Afropunk Festival 2015 Day Two: Lenny Kravitz, Raury, Gary Clark Jr. & More Command the Crowd [EXCLUSIVE]
After witnessing Grace Jones' bold moves, Kelis' baby bump and transgender protesters chanting Janelle Monae's "Hell You Talmbout" on Saturday, the final day of the Afropunk festival brought an even larger crowd (and more sunny weather) at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sunday (Aug. 23).
Fans of hip-hop, soul, electro, rock and R&B spread out among the three stages dedicated to a solid list of performers. Some heard DJ sets from collectives such as Everyday People and Soulection at the gold stage throughout the day while others formed circles and joined dance battles near the red stage.
The second day of the festival was nothing short of vibrant moments and even colorful people. From Jesse Boykins III driving women up the wall with his smooth vocals to Kelela giving us the feels to Lenny Kravitz simply being present, take a look at the top moments of day two at the Afropunk festival.
Jesse Boykins III was a smooth operator at the green stage Sunday. Despite the weather being ridiculoulsy hot, the singer decided to wear layers of clothing, including a turtleneck and knitted vest. But as his set continued, he removed each piece, stirring up the ladies in the crowd. Besides the eye candy he was serving up, Boykins’ rich vocals are nothing to mess with. This was evident in his live renditions of "B4 the Night Is Thru," "Back Home" and "The Perfect Blues," to name a few. His lower register easily went way up for pitch perfect higher notes, making his brand of moody R&B inescapable. Boykins also performed a new song from a forthcoming mixtape called Bartholomew. "Tell me where you're going when you get there," he commanded the crowd to sing from his new cut.
Thundercat chose to walk out onstage with his prized fur wolf hat, caring little about the blazing sun overhead. "What's going on Brooklyn? God damn you look beautiful," he shouted. The singer and bassist, who has previously worked with Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus, took the Afropunk crowd into a dreamy space as he and his band performed tracks from his latest opus, The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. He also played a few chords from Kendrick Lamar’s "Complexion (A Zulu Love)," a song he produced, which is featured on the rapper's To Pimp a Butterfly album. After his set, the artist could be seen chopping it up with fans in the crowd, a rare sight to see.
Raury was originally scheduled to perform his show at the same time as Thundercat, on another stage, so choosing between the two artists was difficult. But the music gods came to the rescue because the 19-year-old Georgia native performed on the red stage much later than expected. The singer-rapper kicked things off with his SBTRKT collaboration "Higher." During his performance of "Superfly." he told everyone in the crowd to look to their left and right, hug a person and introduce themselves. The 2015 XXL Freshman Class artist used his moment in the spotlight for a greater good by dedicating his song "Fly" to people who have died from police brutality and chanted "Black lives matter" in unison with the crowd. "Times are too serious to making music about bulls---," he said. Well said, Raury.
From start to finish, GoldLink's performance was lit. There wasn't a single soul standing still as the rapper opened up with "Bedtime Story" and later "Ay Ay" from his album The God Complex. Between songs, his DJ played classic R&B records like "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan and "Love Like This Before" from Faith Evans. “I heard my exes are here, so you know my f--- levels are mad low,” he yelled. Before his show came to an end, the Washington, D.C. native, who also made it on the XXL Freshman Class cover this year, played a go-go version of Soulja Boy's "Gucci Bandana" and shouted out his hometown.
Another great act to witness on the red stage was Kelela. The singer, accompanied by a DJ, gave the crowd an overdose of emo with her performance. "Enemy," "Go All Night (Let Me Roll)" and "Send Me Out" were a couple of joints she rolled out on Sunday. One crew of girls in the crowd exited midway through her set, complaining Kelela’s show “was too sexy.” But had they stuck around a little bit longer, they’d hear the singer turn things up a notch on a new song called "Rewind" that will be on her forthcoming EP. The beat is nostalgic of Miami bass and has some trap elements. "A lot of my songs are sad,” said Kelela, “but I prefer to help you get in your feelings and out of them." Amen to that and to her live vocals being just as good as her recordings.
Meanwhile, back on the green stage, Gary Clark Jr. let his guitar speak for him as he remained mostly quiet on stage in between playing "Ain’t Messing Around," "When My Train Pulls In" and "We’re Gonna Make It," among other tracks. Couples slow danced and the singles ready to mingle swayed as he belted out, “You’re the one I'm thinking of, I'm dreaming of / You're my baby and I'm your man.” The field was filled with friends, family and lovers alike who were winding down with the blues player and soaking up the final hours of Afropunk.
Kaytranada is either on your radar or you're absolutely clueless about his skills. If you were lucky enough to catch him at Afropunk, there's no doubt you walked away a fan. While Lenny Kravitz was performing at the green stage on the other side of the fence, the Canadian DJ and producer went to work spinning an electrifying set. From old school and new school records to mixes and originally produced music, the concert-goers got busy two-stepping, clapping along to the beat and dropping it low. "Where my Haitians at?" he yelled, receiving an engaging response in return. As the final act on the red stage, he didn't fall short when it came to maintaining the attention of those watching him at his craft. From hip-hop, house, funk to R&B, his transitions were seamless. Well played, Kay.
Thankfully, there were no “zip slips” at the Afropunk festival when Lenny Kravitz hit the stage as headliner. All jokes aside, he was welcomed by a packed field that included kids and middle-aged adults cheering him on in his native hometown of Brooklyn. The 57-year-old delivered a high-energy performance with stellar musicianship from his band to his background singers. He was pleased as he looked out in the crowd to see the "beautiful black people” in attendance. Kravitz’s set list included his classic "American Woman," “Till It’s Over,’ ‘Dancin Till Dawn" and "I Belong to You." “C’mon lets go to church! C’mon turn that organ on," he commanded his band before jumping into his uplifting debut single "Let Love Rule." The singer had the audience repeat the affirming lyrics over and over again. Another big hit that didn't go untouched was "Fly Away" before Kravitz brought the final day of Afropunk to a satisfying end.
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