After a nearly three-year hiatus, the Afropunk festival returned last weekend to the borough where it was born: Brooklyn, New York’s Commodore Barry Park. The two-day gathering was anchored by its headliners — Philadelphia’s the Roots and Nigerian superstar singer Burna Boy (pictured above) — and featured its usual broad but Afro-centric range of genres: From alternative rap artists like Doechii and Tierra Whack to Afrobeats star Adekunle Gold, there was a sound for nearly everyone, and the event as a whole struck an inspiring balance between social consciousness and joie de vivre. The festival grounds were curated with African and Caribbean food vendors, Black-owned beauty brands, and a plethora of photo installations.
Launched in 2005, Afropunk has since spread to Miami, Atlanta, London, and South Africa.
Day one was packed with a mix of rising stars and household names. Doechii and Talia Goddess set the tone with high-energy sets. Doechii pulled inspiration from one her musical influences — Outkast — and interpolated the instrumental of their early ‘00s single “The Way You Move” into her budding hit “Persuasive,” which features SZA. Talia brought her signature alt-R&B and Caribbean-punk vibe. Isaiah Rashad and Freddie Gibbs continued the day with strong performances, and the Roots closed out the night with an electrifying mashup of their hits, with standout solos from drummer/leader Questlove and drum kit/MPC musician Stro Elliot.
Afropunk has long been produced by Brooklyn natives, and they have always used the platform to elevate artists within their own community. Borough native Talia Goddess reflected on her set saying, “Some of my favorite artists performed here when they were young, I’m on the right path.” This is a similar sentiment shared by other performers such as Brooklyn-based R&B singer, Alex Mali and staple NYC nightlife DJ, Moresoupplease. While preparing for his set Moresoupplease said, “It’s a full-circle moment. I was doing photography here, now to be DJing and to be invited seven years later is a big deal.”
While the weather was temperate on Saturday, as the rain poured down through nearly all of day two, fans and artists kept the vibe strong even as the skies opened up. Highlights included a lively set from Nigerian singer Adekunle Gold, and Burna Boy closed out the night with a powerful set of hits, including his current single “Last Last,” with fans singing along, word for word — and, true to the spirit of Afropunk, transcending all language barriers.