Written by Tamara Chapman and Tarra Boroumandi, Photographed by Johanne Affricot
Afropunk Brooklyn. The highlight of August. I have never witnessed an environment with so many powerful music artists all at once. It was hard to decide who I even wanted to see. The vibes were good, spirits were up, and every single person stepping through the gate was ready to have a good time.
An important component of this festival is the emphasis on activism. Many organizations such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Color of Change, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation spread awareness at the Brooklyn festival. The activism row at Afropunk was a wonderful way for the attendees to help the community and learn about how they can advocate for social justice.
With so many acts to choose from, I decided to dedicate my time to seeing some that I’ve heard good things about but never have witnessed for myself. I headed over to the tiniest stage, the Gold Stage and settled down by the barricade. The first act to catch my eye were The Skins. This group is all about unity, love, and acceptance. It was honestly amazing to see them bring so many people together. They started to sing “Bury Me” and the upbeat tune began to reel in a massive crowd. Soon, everyone was jumping up and down and waving their arms. Out of all of the music festivals I’ve ever been to, this had to be the first time I’ve ever been in such a calm yet exciting environment.
Next up was Jorja Smith, who has to be my favorite artist out right now. Seeing her a few days prior had made me even more excited. She always delivers a flawless performance to say the least. I’ll never forget how blown away the camera men were by her voice, they couldn’t even stand still while recording for the livestream. Her newest song “On My Mind” got the crowd so pumped up, it was so good to see her in her element. She never disappoints.
Then, I headed over to the main stage where I anxiously waited for Sampha’s set to begin. I was so excited to finally see him live. A lyrical genius with an astounding voice, Sampha has blown up so quick and it was an honor to see him getting the support he deserves. The wait was finally over. The crowd began to overflow as he walked out in all white attire. He sat in front of a keyboard and before even singing, the crowd went wild. What really had the crowd going was when he sang “Without” and was surrounded by drummers. He’s the most brilliant performer, always keeping the crowd guessing.
Clashing with the ending of Sampha’s set, I rushed over to a different stage to see SZA. With her being one of my favorite musicians in existence, this was a moment I knew that I could not miss. The turnout for her set was insane. The group of people waiting to see her eventually began to flow outside of the stage area, people having to climb on the fence for a good view. She opened her set with “Supermodel” one of the best tracks on Ctrl by a landslide. Her vocals shot through my veins like venom giving me the biggest rush of excitement. Almost like I had been living off of life’s high. When she started doing her infamous little dance to “Broken Clocks” I belted at the top of my lungs and grabbed my friend next to me, rocking back and forth. Literally nothing else in that moment had mattered. Her set from start to finish was something I could relive over and over.
Last but certainly not least, there was Solange. Perhaps the star of the entire show. Her visuals and vocals are absolutely insane. I didn’t think I would be as mesmerized as I was. When the intro to “Cranes in the Sky” began to play everyone started to scream and I felt chills rolling down my spine. The whistle tones. Enough said. With each song transition her performance got better, though I never expected anything less. She also ended up bringing out Sampha to perform “Don’t Touch My Hair” which had to be the best part of the show. There was no one better that could’ve closed out night one.
On Sunday, I was most excited to see Kevin Abstract. The day before he was set to play, he tweeted that he would bring out Brockhampton as a surprise. This would be their first live performance as a boyband. Kevin first took the stage and played a few of his own songs from his albums American Boyfriend and MTV1987. You could hear every voice singing along to his hit track, “Empty”. About ten minutes into the set, Kevin announced that Brockhampton would now take the stage, much to the delight of everyone in the audience. Screams rang throughout the air as all of the members took the stage. They started off with a riled-up performance of “GUMMY”, and each member looked shocked as everyone in the audience sang along to each and every word. Then the boyband played “GOLD”, and everyone in the crowd got progressively louder as they danced and screamed the words. Brockhampton ended their set with “STAR”, a fan-favorite, as members of the band dove on top of the audience. Their set was truly the highlight of Sunday.