With HIP-HOP 50, AB celebrates the fiftieth birthday of one of the most exciting cultures in recent music history during the approaching concert season. Hip-hop seems to never age, reinventing itself over and over again, and still functions as a pressure valve for social unrest.
In a programme stretching across the entire concert season, AB aims to bring together the rich past, present and future of the genre. The starting point is the five elements of hip-hop as defined by Afrika Bambaataa, DJ, rapper and founder of The Universal Zulu Nation: MCing (oral), DJing (aural), breakdance (physical), graffiti (visual), and knowledge (mental).
The provisional programme is spread across 25 nights of concerts by national and international artists, numerous workshops (from breakdance to scratching), a podcast series on the many facets of hip-hop, talks and film showings.
We’re joining forces with our neighbours across the road at the Palace cinema, where we’ll delve into the history of hip-hop through a series of screenings. Each film or documentary will be introduced by a speaker.
We’re also exploring the past closer to home, or more accurately, at home. Every month, we’re digging out a poster from an iconic hip-hop concert from the AB archives: for example, legendary concerts by the likes of Public Enemy, Nas, Lil’ Kim, DJ Shadow, Dream Warriors or hip-hop godfathers such as Gil Scott-Heron and Parliament/Funkadelic.
We’re also proud to present the seventies funk band from London, Cymande, who provided an endless source of samples for such artists as De La Soul, Fugees and Wu-Tang Clan. We’ll also hold a genuine ‘Original Sampling Night’, where we play only the original versions of the some samples which are instantly recognisable from hip-hop classics.
Finally, the Brussels-Congolese rapper, producer and Pitcho will revisit in full his 20-year-old debut Regarde Comment!, an album that was hugely influential on the Brussels hip-hop scene. You might also know him from Malcolm X, the show by the Jr.cE.sA.r theatre collective.
Let’s face it: the Netherlands was lightyears ahead of us in Belgium in making Dutch-language hip-hop. Osdorp Posse – the first Dutch-language hip-hop group – formed in 1989. ’t Hof Van Commerce didn’t see the light until 1997. Reason enough to pay tribute to our Dutch neighbours. We’re welcoming De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig for their first sold-out concert in AB. The Opposites, fresh from their recent main-stage show at Rock Werchter, are also coming to AB.
Brihang fervently defends the Belgian flag with a sold-out three-dayer to present his brand-new album. The French-speaking Brussels scene is also represented by rapper Peet, presenting his latest album Todo Bien, Romeo Elvis, and Baloji, the masterful Belgian rapper of Congolese origin who recently presented AUGURE: a triptych consisting of a concert, a film and a fashion exhibition.
The AB x KU Leuven Talk: Is hip-hop still a force for social change? examines whether the political and social activism of the genre is in danger of being lost to commercialisation.
HIP-HOP 50 started with Flammes: a celebration of a new generation of hip-hop talent. On Car-Free Sunday, we transformed the Anspachlaan into a free block party with a line-up curated by Emeraude Kabeya. From old-school boom-bap to trap by way of drill and lyrical rap, with a programme that included Joycie Ruba, Beka, SPACEBABYMADCHA, Stripes and Melissa Farah.
Then there are the artists who project the African-American Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s onto the future. We are, of course, referring to Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa), Aja Monet and Angel Bat Dawid. The latter is particularly indebted to Sun Ra, though her latest album Requiem For Jazz "borrows from spirituals, the blues and rap”, according to Pitchfork. On her acclaimed album ‘when the poems do what they do’ Aja Monet blends jazz with poetry and an intense hip-hop feel. The sound of activist Moor Mother and her free jazz group Irreversible Entanglements is highly reminiscent of The New York Art Quartet, who were once involved with Black Arts Movement member Amira Baraka.
Hip-hop continues to reinvent itself into the future, too. The genre flirts increasingly with punk, psychedelic rock and jazz. Questlove (The Roots) described Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here as a “departure album”, or “when musicians pull a COMPLETE creative left turn”. The 25-year-old rapper surprised listeners by switching his mumble rap for psychedelic rock. Rapper Pink Siifuu flirted openly with punk on his breakthrough album NEGRO. Under the moniker B. Cool-Aid, he returns to his first love: neo-soul and jazz. Drummer Kassa Overall also fully indulges his passion for jazz. Bob Vylan – talk of the town in the London underground – blends brutal grime with hardcore punk.
De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig is bringing the latest generator of rappers through on Burning Fik, the label of rapper Faberyayo and Abel. VPRO: “With an imaginative sound and pubescent humour, the label breathes fresh air into the Dutch hip-hop game.” Those involved include Zeevlinder, Nelcon, Gotu Jim, Kleine Crack and DJ Jan Koster.
Discover all HIP-HOP 50 events here.