The Afropunk Brooklyn festival can trace its roots back to a 2003 documentary about African-Americans in the indie rock, punk and hardcore scenes. Over the years, the “Afro-Punk” movie and the lifestyle it celebrated has led to an Afropunk online magazine and a festival that now takes place in London and Paris as well as Fort Greene. This year’s Brooklyn event is headlined by Ice Cube, TV on the Radio, Janelle Monae and Tyler the Creator. But there are plenty of other acts worth seeing, encompassing hip-hop, rock, soul, pop and electronica. Here are a few worth keeping an eye out for.
The British soul singer’s music seems to be from another time, seamlessly merging R&B and gospel with classical, jazz and pop. She has been compared to both Nina Simone and Joanna Newsom, but like those visionary, challenging artists, there’s really no one else quite like her. While her music can often take unexpected turns, it’s always worth going along for the ride.
This duo, led by Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler of Digable Planets, makes futuristic hip-hop, with Butler’s raps layered over space-age sound effects. The band is currently working on its third album, which Butler has said will be about people’s relationships with electronic devices.
A poet, rapper, writer and actor, in 2014, Williams played the lead role in “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” a Broadway show featuring Tupac Shakur’s music. His own music clearly shows his roots as a slam poet and political activist, while incorporating rap, pop and alt-rock. Over the years, he has performed with Nas, the Fugees, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha.
This DJ is best-known for her long running Negroclash night at APT, which she described as “a celebration of the African-American contribution to electronic music,” as well as her former role at The Standard Hotel’s Boom Boom Room. Expect her set to include house music, classic soul, ’80s new wave and ’90s hip-hop.
Along with FKA Twigs, Kelela is one of the leading voices of alternative R&B, putting deeply emotional vocals over electronic productions. She has become a favorite of name-brand producers like Arca, Boots and Clams Casino, as well as fans who are eagerly awaiting her debut full-length album.
This offshoot of the Odd Future hip-hop collective is led by singer-songwriter Syd tha Kyd and producer Matt Martians. While its sound is far closer to the hip-hop-influenced neo-soul of Miguel and Bilal, the group maintains some of Odd Future’s defiant spirit.
Gallant is sometimes compared to Frank Ocean for his ability to meld classic R&B with more current pop styles in a way that seems both new and familiar. Like Ocean, Gallant’s voice and personality are strong enough to hold your attention, no matter what style he uses to express himself.
This 10-piece band from Houston describes their music as “Gulf Coast soul.” While their horn section and the vocals of Kam Franklin speak to their roots in classic soul music, they also love rock, reggae, Latin music and Southern hip-hop, each of which make their way into the band’s sound.