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Reggie Watts at Afropunk Fest 2012
Photograph: wagz2itReggie Watts at Afropunk Fest 2012

The 10 best acts to see at Afropunk Festival 2015

The annual music festival celebrates urban culture in its many forms—here are the names you need to check out

Written by
Ro Samarth

Like its summer music festival brethren Central Park SummerStage and Celebrate Brooklyn!Afropunk Festival brings a genre-crossing lineup of music to an airy outdoor setting. This year's offerings are as diverse as any, with artists ranging from trash metalheads Suicidal Tendencies to rap and R&B empress Lauryn Hill. Here are 10 must-see acts we recommend you don’t miss.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Afropunk Festival

The 10 best acts to see at Afropunk Festival

Photograph: Laurent Levy

1. Kelis

With her 1999 single “Caught Out There,” Kelis gave us license to publicly scream “I hate you so much right now!,” and we shall be eternally grateful. We’re excited to get down on the dance floor for everything from Flesh Tones’ electro-dance beats to the recent Food’s hybrid rock-and-soul stylingsOh, and of course: “Milkshake!”

Photograph: Laurent Levy

Grace Jones

2. Grace Jones

Grace Jones’ angular shoulder paddings have arguably exerted as great, if not greater, an influence in the musical world than most musicians’ entire oeuvres. The postdisco diva might be releasing a memoir later this year, but make no mistake: After 67 years of pushing the boundaries of the artistic avant-garde, she’s not done yet.

Photograph: Anton Perich

Danny Brown
Photograph: Ysa Perez

3. Danny Brown

Danny Brown is a weird dude and weirdly irresistible—a word-drunk rapper with the technical skills of a Scribble Jam champion, the ability to rap over any beat you throw at him, the imagination of a dadaist genius, no front teeth and a slash of hair that belongs on the teenage frontman for a crappy screamo band. Expect a lively set, to say the least.

Photograph: Ysa Perez


4. Kele

For our money, Bloc Party was one of the strongest British bands that became popular in the mid-’00s playing songs marked by the mid-’80s. It's no surprise that both the solo albums from Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke have been keepers—at once, arty and dancey.

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Drew Reynolds

5. Thundercat

A veteran of Suicidal Tendencies (also playing Afropunk) and a protégé of Flying Lotus, electric bassist Stephen Bruner now plies funky, jazzy grooves as Thundercat, in which guise his work can call to mind vintage Stanley Clarke and Bootsy Collins as easily as more recent low-end theorists Squarepusher and Victor Wooten.

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Drew Reynolds

Cakes Da Killa
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Hank Pearl

6. Cakes Da Killa

With his slippery wordplay and mercilessly aggressive flow on songs like the recent “Serve It Up,” Cakes is maintaining his status this year as vanguard underground rapper and “most likely to steal your boyfriend.”

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Hank Pearl

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Nicholas Schrunk

7. Brenmar

Brenmar can’t be boxed in—while the skittering kicks and snares on songs like “Done (Don’t Luv Me No More)” place him alongside footwork producers like DJ Rashad and Spinn, others like “Taking It Down” infuse house beats with R&B flavor. Regardless of the genre, Brenmar slays a dancefloor.

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Nicholas Schrunk

Petite Noir
© Travys Owen

8. Petite Noir

Over lush synths and muted guitars, Cape Town native Petite Noir’s voice sounds just as arresting at a crackly falsetto whisper as it does at a sonorous heartbroken wail.

Photograph: Travys Owen

Curtis Harding
Hedi Slimane

9. Curtis Harding

Though numerous artists over the past few years have used R&B as a material for newly retro-styled sounds, no one has attempted and succeeded at straight-forward soul like Curtis Harding. It’s refreshing to see someone revitalize and push the genre forward, rather than pick it apart.

Photograph: Hedi Slimane

10. MikeQ

Ballroom vogue prodigy MikeQ is one of the leading figures in Jersey Club, and for good reason. Bombastic beats and stuttering fractured vocal samples make for an explosive party whenever he hits the decks.

Photograph: Courtesy LVL3 Media

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