Hip-hop lovers in Queens will be able to celebrate the music genre’s history with the first Queens Hip-Hop Festival this weekend.
Ashley Dean, 25, has been planning the festival since January 2015 and has partnered with local businesses to put on an event to celebrate the genre’s cultural influence on western Queens.
From Sept. 23-25, venues in Astoria, Long Island City and Jackson Heights will host music, art and film events featuring local artists.
“Obviously really great hip-hop artists have come out of Queens – Nas, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest,” Dean said. “Queens has such a big impact on hip-hop and I felt like it was important to acknowledge that.”
Originally from Syracuse, Dean attended SUNY Oneonta and majored in music business. She moved to Astoria in 2012 and has been hosting events in the borough under the moniker Queen of Astoria. Her events mostly consist of hip-hop parties featuring DJs, basketball tournaments, a St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl and monthly events at the Pan Am shelter in Elmhurst.
All of the partnering businesses are located in Queens and the marketing materials for the event were printed using local businesses. On Friday, Flattopps – a hip-hop themed restaurant in Astoria – will be hosting the opening event.
DJ Rob Swift will provide the music and a cypher (or open mic) will allow local MCs to showcase their talents.
“It’s a really diverse offering so depending on the event there’s going to be different things,” Dean said. “The stand out day is Saturday.”
On Sept. 24, co-working space QNS Collective (no affiliation to our website) will showcase “Artist Relaxation,” an art show celebrating iconic hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Queens Stomp, a Long Island City-based walking tour business, and graffiti legend Louie Gasparro will hold a graffiti walk to highlight graffiti and its history in western Queens.
The night will close with a concert at Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria consisting of performances by Queens hip-hop artists such as Wordsmiff, Conflik, Cake Man, MelSwimsGood and Jon Lewis. Dean, who created the festival with Creative Director Peter Lemonier, said each artist either grew up in Queens or lives there now.
The Museum of the Moving Image will also participate in the festival when it hosts a screening of “Belly,” a 1998 crime drama featuring hip-hop artists Nas, who grew up in the Queensbridge Houses, DMX and Method Man. The director, Hype Williams, also hails from Queens.
Dean hopes to hold this festival every year and to eventually incorporate more local businesses, larger venues and an educational component. She said the event was stressful to plan because of the dearth of venues and performance spaces in the borough.
Many of the spaces were either too large or too small for the event, but Dean has been able to connect with local businesses willing to help her make her vision a reality.
“We want to include programming for future years, to do panels with people who have been involved in the industry, DJ battles, larger performance space for a longer concert and an educational aspect as well,” Dean said.
Though the event is focused on celebrating hip-hop, the organizer said “there is something for everybody.”
Ticket prices for each event vary. For more information on the events or to purchase tickets, visit Dean’s website.