AFROPUNK may have been held in New York since 2005, but last year was the first time it made the foray across the Atlantic, and into London. As much a political statement as a music festival, the event promises “an eclectic line-up and an audience as diverse as the acts they come to see.” A far cry from the continuing controversy over Reading & Leeds’ failure to book more than a handful of non-white, non-male acts.
Early controversy over the booking of MIA for last year’s event (due to her controversial comments on the “Black Lives Matter” movement) and her subsequent replacement by living legend Grace Jones was an early indicator that AFROPUNK would be a different proposition to the majority of UK festivals. And different it was, held at Alexandra Palace and showing just how diverse festivals could be, whilst still keeping a sense of inclusion and fun.
This year’s event looks set to continue the trend, moving from the Alexandra Palace to The Printworks. The venue may have changed, but the quality of the acts hasn’t. Massive names booked alongside up and coming talent in one of the strongest line-ups on display this summer, and one of the few not to book the same tired list of names.
Saturday’s highlight will undoubtedly be JME, CEO of Boy Better Know, vegan, piano player and one of the best grime MCs in the game. With his last album Integrity> released back in 2015, JME has been hinting for a while now that new material is on the horizon. Will he be revealing it at AFROPUNK? (We really hope so).
Danny Brown will also be performing on the Saturday, and the Detroit native isn’t one to be missed. A unique mix of gangster rap and hipster weird, Danny Brown has a reputation as one of the most unique MCs around. He’s definitely not a case of style over substance though, with his most recent album, 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, being released to widespread critical acclaim, and pulling in features from artists like Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt.
Further down the line-up acts like Little Simz and Nadia Rose are two MCs that could well be headlining in years to come, with Nadia Rose shortlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2017, and Little Simz being acclaimed by figures as diverse as Zane Lowe and Dizzee Rascal.
The Sunday is distinctly more laid-back, but still pulls in some of the biggest names in jazz, soul and everything in between. Singer Lianne La Havas has featured on tracks by Rudimental, and her debut album Blood cemented her status as one of the absolute best Soul singers in the UK.
Thundercat may have reached a wider audience than ever before for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, but it’s his latest project Drunk that really makes him an exciting prospect live. Managing to flit between genres seemingly at will, but keep the groove going no matter what, the only thing more wide-ranging than Thundercat’s influences are his fans, who include not just Kendrick, but Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa and Kenny Loggins too, all of which contributed to Drunk.
As if that wasn’t enough, the rest of Sunday’s line-up cherry picks some of the best talent around, from Willow Smith all the way to upcoming soul act Connie Constance. Sunday might not have you jumping around in the same way Saturday will, but it’ll feature some of the most beautiful singing you’ve heard in a hell of a long time.
This article is only a peek through the keyhole at the diversity and quality of the acts that will be gracing AFROPUNK’s stage this weekend, so if you’re still on the fence, don’t be, it’ll be great.
For the full line-up and last minute tickets, visit www.afropunkfest.com/london/