Anthems Interrupted - The Downside to the 2009 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival

“They givin‘ us the boot, man. They tellin‘ us we gotta go, man!” - Pharoahe Monch’s DJ

Pharoahe Monch’s raucous headlining performance met an unfortunate fate during the 2009 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. Midway into the first hook of his classic anthem, “Simon Says” - just as Monch writhed into his groove, spitting “New York City, gritty committee pitty a fool that act shitty in the midst of the calm and witty” as the capacity tent rhymed along with the Queens bred Emcee - his DJ unexpectedly cut production, bellowing “They givin‘ us the boot man! They tellin‘ us we gotta go, man!”

On a micro level, the metaphoricalWTF??” unleashed by those in attendance reflected the collective frustration behind witnessing this festival’s apogee castrated by an imposed curfew. Pharoahe Monch was the headlining performer. “Simon Says” is his most popular song and an immediate party starter anywhere in the Hip Hop Universe. A live performance of that track, karaoke or otherwise, should NEVER be interrupted.


Where the micro view bred frustration, the macro breeds concern. Not only was Monch’s anthemic performance of “Simon Says” curtailed at its apex, but his scheduled 30 minute set was severed at the nineteen-minute-and-forty-four-second mark. Attending fans were denied ten-minutes-and-sixteen-seconds of the headlining action!

The assumption is that a series of overages in earlier performances led to the headliner’s time reduction. Similarly to Pharoahe Monch, Styles P’s DJ - exclaiming “We gotta get up outta here!” - bogarted “I Get High” like a shot clock violation. Looking back over BHF’s past, Ghostface Killah (2007) and KRS-One (2008) received less egregious interruptions (neither had their production shut off), but the same issue persisted - headlining performances were penalized by the time constraint.

The BHF packs in so many acts and artists (and politicians) that headlining acts are penalized. The build and pace of the festival is great. Generally speaking, each performer brings more energy and more fans to the event than the previous, allowing for a beautifully rising cascade of Hip Hoppery. But given The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy’s curfew, any potential overage is subtracted from the acts The City paid to see. Styles P and Pharoahe both had anthems interrupted. ANTHEMS!! As a festival organizer, live music planner, or paying concert-goer, this is the most unacceptable outcome.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Summer Jam and Rock The Bells host festivals outside of NYC. Both events are more established in patronage, Giants Stadium and Jones Beach Amphitheater are much larger venues (than Empire Fulton Ferry State Park), and both shows rock much later than 8 o’clock. Are New Jersey and Long Island more accepting of late running concerts than Brooklyn or New York? How much higher is the cost within The City than in other cities in the tri-state area? What is the effect on ticket prices if the curfew is extended?

Or maybe Brooklyn Bodega’s proposed solution was circumvented by the rainy day. The initial two stage format - newer acts performing on the Second Stage, Main Stage reserved for the headliners - was condensed into one stage for weather related reasons . How would the 2-stage format have effected each artist’s time allotment? Would the Main Stage have been set up by the river a la 07 and 08 BHF’s and the Second Stage within the Tobacco Warehouse? Would there have been a scheduled overlap between stages allowing two acts to perform simultaneously? Would that set up have provided better time spacing allowing Styles P and Pharoahe Monch to rock longer?

Could it be that the artists themselves caused this problem? Are headlining acts accustomed to more lenient venue operating hours and longer set times? dead prez, Styles, and Monch rock longer sets “on the reg” (word to Kenny Powers). Are the artists the reason The City shut us down right as we were about to climax?

Does the BHF need an earlier start time? Should there be fewer scheduled acts or shorter set times? Is adding an extra day the solution? What is keeping NYC’s largest Hip Hop festival from extending past 8pm?

If the strategy is to continue growing the BHF as it has over the past 5 years, then Brooklyn Bodega seriously needs to find a way to give the people all of what they want (and paid to see). These questions must be addressed. No organization wants to be known for cutting the paramount performances. The headliners are the ones moving the tickets. Never should they be the one’s Sandman’d off stage Apollo-style.


In the end, its Brooklyn Bodega's choice to address this situation. Either way, the Bodega Fam deserves props and recognition for once again assembling a mostly fantastic Hip Hop experience for both artists and fans at an affordable price. I mean, how can I complain? I’d pay $10 to witness a live set from any of these acts.

Shortened sets or otherwise, it feels like I stole something.

[Editors Note] Pharoahe Monch was allowed to finish his performance of "Simon Says"

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