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Review: Run The Jewels Make It Rain During Wet Set At Brooklyn Northside Festival

Run The Jewels make it rain during a wet set at Brooklyn 

Lyrical tag team Run The Jewels brought out the hip-hop heads on Sunday night (June 14) as they closed out the last day of the Brooklyn Northside Festival. RTJ—comprised of Killer Mike and El-P—packed out BK’s McCarren Park in Williamsburg, causing a wet mosh pit while still delivering a hefty set despite the rainy weather.

SEE ALSO: Killer Mike On Bill O’Reilly: ‘He’s More Full Of Sh-t Than An Outhouse’

To set the party off, opening act and Def Jam signee, Vince Staples, lit up the stage with a brief yet satisfying set with a few of his standout tracks "Blue Suede," “65 Hunnid,” “Hands Up” and his recently released "Senorita."The Long Beach, Calif. native zipped through a few unheard tracks from his upcoming debut Summertime ’06, slated to drop June 30. While the eager concertgoers mouthed lyrics along with the Cutthroat Boyz member, they were eager to take in RTJ’s headlining show.

As the clock crept pass 9pm and the light drizzle turned into a steady downpour, Killer Mike, nursing an injured right arm held in place by a brace, and El-P, rocking jeans and a black T shirt, graced the stage to ear-splitting applause as attendees held up RTJ signs of a pistol pointed at a set of jewels. Once the beat dropped to "Oh My Darling Don’t Cry," the duo marched to the front of the stage to kick off their rowdy set .

SEE ALSO: Coachella 2015: Run The Jewels And Flosstradamus Kept The Energy Way, Way Up

Mike and El riled up the crowd when the beat dropped to "36" Chain,"a song off their Run The Jewels LP. The crowd started throwing 'bows as Killer showed off his thug dances accompanied with a vicious ice grill, setting the #IDGAF mood of the night. One ecstatic Stan yelled, “They’re actually about to perform some diligent rap lyrics” as RTJ brought back memories of 2013 with performances of “DDFH" and “Sea Legs.”

The show didn't come without surprises. After spitting their respective verse to their oral sex anthem, “Love Again,” rapper Gangsta Boo stormed the stage to rep for the ladies while giving the male fans some eye candy. RTJ turned it up a notch with their highly energetic “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)," “Lie, Cheat, Steal” and the politically charged "Early." The Mass Appeal MVPs also announced that they’re working on Run The Jewels 3 before bringing out their CEO, Nas. God’s Son then blessed ears with a live rendition of his gritty street anthem “Made You Look.” There was no chill to be found.

SEE ALSO: Run The Jewels Release Powerful Video About Police Brutality, ‘Close Your Eyes And Count To ‘F**k’

Run The Jewels attempted to close out the night with their somber "A Christmas Fucking Miracle." but Jay Z's native borough wasn’t having that. They wanted more. After Mike and P left the stage, fans erupted into a chant of “RTJ, RTJ, RTJ, RTJ, RTJ, RTJ.” The two reappeared, saying, “Yo, we only have two minutes” before gifting a few bars each from their track “Angel Duster.” As the drizzle turned into a storm, Run The Jewels still brought the thunder.

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Songs Of Freedom: The Lasting Effects Of Buju Banton's "Long Walk" Concert

“My destination is homeward bound,” sang Buju Banton on stage at Jamaica’s National Stadium in the heart of Kingston. “Though forces try hold I down. Breaking chains has become the norm. I know I must get through no matter what a gwaan.” As the Grammy-winning reggae icon performed his song “Destiny,” a hit single from the 1997 album Inna Heights, the words took on added resonance due to the enormity of the occasion—a homecoming celebration for a living legend who’d been gone too long.

A crowd of more than 30,000 turned out to watch Buju launch his Long Walk To Freedom tour, named after Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. After much anticipation and speculation, Buju’s first performance since being released from federal prison in the U.S. could not have been held in a more fitting location. Jamaica’s National Stadium was the same place where Mandela addressed the people of Jamaica during his first visit to the island in July of 1991. Prior to Buju Banton, no other Jamaican artist headlined this prestigious venue since Bob Marley performed here at the One Love Peace Concert on April 22, 1978—when the Tuff Gong brought rival political leaders together onstage, demonstrating the power of reggae music.

“It was epic to see the amount of people that came to the stadium,” said dancehall superstar Sean Paul after the Buju show. “With Usain Bolt or with our football team, when the stadium is full we don’t see the field full as well. So to see that for one person—that was really amazing.”

 

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... AND THANK YOU ONE MORE TIME!

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This historic performance was not the first time Buju ever appeared at the National Stadium. In December 1991 the rising dancehall star Wayne Wonder called out the tall, skinny, short-haired 18-year-old as a surprise guest during his own set on Sting, the annual Boxing Day stage show. “Nobody knew Buju,” recalls Donovan Germaine of Penthouse Records, who produced Buju’s early hits “Love Me Browning” and “Love Black Woman,” both of which were featured on his classic 1992 album Mr. Mention. “They heard the song but they had never seen him, so Wayne Wonder brought him onstage at Sting and then the world saw Buju Banton.”

That quick set back in 1991 was a mere glimpse of the greatness to come, and nearly three decades later the artist had come full circle. Witnessing Buju run through highlights of his extensive catalog backed by the 10-piece Shiloh Band left no question that one of reggae’s greatest artists was back in top form. Dressed in full white, Buju commanded the audience’s attention like no other act before him. Having given no official public appearances, interviews, and only a handful of statements on social media since his return home last December, Buju had the audience hanging on his every word. For many Buju fans, missing this once-in-a-lifetime event would be inexcusable.

Celebrities and music lovers alike snapped up all available plane tickets and flew in from all corners of the globe, creating a “Buju Boost” to the local economy. Jamaica’s ministry of tourism reported a 143 percent increase in arrivals to Kingston compared with the same day last year. All those fortunate enough to make it to the big show did so with great expectations—and they were not disappointed.

The opening acts at the Long Walk to Freedom concert were a mixture of veteran artists from Buju’s era like Ghost, Delly Ranx, and Cocoa Tea, more recent reggae stars like Etana, Romain Virgo, Christopher Martin, and Agent Sasco, and promising new talents like Buju’s son Jahaziel Myrie making his first major live appearance, rising star Koffee, who joined Cocoa Tea as a surprise guest, and Chronixx, who turned in a rousing performance with his Zinc Fence Redemption band just before Buju took the stage. Every one of the supporting acts rose to the occasion, performing as if they knew the whole world was watching. Many other top artists, from Tarrus Riley and Tony Rebel to Konshens, Govana, and Aidonia chilled backstage, soaking up the vibes.

Around 11 p.m. it was time for the main event. Emerging from his backstage tent wearing dark shades, Buju was mobbed by crowds of people straining for a glimpse as he made his way to the elevated stage. Escorted by a human chain of bodyguards, Buju strode with ease followed by longtime friend DJ Khaled and his wife Nicole Tuck. Khaled was one of Buju’s first overseas visitors and the two spent time in the recording studio in December, fueling speculation that Buju’s first new release may be included on Khaled’s forthcoming Father of Asahd album. The 100-yard walk to the stage seemed to take forever. Soon after Buju climbed the staircase a scuffle broke out at the foot of the stage. Khaled and his wife did finally make it through after some persistent efforts.

After a dramatic intro adapted from “Hate Me Now” by Nas, Buju entered the stage with words of prayer, going down on bended knee. From that moment forward, he sprinkled his performance with candid remarks that revealed his thoughts about all that he has been through, his hopes and plans for the future. “Now where we?” he remarked before launching into the first verse of his opening song, “Not an Easy Road.” Running through track after track—from “Close One Yesterday” to “Give I Strength,” and “Over Hills And Valleys”—Buju’s music spoke to the artist’s triumph over trials and tribulations.

Having had a long time to plan this concert, Buju’s care and preparation shone through in every detail. As he delved into harder-edged dancehall cuts like “Big It Up,” “Champion” and “Batty Rider,” he made a point of reaching out to a new generation of listeners. “Some of you might be pretty young—much too young to have been introduced to Buju Banton,” he said with a smile. “Hi, this is Mark Myrie aka Buju Banton. I’m sorry I didn’t met you earlier, due to unforeseen circumstances. However I’m here now. And I’m gonna take you back a little, to just educate you about the early ’90s, and how we dedicated ourselves to change the culture of our music, the direction of our music, and the quality of our music.”

After touching a few more dancehall classics, and giving props to some of those who helped him along the way, Buju applied a little pressure to Jamaica’s current wave of artists. “You guys are playing around today,” said the veteran hitmaker, sounding intent on restoring some order to the music. “We old folks ain’t gonna stand for it.”

One vintage cut that he did not perform was the infamous “Boom Bye Bye,” which Buju cut from his setlist well over a decade ago. Soon after his return from prison Buju voluntarily removed the song from all streaming platforms as well, a decisive move to make a fresh start and leave behind years of protests over the song. “After all the adversity we’ve been through,” Buju declared in a statement, “I am determined to put this song in the past and continue moving forward as an artist and as a man.”

As the evening built to a crescendo, Buju invited out a few special guests, the first of whom used to sing with Bob Marley as he performed his songs of freedom all over the world. “This is mother apart from my mother,” Buju said as he welcomed Marcia Griffiths, noting that she had been sending him words of encouragement since he was 17 years old. They shared a warm embrace and two powerful duets, “Closer To You” and “Stepping Out of Babylon.” Then Marcia made way for another icon of Jamaican music, the beloved soul man Beres Hammond.

Beres had been looking forward to this moment for years. Having recorded many great collaborations at Penthouse, the smooth singer and the rough-and-rugged DJ have a tradition of trading parts when they perform together live. Even during the years when Buju wasn’t able to join him in person, Beres would do his best to recreate his young friend’s gravelly roar.

“It’s been too long,” Beres said as he greeted Buju with a joyful hug. Buju replied that he had tried to visit, driving himself to the singer’s home, but got turned away. “I was asleep,” Beres replied with a smile, and soon they got down to business, trading parts on “Who Say” just like they used to do, and making the crowd fall in love all over again. As Beres declared, “This is a welcome party!”

The next guest artist on stage was Wayne Wonder, the very same singer who helped launch Buju’s career here in the National Stadium almost three decades earlier. “Dancehall massive we don't forget you,” Buju roared as the band launched into the “Real Rock” riddim and Wayne began singing “Forever Young,” a collaboration made famous on a dubplate for the Stone Love sound system. When Buju started his verse, “Tell them fi test wi now, if them feel them bad like we,” he drove his hardcore fans into a frenzy.

Wayne’s presence seemed to take Buju back to the essence, tapping into the magic that made the early ’90s such a special era in Jamaican music. Standing next to his old friend, Buju shared one of his most candid remarks of the night. “Even though Buju Banton lock up mi still rough,” he stated with a serious expression. “Eight years, six months, 27 days, 13 hours, five minutes, and 26 seconds.” Buju then proceeded to address rumors that he’d been sexually abused during his incarceration—refuting the notion with a fiery freestyle.

The “Long Walk to Freedom” concert will go down as a milestone for a mighty musical genre that was recently honored by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, highlighting its "contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity.” While Buju’s place in history is assured, many are hopeful that his triumphant homecoming may signal a new way forward for the future of the music. He returns to a reggae scene that’s experienced profound changes during his absence. Although the dancehall sound is obviously a powerful influence on international artists like Drake, Major Lazer, and Rihanna, the rise of “tropical house,” “island pop,” and Afrobeats has left reggae music’s mission at a crossroads.

While Buju did not hesitate to offer a critique of modern dancehall music, he did extend an invitation to UK dancehall artist Stefflon Don, hailing her as “very instrumental in taking our culture international.” Later in his set, he offered words of encouragement to the new generation. “I wanna say nuff respect to all the younger generation of youths who kept the music,” Buju stated. “We don’t kill champions, we raise them. We want you to know that Buju Banton love what you’re doing. We just want you to find your way, and change it up a bit, and make it… wholesome.”

Returning home to the biggest stage on the island, Buju not only silenced his critics and reasserted his place as one of Jamaica’s foremost artists, he also underscored what UNESCO described as “the basic social functions of the music — as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God." As he closed his set with a medley that included anthems like “Murderer,” “Driver A,” and “Psalms 23” with Gramps Morgan, Buju demonstrated the full potential of reggae music, leading by example.

Staring out at a stadium filled with bright lights, his shirt dripping with sweat, Buju used his platform to issue a powerful warning. “We are a nation that’s built on some spiritual foundation,” Buju told the massive audience. “The day we lose that is the day we are over, and we are edging closer and closer to the edge.” As he continues his Long Walk to Freedom tour—with stops planned in the Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados, Tortola, and St. Kitts—Buju seems perfectly positioned to lead the music forward to higher heights.

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Anderson .Paak's Grammy Glow Lights Up New York's Hammerstein Ballroom

"I told y'all I would come back but I had to come back with a motherf***in Grammy yo!" Anderson .Paak belted to the crowd inside of New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. On Friday (Feb. 22), the musician was elated to return to New York for his Andy's Beach Club World Tour with opening act Tayla Parx and his band, the Free Nationals. His energy has unsurprisingly remained on a thrilling high since taking home his first Grammy just three weeks ago.

The Cali native was a breath of fresh air for the crowd in attendance, who after a long work week was ready to hear some tunes from his stellar albums Venice, Malibu and his recent musical offering, Oxnard.

.Paak was that jukebox for the crowd, with select bubbly tunes from Parx, who just like her main act, has a funky vibe to herself. Parx, an artist who most recently wrote on Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" as she told the crowd got the energy bubbling with known covers and performances of her songs like, "Mama Aint Raise No B****." Parx set up the funky vibes that .Paak would go on to later execute and perfect.

The musician jumped out on stage an hour and a half later and started his heading set with the song, "Bubblin" that earned him a Best Rap Performance Grammy.

From the jump, his megawatt smile peaked under his red bucket hat as he performed more deserving tunes like "Tints," "Trippy" and "Come Down."

 

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flashing.. lights.. 🔦

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His bliss of just being in the moment was abundantly clear as well as his chemistry with the Free Nationals. He danced along to their song "Beauty & Essex" featuring Daniel Caesar, grooving to the smooth beat while transitioning to "Saviers Road."

There was not a moment in the night that skilled drummer wasn't in tune with the crowd. At one point, he even crowd surfed, calling out New Jersey natives to catch him. Because of his old soul, the musician easily crafted his flavor of soul and funk to keep body rolls going throughout the evening with cuts like "Smile/Petty" and "The Heart Don't Stand a Chance."

Although his drum solos showed off his musical talent and capabilities, .Paak's tribute to late rapper, Mac Miller with a performance of their song "Dang!" towards the end of the concert is what really sealed the deal.

"If you miss Mac Miller like we miss Mac Miller make some f***ing noise! Say we love you Mac, say we miss you Mac," the Oxnard musician urged the crowd to yell, and the crowd obediently obliged.

Seeing the crowd and .Paak arrived in sync one last time for Miller was the finishing touch for the concert. Although .Paak's crowd demo was young working adults, they won't forget the moment they shed their corporate garb to be a little weird and carefree again.

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The “Necessity Of Expression,” As Explained By Jacob Banks

Jacob Banks is pressed for time. With just a few hours before his headlining show at New York’s massive Brooklyn Steele, the Nigerian-born, Birmingham, UK-raised artist has gone all day without so much as a bite to eat. “Can we make it 10 minutes, 15 tops for the interview?” his tour manager asks. “It’s been a crazy day. He still has meet-n-greets and hasn’t eaten yet.”

Seconds later, Banks emerges from a backdoor inside the Williamsburg venue. He smiles and offers hugs, possibly sensing a brewing push-and-pull between press and a protective handler. He quickly diffuses potential rising tensions by giving an OK to his camp and escorting me into a tiny greenroom.

“Just do your thing,” Banks says at the onset of the interview. The irony of his statement is that I, and the rest of the nearly 2,000-person crowd, chose to spend their Friday night watching him do his.

On stage, the 27-year-old is a behemoth. Standing at 6-foot-4, he never scowls nor grins at the audience during his songs. Instead, his eyes are focused and his face, stoic. It’s intentional and penetrative. Mr. Banks and the mandem—Danny his guitarist, HB his drummer and bass player, and musical director Smoove—are there purely to serve the moment. You bought a ticket? Cool. Jacob & Co. are there to deliver.

 

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NYC, the gang and I are ever so grateful, thank you so much 🌹 Boston, let’s show out tonight 🚀

A post shared by Jacob Banks (@mrjacobbanks) on Feb 23, 2019 at 10:51am PST

However, before the night’s performance, and in the midst of choreographed chaos backstage, Banks is chill, soft-spoken and full. Not full of himself, but full of experience, which translates to a gentle but firm assurance. He crosses his legs while he sits and adjusts his glasses from time to time when they slide down the bridge of his nose. That fullness allows for him to have great empathy, a byproduct of the many villages he says raised him.

“I was raised by culture: African culture, Caribbean culture, youth British culture, which is Caribbean culture,” he says. “I was raised by the streets. I was raised by the nerds. I was raised by cartoons. I was raised by happily ever afters and real life tragic endings as well.”

Speaking of those very cultures, there’s a knock at the door. His food has arrived. “What did you have?” his tour manager questions. Take a gander at Banks’ Twitter profile and you’ll read that he considers himself a jerk chicken connoisseur. However, someone else will be partaking in his beloved dish. Tonight, Banks is having the curry, while the oxtail will go to another famished member of the tour. How the British entertainer was able to get authentic Jamaican dishes in Williamsburg is equal parts impressive and mind boggling, but I digress. There are more important things to dive into right now.

Banks released his debut album Village via Interscope in November 2018 and to celebrate, he played FIFA at home with his two cats. For the singer-songwriter, music is “purely a necessity of expression” that he doesn’t let get to his head. “I have meticulously created a life where I don’t need that validation. I exist outside of music,” he says.

It’s odd to hear him speak so humbly about his art. As the night rolled in and fans stood eager to hear his robust voice, Banks performed songs from Village and his EPs The Paradox and The Boy Who Cried Freedom, which merited everything from a woman’s shrill “Sing daddy!” to the New York male equivalent “Yerrr!” from the diverse crowd.

The stand out moment of the night, however, came during his delivery of the pensive, almost spiritual “Slow Up.” Written as a note to himself that he wished he stayed younger for longer, Banks reflected on exactly when he knew he wasn’t a kid anymore: “What I've learnt from a mirror/Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger/Love is just a decision/The choice is yours.”

“When I look back, I think I was eight. I remember thinking—well, obviously at the time I didn’t know, it was just life happening—but at eight I thought I have to be my own cheerleader,” he reflects. “I realized it wasn’t going to come from nowhere else.”

As Banks reached the second chorus of the triggering ballad, a growl from the deepest hollows of his belly emerged, setting the audience ablaze and prompting many to abandon their phones and inherit the vulnerability of the moment. At the close of the song, he hung onto the microphone and rested his head into the crease of his arm, almost spent from the effort of mentally referring to his adolescent self. In return, a chorus of applause came barreling toward the stage.

Banks’ voice is Thor’s hammer, a lightning strike against mediocre industry standards. The cacophony of car alarms you may suddenly hear outside of your window isn’t caused by a neighborhood perp. It’s because of Banks’ rich baritone, nothing more, beloved.

 

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Sang about Caroline in a cold locker room for you lot ❤️ Catch the full vibe on YouTube Another one courtesy of the wonderful humans at @youtubemusic #artistontherise Brought to by @wearenob0dy and @frmwrkldn

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When we’d almost forgotten our 15 minutes together were coming to a close, a prompt second knock at the door served as a gentle reminder. “We’ll take five more minutes. I was on the phone for a bit,” Banks lies to his publicist, Stefanie. There was no such call, but giving to the moment is what he does and if the moment needs more time, then so be it. There are more questions to ask the man of the moment.

I prod about the several drug references on standout tracks like “Mexico,” “Kumbaya,” “Nostalgia” and “Witness.” As a man who doesn’t drink or partake in substances, Banks says the lyrics (“You're so far away but when someone drops your name/You come pourin' through my veins/Like that Hollywood cocaine”) are less about a habit and more about needing a place to go.

“Drugs are in pop culture. I see it everywhere. It doesn’t bother me really. Do what you want, it’ll kill you, but do what you want,” he laughs. “Ultimately, I understand escapism. I understand needing a place to go. One can make the argument I’m addicted to expressing myself.”

He chats more about recognition versus representation and the importance of being seen but also realizing it’s not just important that you’re seen. But whether Jacob is visible or not, whether you hear his music or not, it’s still all good. He’s still G, as he’s often says, because Jacob made it so. Jacob will always be speaking his mind as Jacob, regardless.

“It was important for me that when my album came I didn’t let it define me,” he says. “I exist outside of Jacob Banks the artist,“ he said.

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