An optimist would say that, despite some serious disappointments, last year’s Third Annual Boston Hip-Hop Unity Fest demonstrated just how peaceful the Bean rap scene really is. In most cities, if last call came before several headliners got to rock, not only would the crowd incite a frenzy but backstage would go from blunt bake to bloodbath.
More than a few heads were unhappy with the scheduling debacle of Boston’s boom-bap festival last June. I was especially aggravated that Esoteric, J the S, and Akrobatik were bumped from the line-up. But despite the general confusion, and the selfishness of some crews in ignoring time constraints, no one got so much as slapped or karate-chopped. It was hardly Lilith Fair, but . . .
“All I can say is that it was my bad,” says Boston rap legend Edo G, who has organized all four Unity Fests — including this coming Saturday’s. “At the time, I just had to apologize to everyone for overbooking. Everyone was cool with it in the end, though. All that matters now is that everything is good, and this will be another great show.”
“Trust me,” adds J the S, “I knew a lot of people in there who wanted to get wild. But that’s not what I do — instead, it was the perfect opportunity to show how important unity can be. Can you imagine if something bad happened? The scene already gets enough shit.” Adds Esoteric, laughing: “I’m just happy to get to perform last year’s set this year.”
Growing pains are almost inevitable for Unity Fest, as Edo always assembles a broad spectrum of the local talent pool to show and prove. This year will be no exception: such Tribe-minded acts as Ebb-N-Flow and City Slickers will ride beside roughneck troops from NBS and Team 220. All that plus at least two dozen others, from white titans like M-Dot and Vice-Versa to Big Shug, Dre Robinson, and Krumb Snatcha — but with some operational adjustments.
“Things might have been hectic last year — I can’t deny that,” Edo admits. “But some of it was memorable, too. Nobody can really deny that, either. Still, since last year got out of hand to the point that people didn’t get to perform, the strategy is to run things like a military base. If someone’s not backstage when it’s their time to go on, then they’re not going on.”
Expect some other major changes as well. Recognizing the heightened role of estrogen across the larger rap map, Edo asked more than just some token females to bless Unity Fest 4. Bad-ass scene veteran Ms. Aquarius and tough-chick newcomers Vixen & Sarita will bring much pain, and R&B femme Nancia should deliver some needed soul and scenery to what’s otherwise sure to be a thoroughly testicular affair.
On top of an impressive hand-picked local crop, Edo reached out to nomadic major-label up-and-comer Jay Electronica to front the bill. Last year’s Unity Fest topped off with Raekwon and Noreaga — and a surprise Made Men reunion. And though this year’s initial marquee arrangements were derailed, Electronica is a sweet back-up plan given the kicks he has to fill.