Last week at MoMA PS1 was one for the record books. For the second time in the event’s 16-year history we sold out presale tickets, and by early in the day we had managed to cram about 5,500 people into the courtyard. And an impressive slate of hip-hop artists demonstrated the routes rap has taken on its way to becoming a global phenomenon—from the bubbling music of New York and the clubs of London, to the radio airwaves and everywhere in between.
Jubilee and Star Eyes, a pair of NYC bass mainstays, took the stage first. Jubilee jumps back and forth between Miami and Brooklyn, spreading the gospel of international bass, house, and rap sounds. Star Eyes, who started DJing at 15, first caught buzz with the Trouble and Bass crew. They promised righteous vibes from the moment the music started—matching shirts, complimentary styles—and proved a perfect fit.
Representing hip-hop across the Pond, Darq E Freaker joined us from London. He seamlessly integrated contemporary dance music with grime-trap sounds, a unique combination of elements that has earned him a ton of support from BBC Radio 1, the attention of a grip of labels, and production assignments for Danny Brown, Gita (whom he brought out for a few songs), and more. He mixed his own tracks in with some of this summer’s more popular U.S. rap tracks, and was received with a warmth that belied his first-ever appearance on a U.S. stage.World’s Fair represents Queens, making them the hometown heroes. The sprawling crew has a sound that samples liberally from the Golden Era of hip-hop, yet manages to avoid being a simple throwback. Queens was definitely in the house for their set, screaming along to songs that they most likely didn’t know the words to. Worlds Fair’s enthusiasm was contagious, and despite performing at the relatively early set time of 4:15 p.m., they completely charmed the already packed courtyard.
Mr. MFN eXquire graced our stage, representing Brooklyn and the re-emerging New York sound. eXquire first blew up on the local scene with his NSFW ode to vodka, “Huzzah.” Beneath the multitude of colorful chains he wears around his neck is an extremely versatile and creative MC, and while he wore a much more low-key outfit than we’re used to, he brought his all to the stage, spitting his newest material with dexterity, playfully jawing with the audience, and even bringing World’s Fair back out for a cameo song with him.
Bangladesh may not be too familiar a name, but his sound sure did ring some bells. The phrase, “Wait wait, he did this one too?” probably ended up being the most common proclamation of the entire weekend, as he paraded his compositions throughout his set, brought out some special guest stars, and even gave MCing a shot—all while answering people’s questions with a volley of excited “I made this!!!” shouts.
If you’ve turned the radio on this summer, the name J. Cole should need no introduction. A rare mixture of producer and rapper, he’s the proud creator of one of this summer’s biggest singles “Power Trip,” (which incidentally features Warm Up 2012 alumni Miguel), among many, many others. Given his massive success, we were a little shocked by the depth of passion he displayed onstage, and the unparalleled enthusiasm and genuine joy his fans felt watching him was palpable. Thousands of people sang along to not only his radio cuts, but also his deeper, more personal tracks. (Some even lined up as early as 7:00 a.m. to make sure they’d get a good look. For those of us who organize Warm Up, it embodied a pivotal element of the program: giving a musician the opportunity to do a unique, stripped-down version of his typical set without compromising any of its power.
Headliner King Britt, a Philly legend who has had a hand in multiple eras of hip-hop history (as you can hear in his FACT mix), proved that he is fundamentally the kind of artist that belongs on the MoMA PS1 stage, an innovator and pioneer whose mixes educate and expand while still rocking crowds. His incredible set mixed all of these influences and sounds together into a sundae that had a Saul Williams cherry on top.
Be sure to join us this weekend, featuring a DJ set from the very special headliner, Caribou. Get your presale ticket before they sell out!