock festivals have been predominantly white since before yer mam lost her shit to a certain black left-handed guitarist rocking an Isle of the opposite colour. I remember attending Sonisphere one year only to be heckled with “Rude boy!” by a gang of punters, repeatedly asked if I liked reggae and was selling weed at Parklife, and one time while watching Bloc Party at Leeds Fest (nee Carling Weekend) I had a rather bizarre IRL Stormzy/Lukaku moment, as an audience member turned round to ask if I was Kele Okereke… from Bloc Party… who we were both watching… right there on stage.
So when I stepped into Alexandra Palace last year for a festival that not only was full of punks of colour, but a hella load of women on stage, prompting the world’s best dressed punks to lose their proverbial shit like Jimi made ‘em do in 1970, it was like having the whole world of festivals as I’d known flipped upside down, and it was beautiful. This brown little snowflake (Bran Flake?) felt incredibly safe, empowered and inspired, so I’m super excited that this year Afropunk returns to London with a new venue (Printworks) and an outrageous line-up that’s waaaaaay too good to do a Top 5 list about…
(wait, what’s that? …oh we ARE doing a top 5 list? Ok, I suppose I can try and make that work…)
Umm, here are my Top 5 (definitely not definitive by any means) artists to check out at Afropunk London 2017!
Through his iconoclastic assaults on rap, Detroit rapper Danny Brown has drawn from an arsenal of EDM, left-field Hip-Hop, post-punk and electronica to redefine what it means to be a rockstar. His unmistakable high pitched delivery can switch like a traumatised Pitbull, whipping up ferocious amounts of energy. But beneath all the leather, devil horns and his impressively long crotch twitching tongue, it’s his deep introspection and reflective subject matter that makes this icon human and relatable, a nature that was exhibited so clearly on his most recent and ground-breaking record ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, which came out on Warp Records last year. Everybody wants to party with Daniel because he knows how to turn personal pain into a powerful release. Sounds pretty punk to me.
Is there a musical equivalent to a poet laureate? Because if we needed one for all us freaks and weirdos I would nominate Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat. He is the Frank Zappa of our times, fingering pleasurable low-end vibrations at phenomenal speeds and crooning out falsetto cascades of remarkably insightful bilge, gradually unblocking your beer bloated brain with every listen. I guess what I’m basically trying to say is that Thundercat is a giant Berocca. From Kendrick Lamar to Flying Lotus, Michael McDonald and Suicidal Tendencies, he’s worked with the best and he’s bound to blow your mind!
Kojey Radical appeared to me from a puff of smoke, seemingly out of nowhere as a guest in the middle of Gaika’s set at Afropunk last year. I was pretty blown away seeing an emcee (or poet as 6music types like to identify him) with such a commanding and clear cut performance. He’s not your standard everyday rapper, his style spills out but never drowns his substantial lyrical skill. As the name suggests he is a radical turn in the road for rap. Get to know!
Sometimes punk doesn’t have to be reduced to 3 chords or spitting in your face to get its point across, sometimes it can be slick, progressive and, dare I say it, sexy! The Internet came through with Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future family back in the early 2010’s but since then have become their own worthy entity (with 3 of the members all releasing superb solo albums this year). Their 2015 breakthrough album ‘Ego Death’ is packed full of gorgeous bangers (just try not to shoulder bounce to ‘Get Away’, impossible!), and multi-talented lead vocalist Syd is her own unique mould of punk, unequivocally cool and powerful, she makes anyone of any gender swoon.
I think if the word Afropunk was created for anyone in particular it was Saul Williams. I remember seeing him play in a small basement venue in Leeds in 2008, donned in bright colourful feathers and hanging from the ceiling. That night I witnessed a new avenue for performative exploration, unashamedly black and jumping head first into the future. Spoken word artist, rapper, actor, producer; he was Death Grips before Death Grips, Kanye before Kanye, Kanye before Kanye was Death Grips, he’s always been ahead of the curve! His latest album ‘MartyrLoserKing‘ continues to confront and engage with the troubles of our times.
AFROPUNK LONDON kicks off on July 22nd and runs through to the 23rd! Tickets can still be purchased here!