Festival season is right around the corner. With the Coachella’s, Lollapalooza’s and Governor’s Ball’s of the world showcasing the hottest artists and radio faves of right now, there needs to be a vessel for the legends to take center stage and share their gifts. Enter the newly minted Art Of Rap Music Festival. The two-day California fest is the brainchild of Ice and his longtime friend and Co-Founder of the Universal Zulu Nation, Mickey Bentson (as well as a branch from Ice-T’s 2012 documentary, Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap).
From July 18-19, hip hop fans can flock to Irvine and Mountain View, respectively, to witness hip hops biggest trailblazers light up two separate stages. The Irvine show will be held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater while the Mountain View show will take place at the Shoreline Amphitheater. Aside from Ice-T’s guaranteed set, confirmed artists include The Game, Bone Thugs -N- Harmony, Afrika Bambaataa and The Soulsonic Force, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Mack 10, Xzibit, Warren G, Rapper’s Delight, Kurtis Blow, Too Short, Doug E Fresh, DJ Quik, Kool Moe Dee, King T, Grand Master Melle Mel, Tha Alkaholiks, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, EPMD, Cold Crush Brothers and Ras Kass. And who knows what special guests may choose to stop on through. Please note that the lineup varies depending on the location.
Tickets are currently on sale, so grab yours right now at ArtofRapFest.com. Before the festivities commence, Ice-T and Mickey Bentson talk to VIBE about the origin of the fest, exactly who the rap-heavyweight reunion is geared towards and why it’s important for hip hop right now.
VIBE: The weather’s getting warm and people are getting ready to be out and about for festival season. Tell us a little about the intent of the Art of Rap Music Festival and how you and Mickey selected the line-up.
Ice T: Well Art of Rap Music Festival was inspired by the documentary The Art Of Rap, which I did a couple of years ago. It was just about respecting hip hop as a whole, as an art form. Like me personally, I go in the studio and I really take my time and really try to create something that’s art. You say “rap” and people would say, “Oh these guys are clowns.” So I wanted to really get the respect that art rap deserves and hip hop deserves. The natural progression is to now take it on the road. We created a roster of people that go from the old school, people that… I mean how are you gonna get more serious in hip hop than the Soulsonic Force, Cold Crush Brothers, people of that nature to people like The Game, people like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane? We’re just trying to bring a tour together without using the people who may have the hottest record on the radio at the particular time and being able to sell out stadiums with that.
It’s cool that you have such a variety of people and personalities for all kinds of old school hip hop fans and new school to get into.
IT: You know, the rock festivals really jumped it off with festivals like Lollapalooza, which I was on with Body Count and Ice-T. They’ve been known for doing it all over Europe where you would have a day where you start in the afternoon. Also, in this particular thing we’re gonna highlight breakdancers. There will be breakdancing all day. There’ll be graffiti all day. There’ll be DJ areas all day long. So you can go out and really just dive totally into the hip hop culture.
When it comes to the breakdancing, will it be in the form of contests or just showcases?
IT: Showcases, like an area where they’re gonna be breaking all day. Where People that came to the show can break, where we’ll have professional break dancers, crews. You’ll be able to feel like you’re in a hip hop world for an afternoon.
Do you think that in the future there will be any plans to move to another location as well?
IT: The plan is to create Art Of Rap as a brand as a tour that can go anywhere. It can go big like what you see with festivals or it can go small, something like the House of Blues. When it comes to Chicago, maybe The Wu Tang Clan may be the headliners. In Atlanta, it’s Cypress Hill. Who knows? We’ve got so many people that want to be involved in this, we just have to have multiple tours. And it will happen. We want it to roll perpetually like not just summer, but continuously.
What kind of target audience are you going for?
IT: Everybody. Young, old, new school kids going there saying, “Man, I want to be on that tour,” to the old school people saying, “This is the rap I remember,” to the kids. Weally just trying to embody hip-hop and how it started in South Bronx at the block parties.
Mickey Bentson: And also a lot of people want to see these acts like the Cold Crush Brothers, or the Rakims, or the Big Daddy Kanes, the Slick Ricks, the Afrika Bambataas, the Busy Bees, the Ras Kass’, the Warren G’s and they haven’t gotten the opportunity to see them. They heard about them. So we want ya’ll to come out and see them and understand that hip-hop has a culture. It’s not just standing on stage and giving you one performance. That’s why the performances that will take place July 18, will actually be at the Verizon Wireless theater so you can get that whole feel. And then May 1, tickets do go on sale for July 19 for North Cali at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, you’re going to see a festival, not just people on stage giving you a rap concert.
It’ll be a teaching moment for those who are not quite familiar with what it was like in hip hop’s Golden Era.
IT: The cool thing about a festival is that you might see a group you normally wouldn’t go see, so you might say, “Wow, I didn’t even know I like that, but I like that.” That’s the key with a festival. Rock people have been doing it for years and years. Europe did it first and moved to the Lollapalooza tour, so this is only natural. And you know another thing I’ve been telling people is right now it’s hard to sell records. Tours are necessary because people have to get out here and live tour. We wanted to create vehicles for artists to get out there and make some money, get around the country and see things. It’s time to launch a lot of tours and stuff. It’s important.
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