For more than 10 years, Brooklyn’s AFROPUNK Festival has been highlighting music and art that doesn’t quite fit into traditional categories.
The festival sprung from a 2003 documentary that highlighted African-Americans involved in the largely white punk scene. While it has changed over time — it’s no longer free and now draws from the mainstream as well as the underground — it still maintains its nonconformist roots.
For one thing, it’s the rare festival that gives away tickets to people who sign up and complete a volunteer project. For another, even this year’s headliners, led by million-sellers Lenny Kravitz and Ms. Lauryn Hill, as well as bluesman Gary Clark Jr. and music and fashion icon Grace Jones, aren’t your typical superstars. All are known for doing things their own way and being willing to go against the grain. The rest of the lineup is even more eclectic. Here are some bands to watch for
Death Grips Lately, the biggest question at Death Grips’ shows is whether the band will show up. When the trio is actually together, it makes music that combines shouted raps with dark alt-rock reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, an act Death Grips was supposed to tour with last year before suddenly splitting up.
SZA SZA is often known for the company she keeps, which includes Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Wale. On her own, she makes a woozy combination of late-night soul and electro-pop that she says is influenced by Billie Holiday, Bjork and Wu-Tang Clan.
Suicidal Tendencies In the early ’80s, Suicidal Tendencies paved the way for thrash, hard core and skate punk bands to make it on to MTV (albeit very late at night). They later added elements of funk and prog-rock to the mix, becoming more melodic — and more popular — along the way.
Thundercat The stage name of singer/bassist/producer Stephen Bruner, Thundercat is best known for his work with Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar. His own music will appeal to fans of both artists, with its combination of ’70s funk, jazz and electronica-influenced R&B.
Vintage Trouble Vintage Trouble is a hard touring band bringing back the blues-rock and soul music of the 1960s. It may be covering well-trod ground, but singer Ty Taylor’s soulful vocals are undeniable, and a big reason why the group has found itself opening for giants like The Who, AC/DC and Dave Matthews.
Raury When Raury’s debut mixtape came out last year, the Atlanta teenager suddenly found himself being compared to Andre 3000, Lorde and Frank Ocean. While he’s not yet at their level as a songwriter, he does share their adventurousness, moving easily between folk, soul and hip-hop. He’s the kind of artist of whom you could find yourself saying, “I saw him when …”
If you go: AFROPUNK Festival is at Commodore Barry Park, Fort Greene, on Saturday and Sunday, $45-$75.