I first learned about the Queens Hip Hop Festival through an Instagram post that popped on my timeline. Immediately, as a Queens born-resident, Curator and Hip-Hop lover, I knew I had to attend. The organizers were seeking media coverage and this is how the opportunity emerged for Wendy Angulo Productions to cover the entire festival.
After a successful debut last year, the festival returns this weekend from Friday Sept 22 through Sunday Sept, 24 to celebrate Hip Hop in Queens. A variety of events have been scheduled for this weekend including an art exhibition, film screening, live performances and even Hip Hop Yoga. For a complete schedule, click here.
For now, let me introduce you to it’s founder, Ashley Dean, who in a recent conversation shares with me about her experience in creating an event like this, some of the common challenges entrepreneurs face when curating events and of course Hip Hop.
WA: Tell us about yourself, were you born and raised in Queens?
AD: I was born & raised in Syracuse, I attended SUNY Oneonta and majored in music business then moved to Queens almost 5 years ago.
WA: Where the idea of a Hip Hop Festival was born? Why this is so important to you? Why did you make the decision to have the festival in Queens?
AD: The idea of the festival was born from doing small community parties/events and realizing there was no celebration of the rich history of hip hop in Queens.We decided to make the festival to not only celebrate the past but embrace the future of the borough. It’s so important to me and my team because we are working with the community to create an educational and entertaining event. It’s important to preserve hip hop and it’s teachings.
WA: I know the festival launched last year, how was the response from the audience? What did you learn from last year’S festival that you want to do differently this year?
AD: The response was amazing – especially from local publications and cultural / community leaders. We learned that we definitely had to expand to other parts of the borough beyond LIC. It was always a goal but people actually asked for it so we wanted it to make it happen.
WA: How have the hip hop community respond to last year’s festival?
AD: Up & coming artists / small artists were extremely grateful. People were very intrigued by the idea and the diverse offerings of events.
WA: How long does it take you to prepare/organize this type of event? Prior to doing the festival have you ever plan an event this large?
AD: It takes about 10 months. This is the biggest event I have created and executed.
WA: I know from my own experience as a Queens Curator and Producer that we come across a lot of challenges when putting together these kind of events: finding a space, grants, marketing, etc…what have been the challenges you have faced when organizing the festival?
AD: Venues are definitely the greatest challenge, there are a small handful of spaces that will allow hip hop. Grants and sponsorship are also a challenge because Queens isn’t as marketable or “cool” as having events in Brooklyn or Manhattan.
WA: What can the audience expect at this year’s festival than is different from last year’s?
AD: You can expect a lot more performances because Saturday / Sunday include artists.
WA: What are the long term goals you’ve set for the festival?
AD: Long term we would like to make it a week long celebration – panels, cyphers, live painting. We’d also like to add an educational component and teach kids interested in hip hop about the music industry.
WA: What got you into hip hop?
AD: Hearing Kanye West. As a musician I’ve always gravitated towards instrumentals. His sample heavy instrumentals are what drew me into his music and hip hop in general.
WA: There is a lack of Female MCs, is the festival aim to diversify and have more female rappers in the event?
AD: Absolutely. 2017 has seemed to be the “year of the woman” with everything going on in America.We wanted the art show and the film screening to celebrate women in hip hop whether from Queens or not. We do have an artist – Genique on the festival slot and some women will perform in the cypher Saturday in Jamaica. I definitely want more female rappers in future years.
WA: In the future, do you think the festival will include international rappers that have been influenced by rap?
AD: No. We have kept the festival to rappers who are from or live in Queens. We want to celebrate our own before opening up to others.
WA: Name one favorite item a hip hop head must have in their lifetime
WA: Your favorite Hip Hop artist of all time
AD: Kanye West.
WA: Your top 3 Hip Hop songs of all time
AD: Kanye & Nas – We Major
NORE – Banned from TV
Nas – The World is Yours
The festival kicks off tomorrow with an opening reception at the Queens Museum with DJ Fatfingaz. For tickets: click here. Calling all my Hip-Hop lovers to come and celebrate the music genre’s history at this event and to meet with us to share your experience.
Stay tuned for my upcoming interviews with some of the performers as well as my experience at the festival. You can catch me all weekend in Queens! See you there!