In some strange way, hip-hop aficionados will admit that the dog days of summer go hand-in-hand with classic hip-hop. It’s not like this is explicitly stated anywhere, but memories of bumping Nas’ Illmatic or Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale or fill-in-album-here always seem to go with sitting on the front porch and sipping a cold one on smothering humid summer night.
So it’s fitting that the DC Hip-Hop Theater Festival is held from July 7 to July 14.
At first sight, many hip-hop fans (and theatre fans, for that matter) might look at the pairing of hip-hop and theater with an apprehensive eye, wondering how the two art genres go together.
Theatre has always been a major part of hip-hop, from the skits that traditionally separate songs on rap albums to the monikers rappers often use for themselves. It’s played an important part of the careers of many prominent rappers (remember when Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, used his fictional rapper Slim Shady as a filter to say whatever he wanted?). It is theatre in music, and the two come together for a seven-day festival filled with activities for fans of both hip-hop and theatre.
Executive director Clyde Valentin said it best in a release.
“Washington, DC is home to hip-hop, as well as home to one of the largest theater communities in the country, so it is an exciting location to present the festival,” he wrote. “The DC Hip-Hop Theater Festival brings together art-lovers of all kinds, from the Kennedy Center to Dance Place and in between. This year, we are also literally taking to the streets with Murals DC to create new public artwork in our DC home.”
It all kicks off with Rhyme Time!, a free family event at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium stage that invites children as young as 5 years old to be part of the show. MCs and DJs tell traditional children’s stories with a rhyming edge that only hip-hop could bring to the table.
The opening soiree and other similar events feature what you’d expect: DJ sets, hot drink specials and special hip-hop-centric guests. It’s over at Marvin’s, 2007 14th Street, NW.
The centerpiece of the festival, though, is the 8th annual DC Loves Dilla. Any hip-hop head knows J. Dilla, one of the godfathers of the genre. This year’s celebration is especially exciting, bringing together Black Thought of the Roots, De la Soul and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.
There will be bike tours. There will be hip-hop panels. There will be remixes. There will be DJ’ed rap battles. There will be dance at Dance Place and a little something from everyone, from the die-hard fans to the kids.
So grab a cold one — a cold anything — and get ready to sweat to the beat.