Local Spins previews this weekend’s festival on Rosa Parks Circle that will feature the pioneering hip hop group Sugarhill Gang, local faves Avalon Cutts-Jones, Lady Ace Boogie and Asamu Johnson among others.
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Grand Rapids neosoul singer Avalon Cutts-Jones views the Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival as a reunion of sorts that uplifts a community and its culture.
“I’ve been attending the African American festival for years outside of performing. It’s a bit of a reunion getting to see everyone come together,” she said of the two-day celebration that takes place this weekend at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.
“Grand Rapids has tons of gifted and talented people. The festival provides a space for us to display our gifts and businesses. So much is taken from our culture and viewed in a negative light. This is a time of supporting, embracing and celebrating our own.”
This year’s festival also marks a time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop by hosting one of the genre’s pioneering groups, The Sugarhill Gang, which headlines Friday night’s entertainment lineup.
The New Jersey group’s 1979 hit, “Rapper’s Delight,” was the first hip-hop track to break into the Top 40 on the Billboard chart, and founding members Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien continue to perform.
The group takes the stage at 9:15 p.m. Friday, following local powerhouse Lady Ace Boogie and a “Battle of the DJs.”
Saturday’s lineup kicks off at 12:15 p.m. with a host of artists and dancers, with Par-Llo Connection at 3 p.m., Asamu Johnson & The Associates of the Blues at 6:45 p.m., Avalon Cutts-Jones at 8 p.m. and Entyce at 9:15 p.m. Cutts-Jones also will join Entyce for a collaborative performance to close things out at 10 p.m.
“I love mixing the old with the new and fusing genres,” Cutts-Jones said of what fans will experience. “You can expect a bit of R&B, neosoul, and maybe even some classical. It all makes for a good time.”
This year’s African American festival also serves as the official opening event for ArtPrize 2.0 in Grand Rapids.
GR AFRICAN AMERICAN ART & MUSIC FESTIVALWHEN: 4-10:30 p.m. Friday, Noon-10:30 p.m. Saturday (Sept 15-16)
WHERE: Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids
LINEUP: Art, food, vendors, dance, fashion with performances by Sugarhill Gang, Lady Ace Boogie, Entyce, Avalon Cutts-Jone, Asamu Johnson & The Associates of the Blues, Par-Llo Connection, Antonio Taylor, New City Kids, PJ DA DJ, DJ Shae Starr, DJ Composition, DJ Venus Flyytrap, DJ Robert S and more.
QUOTE: “Sugarhill Gang is an important part of our culture. I’m honored and looking forward to seeing them live for the first time. Happy 50th anniversary hip hop!” – Singer Avalon Cutts-Jones
GR AFRICAN AMERICAN FEST 2023: Local Spins Playlist
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