Shortly before 3 p.m. a call for unity went out across the field as a crew of hype men from the Zulu Nation set the stage for legendary hip-hop DJ and breakbeat originator Afrika Bambaataa. “Peace, unity, love and having fun,” was the refrain for the set which rapidly evolved into the best dance party of the festival.
Bambaataa spun a mix of funk, soul and early hip-hop cuts. George Clinton’s “Flash Light,” Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Push It” and Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” all made it into the soundtrack. First b-boys, including a few all-stars from Austin’s B-Boy City, took the stage to break it down. Then the Zulu crew opened it up for anyone who wanted to shake something. Next thing you know the stage was packed with men, women, one small child and a lion all strutting their stuff.
Yes, there was predictably more twerking then necessary, but the dominant vibe was just a feel-good old school block party with fun grooves and abundant love. Bambaataa took the set out dropping a quick cut of the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” and following it with an a Capella sing-along of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You.”
Fifteen minutes after Bambaataa left the stage Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree stormed in with the furious 2012 track “No Way.” The vibe was completely different but there was beauty in the contrast. Moving from a hero of hip-hop’s early days to one of the hardest working crews from the indie underground the fest moved us from the best of old school to the best of the new school.
Six members strong with two producers and four emcees who have each other’s backs 100 percent, Doomtree is a reminder of how powerful a hip-hop crew can be. Taking turns spitting furious flows over stormy melodics and skittery electronic beats their set was a demonstration of strength in numbers.
Weaving in and out of each other’s rhymes and taking turns on the front of stage platforms, they got the crowd engaged early and kept them hype throughout.
“If you’ve been rocking with us for awhile thanks for coming. If you have no idea who we are, thanks for giving us a chance,” emcee Dessa said halfway through. By the time they closed with a bombastic version of “Bangarang” it’s safe to say many of the casual listeners were new fans. It’s also safe to say new school hip-hop is going strong.