True School NYC Summer Park Jam, Week 1Unlike California's seasonal changes, especially SoCal, where the shift from one season to another is relatively subtle, New York goes through dramatic extremes in the change from winter to summer. The East Coast's freezing cold winters are typically a period when you simply have to stay indoors much of the time and are so severe that by the time the polar opposite hot New York summer rolls around, everybody automatically rushes outside to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
In the late spring and summer New York City's streets and the parks come back to life, with cafes setting up on the sidewalks again and block parties, park concerts and events jumping off everywhere you wander in the NYC. And for hip-hop fans, especially appreciators of the old school, there is no shortage of outdoor events. Of all of these, the True School NYC Summer Park Jam Series is the ultimate annual must-attend event.
Now in its eight year, this Tools of War (TOW) produced free summer Park Jam series sets up stage at a few different NYC parks every Thursday evening, June through August. It's clearly a labor of love by TOW's Christie Z Pabon, who works along with a strong support group that includes her husband, legendary hip-hop figure Jorge FABEL Pabon, aka Popmaster Fabel. Long rooted and well connected within New York's hip-hop circles, TOW manages to enlist some amazing artists. Last Thursday I attended the Park Jam at East Harlem's White Park on 106th Street and got to see/hear many artists, including GrandMaster Caz of the legendary Cold Crush Brothers and DJ GrandWizzard Theodore -- the veteran Bronx DJ who created the scratch. As the classic breaks and hip-hop music boomed from the JBL speakers, b-boys, poppers and lockers got busy in a most entertaining and impromptu fashion.
Both Theodore and Caz (the weekly event's MC for the whole summer) will be at today's Park Jam, too, which moves up to the historic Crotona Park at Charlotte St & Crotona Park East in the Boogie Down Bronx for the month of July. Also at this evening's Crotona Park Jam (5pm to 9pm) will be such other hip-hop luminaries as Lord Finesse, Chuck Chillout, and Johnny Juice Rosado.
As a longtime hip-hop fan, attending these park jams, as I have over the past several years and getting to see these pioneers of the genre up close and personal in such an intimate, pure hip-hop, no BS type setting is pure bliss. And to think that they are free is even more amazing, and surprising, too, since they are generally not super packed, considering some of the legends gracing these events. For example, over the next few Thursdays this month other DJs spinning will include Steve Dee, Kool DJ Red Alert, Cutmaster DC, DJ Scratch, Kool DJ AJ Scratch, Tony Touch, Rockin Rob, Biz Markie, Jazzy Jay, Cash Money, and "DJ" PopMaster Fabel getting busy on the ones and twos.
When the series moves down to Harlem's St Nicholas Park at 135th Street every Thursday in August, the DJs will include Bobbito, Rockin Rob, Miss Shing-A-Ling, Boogie Blind, Woodee, Lean Rock, Chairman Mao, and many of the other regulars such as Jazzy Jay, Lord Finese, and Fabel.
That is an absolutely mind-boggling summer long line-up, especially for a free event that's open to all ages! I recently caught up with the ever hard-working Christie Z to ask her about this wonderful series that keeps the true legacy of hip-hop alive and whose motto is "It's all about the DJs!" That interview follows below.
PopMaster Fabel at last week's True School NYC Summer Park JamAMOEBLOG: What initially inspired you to produce these Park Jams and what is ultimate goal of the events?
CHRISTIE Z: I heard of park jams from back in the day and basically I love outdoor music festivals, park events, church festivals, street fairs, summer concerts -- any event where people are outside in the sun enjoying music. Lord Finesse was asked by Friends of Crotona Park in 2003 to help them with their Hip Hop Film Fest in the Bronx. He didn't have time so he suggested me to help them arrange a little pre-concert before the films each night -- and it blew up from there! Now we are in our 8th year of park jams.
AMOEBLOG: Do you see the Park Jams as a direct descendant of the original old school hip-hop in the park parties?
CHRISTIE Z: Some pioneers and legends say our jams are as close as you can get to the jams from back in the proverbial days.
AMOEBLOG: This year the event is divided into three parts/parks, Spanish Harlem, the Bronx, and Harlem (Diggers Delight). What, if any, are the thematic differences of each venue?
CHRISTIE Z: Spanish Harlem Hop strives to stick more to spinning music for the bboys, bgirls, lockers, rockers, poppers and dancers. We invited a more diverse group of DJs for this series. The Crotona Park Jams are strictly DJ pioneers and DJ legends only on the wheels! The shows are July 1, 15, 22 & 29 at Crotona Park at Charlotte St. and Crotona Park East from 5-9pm. Take the 2 or 5 train to 174th. [But] on July 15th we should be around the corner on Crotona Park South instead. Digger's Delight is especially focused on diggers and rare record collector DJs spinning, playing their rarest and funkiest! Now that the bboys have been strong in attendance, the DJs try to cater to them while still keeping it rare!! These shows will be 5-9pm at St. Nicholas Park at 135th St. Plaza and St. Nicholas Ave. NYC. B or C Trains to 135th St.
AMOEBLOG: What are some of your personal favorites coming up this summer season and why?
CHRISTIE Z: They are all my favorites!!!!
AMOEBLOG: Lord Finese, Jazzy Jay, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Fabel, Bobbito, Dollar Bill, Grandmaster Caz -- to name but a few -- these are some incredibly impressive names in the history of hip-hop. And what is more amazing is that you are presenting all of these legendary figures for free and in the perfect setting. Do New York City audiences fully appreciate and take advantage of these events?
CHRISTIE Z: I think the NYC residents who grew up with Hip Hop, especially as it developed in the Bronx and Harlem, especially embrace the jams but we also find lots of travelers from outside of the US at our jams, seeking to relive the spirit of Hip Hop in it's earliest years taking its baby steps in the parks!!!