Hip-hop shows are in the spotlight this summer in New York: Central Park SummerStage has devoted much of its programming to the genre with its “This is ___ Hip-Hop” series, which includes concerts by the rarely-seen DJ Kool Herc, Marley Marl, Bilal, Rakim and more. Check out those shows and more below.
RECOMMENDED: All summer concerts in NYC
Flatbush Zombies + The Underachievers
Beast Coast affiliates Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers, two of the more expressive underground hip-hop duos working in New York today, reach toward distinct sounds, finding common ground from their unabashed love of psychedelics. The Zombies turn up, tune in and drop out in order to achieve an aggressive sort of greater oneness, offsetting the inherent moral ambiguity that comes with selling drugs. The Underachievers, meanwhile, are interested in matters far more celestial than those found on the corner. summerstage.org. Free.
Big Daddy Kane
Big Daddy Kane will forever be linked with Rakim, his primary rival for lyrical supremacy in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but his acrobatic, dancecentric live shows traditionally resembled those of a less likely peer: MC Hammer. Even today, many regard Kane as rap’s greatest performer. Brooklyn mixmaster DJ Scratch opens. summerstage.org. Free.
Dead Prez once released an album titled Revolutionary but Gangsta. Given the duo’s militant, almost Marxist approach to the genre, that description seems about right to us. Famous for their antiestablishment anthems, like “Hip-Hop” and “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System),” stic-man and M1 are in many ways the stylistic and ideological forebears of the most vital artists in today’s hip-hop underground, proving that there’s no reason you can’t tear down the system in the most intelligent way possible. summerstage.org. Free.
Dana Dane + Grand Puba
Catch a couple of hip-hop lifers during this show, held at a Brownsville playground. Dana Dane got his start in the Kangol Crew with Slick Rick, but came into his own as a funny performer with a faux-British accent (check one of his earliest singles, “Cinderfella Dana Dane,” for proof). Grand Puba made his name as a founder—and later, lead MC—of early-’90s group Brand Nubian, but has been doing his own thing for some time now. summerstage.org. Free.
DJ Kool Herc
By now, hip-hop’s origin story is fairly well known: At a Bronx house party in 1973, Clive Campbell—soon to become DJ Kool Herc—essentially created the genre after playing breaks from various tunes back-to-back on two turntables. But the man who created it has stayed out of the spotlight in recent years. That’ll change this summer, as Herc has many appearances planned to coincide with hip-hop’s ruby anniversary. Crotona Park, Bronx. July 10 at 7pm; free. • SummerStage Main Stage, Central Park. Aug 10 at 3pm; free. • summerstage.org
This event is both a film screening and a concert: Documentarian Henry Chalfant’s 2007 film From Mambo to Hip-Hop: A South Bronx Tale will be shown, and Bronx stalwarts the Ghetto Brothers will perform. It’s a fitting combination: The Brothers came out of the South Bronx in the early ’70s (the group was formed by members of a street gang turned political-activist group of the same name), and though they only released one album, they remained influential on early hip-hoppers. summerstage.org. Free.
Mambo to Hip-Hop Part 3: The Graffiti Movement and the Media It Inspires
Street artists and musicians descend on the Point CDC, a South Bronx community center, for a day devoted to the history and lasting influence of graffiti. Expect talks from legendary taggers Tats Cru and street-art historian Crash, as well as live painting sessions, film screenings and a set from DJ Fred Ones. summerstage.org. Free.
Marley Marl and Guests
To this day one of the most innovative, talented and straight-up fun producers to eye down a sampler, Marley Marl is making a three-night stand in his homestead of Queensbridge Park to perform with Meli’sa Morgan (July 16), Force MDs and Horace Brown (July 17), and Black Sheep and Das EFX (July 18). If you can only catch one date, make it the final one: That legendary bill should be cherished whether it’s 1993 or 2013. summerstage.org. Free.
Rock Steady Crew 36th Anniversary Concert with Pete Rock and CL Smooth
It’s rare that the Golden Era stars known as Pete Rock and CL Smooth align these days, so when they reunite on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you’ve got nary an excuse to not make the occasion. They’ll be joined by the legendary B-Boys the Rock Steady Crew; though their “boy” days might be behind them, they’ll wow you with their ability to put on a nearly holistic hip-hop experience. summerstage.org. Free.
This NYC trio has been lying low for the past few years, but the onetime critics’ darling will bring its proudly Afrocentric grooves to Harlem for this date, part of SummerStage’s “This Is ___ Hip-Hop” series. summerstage.org. Free.