“Was Columbia ready for a hip-hop festival?” asked Sherard Duvall at a Wednesday press conference, recalling the question that sparked Hip-Hop Family Day, the festival that he and local rapper Fat Rat da Czar’s Love Peace & Hip-Hop organization started back in 2013.
Through three years the answer has been an emphatic yes, with thousands turning out for festivals crowned by rap luminaries such as Kool Moe Dee, Slick Rick, Big Gipp, Monie Love and Nice and Smooth. But Hip-Hop Family Day has proven to be much more than just a big, entertaining outdoor music festival. It’s a celebration of hip-hop culture in all its various forms, and — starting with last year’s festivities — it delved seriously into social awareness, offering opportunities for attendees to connect with organizations looking to alleviate many of the issues plaguing black communities in America, health and education chief among them.
And when the festival returns on April 9, it will do so for the first time in isolation from the Indie Grits festival, the film-and-more extravaganza during which the first three Hip-Hop Family Days occurred. All this to say that when Duvall announced that KRS-One would headline the festival’s fourth outing, the booking had a lot to live up to — which it definitely does.
KRS-One fulfills the event’s mission as well as any artist could. Yes, he’s a great rapper, with a deep, clobbering flow that helped push hardcore hip-hop forward — both during his late-’80s run with Boogie Down Productions and during the long and omnivorous solo career that followed. But KRS-One, born Kris Parker, is also one of the genre’s greatest scholars. Given the nickname “The Teacher” early in his career, he’s lived up to it by writing four books and giving college lectures on topics such as “Afrocentrism, religion, politics, violence, and his own revisionist views of American history” (per his Rolling Stone biography) and generally serving as one of hip-hop culture’s most vocal ambassadors. He still hasn’t won a Grammy or a Tony, as he prophesied on 1995’s “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know,” but that will hardly impede his message or impact when he hits the stage in Columbia.
The rest of the lineup for this year’s Hip-Hop Family Day, which takes place in downtown Columbia at the corner of Main and Laurel, has yet to be announced. To help pay for the free event — and to bring some more great rap acts to Columbia — Love Peace & Hip-Hop is hosting benefit shows at the Music Farm on Mar. 10 and 26, respectively featuring MOBB DEEP and SCARFACE.