the band as just another celebrity vanity project. (Hubby Will Smith spectated backstage, beaming.) So while I did feel there was something missing in the music—all rock, no groove—Jada has plenty of stage presence, and the band itself is clearly talented. If they stick with it, I’d be open for another look.
Chuck D. It was almost as if Public Enemy frontman Chuck D was the icing on the Afropunk cake in its pro-indie positioning. Between rock treatments of the PE songbook courtesy of a killer backing band, Chuck hasn’t slowed his roll in the least. (Producer Rick Rubin has called the band’s 1987 debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show as much of a punk album as a hip-hop album.) He railed against what he called “hate music” coming from the major hip-hop stations and admonished the crowd for not holding its artists accountable. “Be smarter than your smartphone,” he said. He also urged people to support his Occupy Free Air movement, which pushes for radio stations to devote 40% of their playlists to local artists.
Honorable mentions: Up-and-coming rap-rockers Small Axe and Rebelmatic; props to their stage presence and the fact that both bands were clearly having fun. Detroit’s Danny Brown put on a great show (tongue and all), and the crowd was with him the moment he stepped on stage.