The Northside Festival goes out with a bang, thanks to three high-energy acts and a surprise appearance from a hip hop mogul.
This California rapper started the night off in an interesting way, demanding to know that the audience "doesn't fuck with the police" following the declaration "Free Bobby Shmurda!"
Staples' hit "65 Hunnid," which he played towards the beginning of his set, whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The energy that Staples brought to the crowd was not an easy feet, because while it wasn't quite "65 hunnid degrees," a balmy 85 in Brooklyn is draining.
It wasn't just the music that the audience was vibing on, as the physicality of Staples' performance was also impressive. He swung his arms, ran back and forth on the stage, and even leaned over the crowd barrier into throbbing hands and faces while being supported by a security guard. Staples did a great job of getting everyone in the mood for three more hours of music.
If Vince Staples got everybody's blood pumping with his set, Sleigh Bells kept it pumping. Built around the duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, on this evening a drummer and second guitar player helped to kick out the hard rockin' jams.
But it was lead singer Alexis Krauss that really put this performance over the edge. Like Staples, she wasn't stationary for more than five seconds. Watching her belt out lyrics to the powerful distortion and percussion behind her was the perfect interlude between two hip hop acts.
Run The Jewels
Despite two fantastic opening acts, this show was really about the hardcore hip hop duo and musical force to be reckoned with, Run The Jewels. Staples introduced a song by saying that he wants to see if "Killer Mike will like this one." Alexis Krauss recounted the story of when she was first shown "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)," and how she knew it was something special. When it finally came time for Killer Mike and El-P to take the stage, Queen's "We Are The Champions" blasted from the speakers, and the crowd went wild.
All within seconds, Killer Mike exclaimed, "We about to burn this muthafucka down," rain began to pour down from the sky, and the instrumental to the title track of their first album, "Run The Jewels," began to play. They were off.
From that point on, there was no stopping them. The louder tone that both rappers used, often sounding closer to a yell, perfectly portrayed the aggressive attitude that people love Run The Jewels for. Between tracks, El-P and Killer Mike spoke in very short terms, usually coming up with a clever turn of phrase to introduce the next track. Every song they played had the subtle echo of the audience singing along. It was for these reasons that when El-P said, "Brooklyn, I was born and raised here. This show is a life's dream for me," there was a moment of silence that signaled understanding in the crowd.
The multiple guest spots only added to the hype. Queens rapper Despot came out for a short verse, Gangsta Boo from Three 6 Mafia came all the way from Atlanta to rap her verse on "Love Again (Akinyele Back)," Mr. Len of Company Flow scratched over a track, and even rap legend Nas (the head of RTJ's record label, Mass Appeal) took the stage to perform his track "Made You Look" and congratulate the duo on their success.
Looking back on the performance, there's only one way to describe Run The Jewels at Northside Festival 2015. They burnt that muthafucka down.
All photos by Noah Zipper. © Zumic, 2015