Preview: The Meadows Music and Arts Festival 2017

The Meadows Music and Arts Festival 2017 Preview

Produced by Founders Entertainment, the people behind the internationally renowned Governor’s Ball Music Festival, The Meadows Music and Arts Festival’s inaugural year was partially inspired by the cancellation of the third day of that year’s Governor’s Ball Music Festival due to heavy rains. Held from October 1, 2016 – October 2, 2016, the inaugural Meadows Festival, which took place near Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, boasted 42 artists featuring megastar/smash-hit selling artists Kanye West, J. Cole, Kygo and Chance the Rapper, as well as a diverse and eclectic list of other artists playing on four stages, named after Queens streets and locations.

After the success of its inaugural run, The Meadows Music and Arts Festival returns for its second year, during the weekend of September 15, 2017 – September 18, 2017 – and with the addition of a third day, the folks at Founders Entertainment have put together one of the strongest and most diverse festival lineups in America that I’ve come across in several years, as the lineup features headliners Jay-Z (Friday, September 15, 2017), Gorilaz (Saturday, September 16, 2017) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (September 16, 2017), along with Run The Jewels, Migos, Blood Orange, Erykah Badu, LL Cool J, M.I.A., TV on the Radio, De La Soul, Big Boi, Antibalas, Flatbush Zombies, Nas, Foster the People, Action Bronson, Broken Social Scene, Ghostface Killah, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Wild Belle and a lengthy list of others playing on four stages set up in a unique circular pattern to prevent noise bleed and to ensure that festivalgoers won’t miss a single moment of music. Of course, during an enormous multi-day outdoor festival like The Meadows, it’s difficult and damn near impossible to catch everyone and everything but consider my preview of the music and other goings on at the festival that I’m excited for.

Music

September 15, 2017

8:15pm-10:00pm: The Meadows Stage: Unless you’ve been living in an isolated and remote Tibetan monastery over the past 20+ years, you’re familiar with Jay-Z. Born Shawn Corey Carter, the Brooklyn-born emcee, record mogul and businessman is arguably one of the most critically and commercially successful artists in the history of the recording industry as he has sold more than 100 million records during his career and winning 21 Grammy Awards. He also holds the record for most number one albums on the US Billboard 200 with 14, and has had four number ones on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Empire State of Mind” being his first as a lead artist. Critically speaking Rolling Stone ranked three of his albums – 1996’s Reasonable Doubt, 2001’s The Blueprint and 2003’s The Black Album on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Along with that, Billboard ranked Jay Z as the tenth-most successful artist of the 2000s, as well as the fifth top, solo male artist and fourth top rapper behind Eminem, Nelly and 50 Cent, with Rolling Stone ranking him as the 88th greatest artist of all time.

As a businessman, Jay-Z is best known for a number of ventures – he’s the owner of New York-based sports bar, the 40/40 Club, a former president of Def Jam Recordings, the co-founder of hip-hop fashion line Rocawear, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and founder of entertainment company Roc Nation, as well as a former part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, before going into agency side with the founding of Roc Nation Sports.

Of course, he’s also known as the husband of an up-and-coming pop singer by the name of Beyonce, who I think most of you have heard of – and as a couple, they’re worth $1.16 billion.  (Hov, can I borrow oh say, $3 or $4 million?)

But for the sake of this post, the world renowned and legendary emcee is headlining the first night of the three night festival and I’m looking forward to hearing “99 Problems,” “Dirt off Your Shoulders” “Can I Live,” “Brooklyn’s Finest” and others live – and hopefully, there will be some special guests, as well.

7:00-8:15: Shea Stage: David Joseph Hynes, better known as Devonte “Dev” Hynes is an acclaimed London -born, New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer and author, who known for briefly being a member of Test Icicles, as a guitarist, synth player and backing vocalist, before setting out as a solo artist with his recording project, Lightspeed Champion; however, he’s arguably best known for his synth pop/synth funk/electro funk project Blood Orange with which he has released three critically applauded albums between 2008 and 2016. Along with that Hynes has collaborated (as a musician and/or producer) with an incredibly diverse array of artists including Tinashe, Solange Knowles, Sky Ferriera, FKA Twigs, Haim, Florence and the Machine, Carly Rae Jespen, Diana Vickers, The Chemical Brothers, Kylie Minogue and Blondie. He’s also credited with writing, co-writing or producing for the likes of The Chemical Brothers (“All Rights Reversed” off their 2007 Grammy Award-winning effort, We Are the Night), Basement Jaxx’s Scars; Florence and the Machine’s smash-hit Lungs, Diana Vickers’ Songs from the Tainted Cherry, which debuted at number 1 on the UK Albums Chart, Theophilius London’s 2014 sophomore effort Vibes and London’s 2011 EP Lovers Holiday.

Interestingly, Hynes’ 2016 effort Freetown Sound may arguably be the most politically charged album he has released to date, and unsurprisingly, the album manages to be as relevant as it was upon its initial release. I saw Hynes with a funky backing band play at SummerStage’s Rumsey Playfield stage several years ago and I’m looking forward to catching him again.

6:00-7:15: The Meadows Stage: Comprised of two of hip-hop’s most criminally under-rated emcees, Killer Mike and El-P, the critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Run The Jewels can trace their origins when Killer Mike was first introduced to El-P by Cartoon Network executive Jason DeMarco back in 2011. After their meeting, El-P produced Killer Mike’s 2012 effort R.A.P. Music, which was promptly followed by Killer Mike’s guest appearance on “Tougher Colder Killer” off El-P’s 2012 effort Cancer 4 Cure. With both albums being released within weeks of each other, the two artists decided tour together to support. Reportedly, the success of the tour, and their chemistry together led the duo to form Run The Jewels. With the release of their three studio length albums – 2013’s self-titled album, 2014’s Run The Jewels 2 and 2016’s Run The Jewels 3, the duo have established a reputation for crafting some of hip-hop’s most politically-charged material as their work touches upon greed, capitalism, race and so on.

The duo played one of the best sets I personally saw at 2015’s Northside Festival and I’m looking forward to hearing “Stay Gold,” one of my favorite tracks off RTJ3 live.

September 16, 2017

 8:30-10:00: The Meadows Stage: Created by Blur frontman and founding member Damon Albarn and renowned comic book artist Jamie HewlettGorillaz is a virtual band, featuring animated characters 2D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (guitar) that exploded into with the international scene with the 2001 release of their eponymous debut. The BRIT and Grammy Award-winnng act has since released three critically applauded and commercially successful albums — 2005’s Demon Days, 2010’s Plastic Beach and 2011’s The Fall and with each of their four previously released albums the act has topped charts around the world, receiving millions of streams, selling millions of copies and playing arenas, clubs and festivals from San Diego to Syria. Along with that the act has won the Jim Henson Creativity Honor and have been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act.

Humanz, the virtual act’s fifth and latest album was released to critical applause last month and the album has continued the band’s incredible run of commercial successes with the album landing at number 1 and number 2 on the US and UK charts respectively, as well as topping the iTunes chart in over 60 different countries. Produced by Gorillaz, The Twilite Tone of D /\ P and Remi Kabaka, the album was recorded in studios in LondonParis, New York, Chicago and Jamaica and has the members of the virtual band — er, Damon Albarn and company — collaborating with an eclectic and accomplished array of contemporary artists including Savages‘ Jehnny Beth, Danny BrownBenjamin ClementineDe La SoulD.R.A.M., Anthony HamiltonGrace Jones (!!!)Zebra KatzMavis Staples (!!!), Vince StaplesPopcaan,Pusha T.Peven Everett and others.

Albarn and company will be embarking on a month-long Stateside tour that begins with their Saturday night headlining set at The Meadows. I’m honestly hoping to hear “5/4,” “Tomorrow Comes Today,” “Clint Eastwood,” “Stylo,” and “Strobelite” live.

4:00-5:00 The Meadows Stage: Born Erica Abi Wright, the Dallas, TX-born singer/songwriter, producer, DJ, activist and actress best known as Erykah Badu can trace the origins of her music career to when she began singing and dancing at the Dallas Theater Center and at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, under the guidance of her godmother Gwen Hargrove and uncle Curtis King (who coincidentally was the founder of TBAL) when she was four. By the time she had turned 14, Wright, who decided to change her name to Erykah Badu as she believed that the spelling of her birthname was a “slave name,” had begun freestyling for a local radio station alongside the likes of Roy Hargrove and others.  (Interestingly, the word “kah,” signifies the inner self, while Badu was not only one of the Dallas-born artist’s favorite scat songs, among the Akan people of Ghana, it is the term of the 10th born child.)

Upon her graduation from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visuals Arts, Badu briefly attended Grambling State University; however, to concentrate on music full-time, she left the university in 1993 before graduating and took on several minimum-wage jobs to support herself, including teaching drama and dance to children at the South Dallas Cultural Center. Working and touring with her cousin Robert “Free” Bradford, she recorded a 19 song demo Country Cousins, which caught the attention of Kedar Massenburg, thanks in part to a sound that drew and effortlessly from 1970s soul, R&B, hip-hop and jazz, eventually establishing her as the “Queen of neo-soul,” as well as one of the genre’s pioneers. Interestingly enough, Massenburg, who later signed Badu to a record deal with Universal Records, suggested that she record a duet with D’Angelo “Your Precious Love,” which led to a rapidly growing profile and commercial success.

Her 1997 debut effort Baduizm began an incredible run of commercially successful albums; in fact, her debut, thanks to the success of album singles “On & On,” “Next Lifetime,” and Otherside of the Game,” was certified triple platinum by the Recording Assocaition of America (RIAA). Her first live album, aptly titled Live, was released later htat year, and was certified double platinum. 2000’s sophomore effort Mama’s Gun featured three commercially successful singles “Bag Lady,” her first top 10 single, which peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Didn’t Cha Know?” and “Cleva,” and was certified platinum by the RIAA. 2003’s Worldwide Underground featured three singles “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop),” which peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking her second top 10 single, “Danger” and my personal favorite “Back in the Day (Puff)” and as a result it was certified gold by the RIAA.

I saw her perform at Afropunk several years ago, and Badu is a dynamic, larger than life presence and if you haven’t caught her perform, you need to stop whatever it is that you claim is keeping you busy and catch her do her thing. (Although, to be honest, I can’t understand who he genius was who decided to have LL’s and her set at the same time. Come on y’all, really?)

4:00-5:00 Queens Blvd Stage: More than enough ink has been spilled by countless journalists, critics and others about LL Cool J. Born James Todd Smith, the Bay Shore, NY-born, emcee, actor, author and entrepreneur is one of the hip-hop’s most commercially successful and influential artists, largely considered one of the forefathers of hip-hop’s ascendancy and legitimacy within popular culture during the 1980s and early 1990s, thanks in part to the success of singles like “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” “I Need a Beat,” “I’m Bad,” “Goin’ Back to Cali,” “I Need Love,” “Mama Said Knock You Out,” “Round the Way Girl” “Doin’ It,” and others. But interestingly enough, Smith can trace the origins of his music career when he fell in love with hip-hop at the age of 9, after listening to Treacherous Three.

By the time Smith was a teenager, he had been living in Hollis, NY with his grandparents. And as the story goes, Smith’s grandfather, who was a saxophonist, recognized his grandson’s passion for music and bought then aspiring artist $2,000 worth of equipment that included two turntables, a mixer and an amplifier, with which the then aspiring artist used to record the demos that caught the attention of Def Jam’s founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons.

LL’s debut single “I Need a Beat” sold over 100,000 copies and helped to establish Def Jam as a label and Smith as a rare sort of emcee – the sort who can release gritty, street shit that move tons of units and receive tons of airplay. And along with the commercial success of Beastie Boys’Rock Hard,” the burgeoning and then-independent label won a distribution deal with Columbia Records, which led to the further spread of hip-hop.

I’ve had the luck of once meeting LL while he was promoting a fitness book at Book Expo America several years ago, but until this week I’ve never had a chance to see him live, and you best believe I’m thrilled to catch the legendary emcee do his thing. And if he does any of the songs off Mama Said Knock You Out – please let it be the album title track and “Illegal Search” – my mind may permanently be blown.

7:15-8:15pm: Shea Stage: If you’ve been frequenting JOVM throughout its seven-year history, you’d likely be intimately familiar with the critically applauded Brooklyn-based indie rock band TV on the Radio, as well as their various side projects and other pursuits.  Comprised of primary members Tunde Adebimpe (vocals, looping machines), Dave Sitek (guitar, keys, looping machines, production), Kyp Malone (guitar, bass, looping machines, vocals) and Jaleel Bunton (drums, vocals, looping machines, keys), and featuring a rotating cast of incredibly acclaimed friends, collaborators and musicians.  And with the release of a handful of EPs including their 2003 debut Young Liars and their five full-length albums, 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, 2008’s Dear Science, 2011’s Nine Types of Light and 2014’s Seeds, the Brooklyn-based indie rock act have developed a reputation for an uncompromising sound that possesses elements of shoegaze, post-punk, punk rock, and soul – and in a way that’s reminiscent of JOVM mainstays and American shoegaze pioneers The Veldt 

5:00-6:00: American Eagle Stage: Comprised of Posdnuos, Dave and Maseo, De La Soul much like the aforementioned LL Cool J is one of hip-hop’s most beloved and influential acts, thanks to their use of incredibly clever and quirky word play, innovative and soulful sampling and hilarious skits; in fact, Mos Def has openly cited them as a major influence on the early part of his career. And although their seminal debut 3 Feet High Rising may be their most commercially successful release – perhaps in part to the success of singles like “Me, Myself, and I,” which employed the use of a sample from Parliament’s “Not Just Knee Deep” and Native Tongues anthem “Buddy” – they’ve managed to release a number of critically applauded albums including De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate and Stakes Is High among others.

Admittedly, catching them as well as catching LL would bring back childhood memories of practically running home from school to catch Yo! MTV Raps with Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, listening to DJ Red Alert on Kiss FM and DJ Kid Capri on WBLS – and shortly after you had to catch Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97 and saving up allowances to buy cassette tapes and CDs at the Nobody Beats the Wiz on 63rd Drive and Queens Blvd.

Big Boi: 3:00-4:00 Shea Stage Born Antwan Andre Patton, the Atlanta, GA-born and-based emcee, songwriter, producer and actor Big Boi is probably best known for being one-half of multi Grammy-nominated, multi-Grammy winning hip-hop duo Outkast with Andre 3000 – and while Andre 3000 developed a reputation for being offbeat and quirky, Big Boi developed a reputation for balancing  conscious, politically charged lyrics focusing on the problems plaguing both the Black community and the world in general, and for strutting Dirty South-era hip-hop.

As a solo artist, Patton has released three albums — 2010’s Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty to critical acclaim and moderate sales, 2012’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors and this year’s Boomiverse and with those three albums, Big Boi has collaborated with an incredible and lengthy list of contemporary artists across a wide variety of genres, including Raekwon, Andre 3000, Gucci Mane, Cutty Ranks, Janelle Monae, T.I., George Clinton, Adam Levine, Killer Mike and Jeezy, revealing an artist who can rhyme across a variety of styles and genres, and who genuinely loves music. (In fact, he’s publicly mentioned his lifelong obsession with Kate Bush and her work. And I honestly would love to just talk to him about that!)

Sunday September 17, 2017

6:00-7:15 The Meadow Stage: Born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, the son of Olu Dara (born Charles Jones III), a Mississippi-born jazz and blues musician and Fannie Ann Jones, a North Carolina-born postal service worker, Nas is a Brooklyn, NY-born emcee, producer, actor and entrepreneur, who has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums and has sold over 25 million records globally. As an entrepreneur, he heads his own record label, serves as an associate publisher of Mass Appeal and owns a Fila sneaker store.

As a young child, Nas and his family moved to the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, Queens. His neighbor, Willy “Ill Will” Graham was instrumental in stoking the young Nas’ interest in hip-hop, as Graham used to play his neighbor hip-hop records. In his early years, as an aspiring musician, Nas played the trumpet and began writing his own rhymes; however, his musical career began in earnest when he was featured on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbeque,” off their seminal album, Breaking Atoms.

His 1994 debut album Illmatic was released to critical and commercial success and is frequently ranked as either one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever – or the greatest album ever. 1996’s It Was Written debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, where it stayed for 4 weeks before eventually going double platinum two months after its release, and as a result, Nas quickly became internationally known. And with his successive releases, Nas has further cemented his reputation for being one of most revered and important emcees and lyricists within hip-hop – MTV ranked him at number 5 on their Greatest MCs of All Time list, The Source ranked him at number 2 on their Top 50 Lyricists of All Time list, About.com ranked him number 1 on their 50 Greatest MCs of All Time List and Billboard featured him on their 10 Best Rappers of All Time list.

Personally, I’m hoping to hear “The World Is Yours,” “Halftime,” “Take It In Blood” “Ether,” and others live.

5:00-6:00: American Eagle Stage: Born Dennis Coles, Ghostface Killah is one of the founding memers of the renowned hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan. After the release of their seminal and deeply influential debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), many of the individual members famously went on to release a number of solo efforts to varying levels of success — with Ghostface’s solo debut effort 1996’s Ironman being released to critical applause and massive commercial success as it debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200. Since then, he’s followed with the release of commercially and critically applauded albums, 2000’s Supreme Clientele, which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200, thanks to the success of “Apollo Kids” featuring a guest spot from frequent collaborator Raekwon and minor club hit “Cherchze La Ghost,” and 2006’s Fishscale. Interestingly, each successive album found Ghostface moving more towards a classic soul and R&B-influenced sound and moving away from the imitable production of the RZA – and along with that, greater creative control; in fact, Bulletproof Wallets may arguably be the most R&B influenced albums of his career, as it had lead single “Never Be the Same Again” featuring guest spots from Carl Thomas and the aforementioned Raekwon and minor club hit “Flowers,” which featured Method Man and Raekwon.

Throughout his career, Ghostface has developed a reputation for being one of his era’s greatest storytellers and lyricists with media outlets such as MTV including him on their honorable mention list of The Greatest MCs of All Time, About.com placing him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987 – 1997).  Unsurprisingly, much like the other 9 legendary members, Ghostface’s influence has been momentous with countless emcees across the world attempting to sound like him; in fact, Flushing, NY-born-and based emcee Action Bronson has cited him as a major influence on his work.

4:00-5:00 Queens Blvd Stage: Born the son of an Albanian-born, Muslim immigrant father and an American-born, Jewish mother, Arian Asilani, best known as Action Bronson is a Flushing, NY-born emcee and TV host. Before seriously embarking on a music career, Asilani was a respected fire-flame gourmet chef, who spit bars as a hobby and hosted his own online cooking show, Action in the Kitchen – that is until he broke his leg in the kitchen. Since fully embarking on music, Bronson has released quite a bit of material including 2011’s independently released, Tommy Mas-produced full-length debut Dr. Lecter, and the Statik Selektah-produced Well-Done, 2012’s The Alchemist-produced Rare Chandeliers, 2013’s Party Supplies-produced Blue Chips 2, and his 2013 Harry Fraud-produced major label debut Saaab Stories EP, and his 2015 major label debut Mr. Wonderful. And throughout his career, the Flushing-based emcee has developed a reputation for (unsurprisingly) making references to food, obscure allusions to athletes and New York sports teams, professional bodybuilders, figure skating and sports gambling – and as I’ve mentioned earlier, Bronson has also developed a reputation for lyrically and stylistically resembling the Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah; in fact, Ghostface has openly admitted to confusing Bronson’s verses for some of his own.

I saw Bronson play at the Roots Picnic several years ago, and for a large man, he plays an extremely energetic and unpredictable set, that could have him climbing up stages or leading everyone to run around for a square block.

Food

If you’ve been following me through the various social media channels – particularly, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook — you’d know a few things about me: I’m a diehard New York Yankee, New York Ranger and New York Giant fan; that I love beer – especially Guinness; and that I love food. And of course, what else can make a Music Festival? Outstanding food. After all, you’ll need something to soak up all the alcohol you’ll be drinking throughout those 10+ hour days of live music. Curated by The Infatuation, The Meadows will have stands featuring Roberta’s Pizza, Big Mozz Sticks, San Matteo Pizzeria, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Ramen Burger, Luke’s Lobster, Bareburger, The Nugget Spot, Birdhaus, Takumi Taco, Wafles and Dinges, Tacqueria Diana and a lengthy list – and if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, they’ve got something for you, too.

But perhaps unlike any other music festival that I’ve been to, the organizers of The Meadows wanted to shout out the incredible diversity of the borough they’ll call home for three days by hosting the FEASTival of Queens, a special foodie experience, curated by Queens-based food writer Joe DiStefano. And from my understanding, the FEASTival will feature some of the best Thai, Mexican, Colombian, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese food of my home borough – in sample sizes.  Some of the vendors will include Corona’s Tortas Neza, Astoria’s Kurry Qulture, Jackson Height’s Arepa Lady, Jackson Height’s La Esquina Del Cameron Mexicano, Elmhurst’s Sugar Club, Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean and others.

The Joy of Violent Movement will be at The Meadows covering it. And while you’re waiting for the official coverage of the Festival, I’ll be live tweeting, Instagramming and all the other things the kids do on social media these days, so if you’re not following me, you should start. The socials are below.

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

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