Teyana Taylor, Muni Long, Bell Biv DeVoe, Fat Joe, Coco Jones, Cam’ron and Doug E. Fresh are among the legacy and contemporary artists who will be performing at the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC). Hip-hop legend MC Lyte will host the inaugural event at Randall’s Island on July 28-30.
The performance slate for the three-day festival also includes Adam Blackstone, Eric Bellinger, Jozzy, MAJOR., Ma$e, Remy Ma, Ro James, Tink and Wyclef Jean. Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Estelle is curating the Dancehall LinkUp, featuring special appearances by Sister Nancy, Nadine Sutherland, Wayne Wonder, Lumidee, Rupee, Serani and Mr. Killa. In partnership with the iconic Apollo Theater, HFC will also present intimate concert events. That lineup as well as additional festival details will be announced in early June.
“For this inaugural year, we were very thoughtful and intentional in building what is an amazing lineup that aptly reflects the incredibly unique legacy that is intrinsic to the village of Harlem as well as the breadth and brilliance of Black music and culture,” said HFC co-founder and technical & talent producer Yvonne McNair in the announcement release. “Ultimately, HFC is our love letter to Harlem, and we’re excited to grow it into a landmark cultural experience that encapsulates all the things that make Uptown the nexus of innovation, cultural expression and a place of true community-building.”
Added HFC creative director and Bell Biv DeVoe’s Michael L. Bivins, “I’ve worked closely with Yvonne and the team to build something very special and unique to the personality of this community and to now see it come to fruition is an incredible feeling. As an artist who has spent a lot of time in Harlem and supported the local businesses in the neighborhood for many years, I’m so proud to be part of the inaugural Harlem Festival of Culture.”
Additional HFC offerings will include interactive art installations, a culinary court and the Mart 125 Marketplace. The latter is a reimagining of Harlem’s famed economic hub of Black-owned businesses that were located on 125th Street. Supported by SheaMoisture, the contemporary iteration will showcase Black-owned, Harlem-based hospitality, retail and cultural enterprises.
Joining SheaMoisture and the Apollo as HFC presenting sponsors are Infiniti, AMC Networks, Shark Beauty, Steve Madden and Northwell Health. Speaking of Madden, the company and HFC will launch a line of official festival co-branded merchandise. Created by Harlem-based visual artist DaQuane Cherry, the limited-edition collection will include a custom Steve Madden Bettyy Boot, belt bag and denim jacket.
Festival organizers also worked in tandem with its HFC Music Advisory Board, co-chaired by Wyclef Jean and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. The board’s members include Doug E. Fresh and MC Lyte.
“This will be a one-of-a-kind cultural experience that I believe will become a formidable force in the festival space,” stated Mason. Added festival host Lyte, “As a native New Yorker, I’m honored to host the very first Harlem Festival of Culture. [HFC] has planned something special that I think everyone – whether they’re from around the corner, across the country or around the world – will enjoy.”
As the countdown to July begins, HFC will present the second annual Black Independence Awards (June 17). The awards honor the impactful cultural, social and economic contributions being made by Harlem’s leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and creators. The 2023 nominees and special award recipients will be announced in early June.
The Harlem Festival of Culture was inspired by the groundbreaking Harlem Cultural Festival of 1969 — focus of the Academy Award-winning documentary Summer of Soul directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. Tickets for the Harlem Festival of Culture are now on sale. For more information, visit the festival’s website.