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Hip-hop festival bigger than ever — and it opens on July 5

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival is like the genre itself — it’s gotten bigger and more expensive every year.

When it began in 2005, the festival was a free, afternoon concert with just a handful of acts, the most famous being 1980s group Brand Nubian.

Over the years, the DUMBO showcase has managed to book a slew of nationally known artists like Ghostface Killah and DJ Premier, Video Music Box founder Ralph McDaniels as a host, and local business sponsors such as Brooklyn Brewery.

Today, the summer festival, held at Brooklyn Bridge Plaza from July 5-10, is a six-day celebration of the culture, complete with an amateur MC competition, a film exhibition, panel discussions, a DJ show and a $15 price tag for its main performance day.

Still, it’s a bargain, especially with the pioneering hip-hop group De La Soul headlining on July 10. The group has been in the game for more than 20 years and is still dropping new material. The Duck Down Records crew, celebrating their 15th anniversary, will also be performing at the waterfront show, as it has done the past two years.

“Most of the Duck Down roster is from Brooklyn, so it’s an honor and a privilege to come back every year,” said Steele, one-half of the gritty Smif-n-Wesson rap duo. “Expect our latest music and a real, live show. Ain’t no lip-syncing going on here.”

Other noteworthy performances include former Juice Crew member Masta Ace, borough up-and-comer Skyzoo, as well as a few out-of-towners, including Slum Village-associate Black Milk, bringing his hard-hitting rhymes to represent Detroit, and Washington, D.C.-based trio Diamond District, offering their blend of sample-heavy beats and story-telling rhymes.

There’s more than just the music to look forward to. Festival director Wes Jackson is especially pumped for the July 6 Bodega Education Initiative, a teach-in about the life and works of late producer J Dilla. The seminar is true edutainment, with hip-hop artist Q-Tip among the speakers at the Initiative, held at The Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights.

“We wanted to create an academic archive for hip-hop music and culture,” said Jackson. “Hip-hop has a healthy commercial and entertainment value, but we need to create an editorial and academic record so our story is told properly.”

The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Plaza and Tobacco Warehouse (26 New Dock St. in DUMBO, no phone), July 5-10. Ticket prices vary; Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival Bodega Education Initiative at The Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. between Clinton and Henry streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222-1241], July 6, 2–8 pm. Tickets $10. For info, visit www.bkhiphopfestival.com.

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