Strong Island Hip-Hop Festival Bridges Gap Between Old and New School

By: Miya Jones
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The battle between old and new school in hip-hop is common. You had Joe Budden versus Drake in their 2016 beef and when rappers such as Lil Yatchy claimed Biggie was overrated, you couldn’t find an old-school hip-hop lover who wasn’t foaming at the mouth.

From Aug. 24 to the 25 during Strong Island’s first hip-hop festival at Brentwood’s Youth Activities’ field, rappers, new and seasoned, came out, and despite some setbacks with logistics, the festival ultimately brought the two together for two days of camaraderie.

“The come out was beautiful,” said Brentwood native and event organizer Chavon Fredericks. “Next year I see it projecting very well.”

The gathering of men, women and children came out to support, watch legends perform and see who’s up next. There were around 42 performers during the two-day festival with performances from Mr. Cheeks, EPMD, Keith Murray and the son of the late Craig Mack, Asah Mack.

“It’s a learning experience doing it the first time,” said TJ Burrowes, who was the lead organizer, is the CEO of All Hail Worldwide and is also a Brentwood native. “Yesterday we didn’t do so well due to things that tried to stop us from doing what we wanted to do, but today they [the police] gave us a little more leeway, but at this point we know what to do for next year.”

A miscommunication with the Suffolk County Police Department unfortunately led to the festival having to shut down early, but Burrowes and Fredericks were able to iron out the issues for day two.

“I wouldn’t say it was a hiccup, but it was great learning experience,” said Fredericks. “For us to get it right the day after and learn from our mistakes was an incredible adaptation.”

Despite the bump in the road, Burrowes, and the rest of the team along with the help of Brentwood Youth Activities President Elton George, they still brought out performers from different spectrums of the Long Island hip-hop community.

“We wanted to bridge the gap between the old and the new,” said Burrowes. “When the younger dudes were on stage the older guys and the legends were on the balcony looking at the younger guys doing their thing. When the older guys went, the younger guys were looking. So we’re changing the narrative.”

Erick Sermon of EPMD said he thinks that sometimes the consistent sound and everyone sounding the same leaves the younger generation wondering what else is out there.

“Everybody wants to know the history due to social media and technology,” said Sermon. “My daughter is Redman’s God-daughter and she loves ‘Whut? Thee Album,’ and she didn’t really know that he made it. Music comes around and goes in cycles.”

Amityville native and rapper Aaronya appreciates hip-hop’s roots, but says there has to be a balance.

“Sometimes you have to have a healthy disrespect for the past and at the same time acknowledge where you came from,” said Aaronya. “I do love and appreciate the past, but the new school is here now. They have the ball, you gotta give them the chance to see whether they drop it or make the shot.”

Whether you’re bumpin’ “You Got 2 Chill,” or “Juicy” in 2019 or woahing to “1 Night,” there’s room for all of it, and that’s what the Strong Island collective plans to continue proving and encouraging.

Make sure to check out the slideshow above to check out some of the performers.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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