|R&B singer Ryan Leslie wooed ladies in the crowd at the Boston Urban Music Festival last Saturday. (Michael Justin Young photo)
Wiz Khalifa was onstage for a matter of seconds before he had to run off.
He didn’t even have time to finish his first verse before a crowd of excited fans powered through the bike rack barricades and rushed the stage. As City Hall security and the Boston Police pushed the mass back, all radio personality Mr. Peter Parker could do was smile and try to calm everyone down.
The city of Boston and HUB Media partnered to put on the Boston Urban Music Festival last Saturday, a free event held at City Hall Plaza that drew an estimated 30,000 people.
As a new incarnation of the annual Boston Hip Hop Peace Festival, the inaugural Boston Urban Music Festival went in a different direction from the traditional classic hip hop shows of past summers, keeping the focus on rising stars rather than on a particular genre.
JAM’N 94.5 DJ Hustle Simmons hosted most of the festival, and Boston rapper Young Riot started off the event as winner of a HUB Media Twitter contest for show opener.
Up-and-coming Boston band Bad Rabbits, in support of their EP “Stick Up Kids,” then brought their unique fusion of various styles of funk, rock and hip hop to the stage.
“This is something that I’ve really been wanting to do since I saw KRS-One do it a few years back,” said Bad Rabbits vocalist Dua Boakye. “Now I get the chance, my band gets the chance, to rock it, and we get the chance to prove to people that we’re that band to talk about.”
A holdover from last year’s Peace Festival, Lynn rapper M-DOT gave the crowd a dose of classic Boston hip hop. As winner of this year’s Boston Phoenix and WFNX’s Best Music Poll “Rap Act of the Year,” M-DOT has been making waves in the scene, and has a highly anticipated album in the works.
On this year’s festival, M-DOT said, “I don’t know anyone on this bill who talks about killing people and selling drugs. I think it’s musical. And that’s what it should be. It should be a collective movement for anyone. You know, my mom, she can come to this show.”
Harvard graduate and online entrepreneur Ryan Leslie mixed things up with his radio friendly R&B. And just as he places top priority on fan interaction on the Internet, he made sure to have ladies swooning all around him by walking through the crowd.
And the main reason why such a large audience assembled — an ethnically diverse crowd from throughout the city and Greater Boston, mostly in their teens and twenties — was to see Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa.
When the police finally secured the stage after the initial barriers were flooded with fans, Wiz came back out to finish a set that had thousands singing and dancing.
“I think it was a success on all fronts,” said Jake Brennan, vice president of HUB Media. “I don’t think we could have had a more apt artist at this time than Wiz Khalifa. He definitely has an appeal that goes beyond just a strict hip hop demographic. He’s definitely someone who’s ‘crossing over.’”
HUB Media staff said they were particularly proud that they were able to have combined accessible national acts with solid local talent. Said Brennan, “We definitely hit on all cylinders.”