Where other music festivals may nod toward diversity, Afropunk lives it, with a wide spectrum of races, genders and nationalities represented in its lineup. That commitment to diverse performance offerings doesn’t end there, though: This is a festival that features R&B superstar Raphael Saadiq, young heavy metal act Unlocking the Truth and dance legends Soul II Soul on the same bill.
It’s hard to go wrong at this year’s festival, but here are five highlights for those planning Afropunk itineraries.
The festival hits Commodore Barry Park Aug. 26 and 27. For more information, visit afropunkfest.com.
Solange: The Knowles sister who, according to some (including Pitchfork), put out the best album of 2016 has lit up festivals from San Francisco to the Netherlands this summer. She’s taken the festival set, often an afterthought composed of a mishmash of greatest hits, and turned it into an art form of its own. (Saturday, Aug. 26)
The Skins: The hometown band lives between genre labels, seemingly at home on any stage, on a bill with pop, R&B or hip-hop acts. Songs like “Go Off” and “Runaway” have festival-ready hooks that will sound great when chanted by thousands of fans. It’ll be worth arriving early to see — and in a year, you may be bragging about knowing The Skins “way back when.” (Saturday, Aug. 26)
Anderson. Paak: The energetic Southern Californian has continued to rack up the plaudits in the wake of 2016’s Grammy-nominated “Malibu.” (His performance on the drums during A Tribe Called Quest’s Grammy ceremony mini-set was one of the show’s highlights.) With rumors of a new album swirling, will. Paak debut new music for the festival audience? (Sunday, Aug. 27)
After Dark: The festival doesn’t end with the headliners. Afropunk expands on both Saturday and Sunday to include local venues like Bedford Hall and Baby’s All Right for comedy, jazz jam sessions, and even a networking dance party. This year's highlights include an evening of Afro-futurist short films and the yearly Fancy Dress Ball. (Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27)
Battle for the Streets: Few other festivals would feature a skate competition, but Afropunk is its own beast. Three different age groups will compete for $5,000 in prizes, with an “old man sk8 jam” for those 30 years old and up on Sunday. There’ll even be a clinic for those whose skateboarding experience begins and ends with the Tony Hawk video games. (Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27)