AfroPunk Festival Gets Back On Track With Erykah Badu, Yasiin Bey, Janelle Monae

photos by victoria mccarthy

By Victoria McCarthy

After its cancellation last year, in the wake of Hurricane Irene, followed by a long year of wondering and hoping for music lovers throughout New York City, Brooklyn’s AfroPunk Festival returned to Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park this weekend. The festival ran from August 25-26 and crowds came out in droves to dance, skate, shop, eat and simply celebrate with over 200,000 attendees.

Not only did this year’s Afro-Punk Festival boast a stellar line-up featuring the likes of Das Racist, Janelle Monae, and Erykah Badu but it also featured a skate park, BMX course, personalized chopper competition, 15 of the city’s most decadent food trucks, and tents upon tents of swag.

Needless to say, diversity was the name of the game onstage and off. Almost every genre of music was duly represented from the sinewy falsetto of Toro y Moi and Reggie Watts (whose grace and wit helped him recover from a sound system failure during his set), the Baltimore-bred beats of Spank Rock, or dance-circle tunes from Roofeeo and the Supasonics. The festival also showed love to some Brooklyn natives, with the alt rock- disco trio Body Language leading that pack in performances. A few well known faces appeared in the crowd including identical twin designers CoCo+Breezy, Yuck drummer Jonny Rogoff, and MTV’s very own Sway Calloway.

The attendees proved to be as eclectic and varied as the acts they came to see. With a quick glance around the sprawling festival grounds, one would instantaneously see every race, age, and style distinctly represented and often reimagined. From skinny-jean sporting skaters, to biker dudes, from sassy Latina goth-girls, to dreadlocked gingers, AfroPunk ’12 became not only a celebration of great music but a celebration of individuality and a microcosm for what NYC has come to represent, a true melting pot.

As council woman Latitia Jones triumphantly announced before bringing the one and only Erykah Badu to the stage, “This festival is not about the color of your skin. It’s about young people making a change in the world. That’s what Afropunk really means.” Concluding with a call to action, urging the sea of attendees to re-elect President Barack Obama this coming November.

Highlights from the festival included Erykah Badu’s surprise collaboration with Yasiin Bey ( formerly known as Mos Def) on “ Love of my Life,” Janelle Monae’s in-your-face theatrics, Jackson-5 cover, and introduction by the incomparable Pharell Williams and Das Racist usual onstage antics including a tongue-in-cheek jib at the NYPD.