A look back at Juneteenth | Rock Candy

A look back at Juneteenth

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All I know about last weekend's Juneteenth celebration at Riverfest Amphitheatre is that traffic on Markham Street downtown was incredible (in other words, barely moving) throughout the night. We were busy with Association of Alternative Newsweeklies activities, with the AAN conventioners in town, and the closest we got to the River Market was Broadway. But Shawn Brown (right, with Rasheeda in the top photo and Kelis in the bottom shot), better known around the local hip-hop scene as "RockStylez," was there, watching as well as helping shuttle artists in and out of the Riverfest Amphitheater. From the looks of those photos, we know why they call him RockStylez. Here's Shawn's report on Juneteenth, exclusive to Little Rocking:
With the list of performers numbering more than days in February, this year’s Juneteenth celebration can be dubbed as a historic weekend -- or, let’s say, Little Rock’s history in the making.  Congratulations to the Lead Dog for the wholesome entertainment! The annual event, which highlights local and regional talent, reached over10,000 KPIR "Power 92" listeners, with apparently a primary audience of those age 18 and under. The one thing that I found to be the backbone of the show was the intensive planning and preparation needed to pull this off. You try competing with the middleweight champion, who was boxing Saturday in Memphis on HBO. Gates to Friday's show opened a little past 3 p.m., and by 4 p.m. the music was cranking. With a few delays, due to the rain that more more like a city sprinkler going off, the clouds made way and the show began. Rev. Hezekiah Stewart, who’s Watershed organization is a recipient of some of the proceeds, opened things with a blessing. As the show went on, you could feel the energy (not to mention the heat) in the air, but that didn’t stop the crowd of young ladies as they rushed closer to get an eyeful of Rowdy recording artist Sammie, whose single “You Should Be My Girl,” has gotten plenty of airplay. When the rap portion of the song played, you could tell the crowd was wondering if there were going to be any surprise guests in the house. An unannounced group did take the stage after Memphis’ own Project Pat: Clipse, known for their hit “Grindin.” Well, the guys felt like Little Rock would be a great city to drop off the new single and get the hip-hop love that they have been missing for the last three years. And they were right, as the crowd welcomed the duo (and I’m sure the radio spins will heat up locally).  By the time the crowd was completely hype and everything was going well, it was time for the local artists to get their moment of fame. And, to crush all the rumors that the radio station doesn’t support local artists, you should check out the lineup that consisted of Souf-n-Gutta, Young Hogs, Da Boss Klick and Country Boys. Then there were the companies that provide entertainment as well, such as Take Charge Records, Dyaboliq Entertainment and Ace of Spades Records. But there have been two local artist that I always hear mentioned anytime you hear a rap concert is coming to town: look for Xxzotic of Next Page Entertainment and my own SWLR homeboy, Playa Mone, of Raw Ink Entertainment. And if you thought hip-hop was just male figures and their entourage on the mic, this year’s lineup included some of the hottest females act around, like Tyra, Cherrish, and (one of my favorite artist since meeting her and putting comforting words to a beautiful smile) Rasheeda. Then there was the diva of the day, Kelis, delivering a powerful performance. The crowd sang her tunes just as loud as they could. She loved the way Little Rock opened arms for her (mostly to grin in her face and ask for pictures).  Kelis, by the way, recently married hip-hop legend Nas, and we wondered: Where’s your husband? That was asked over and over again until our diva hit the stage. With most of the invited guests having to depart our city almost immediately after their short sets for other Juneteenth appearances, the fans still maintained a high energy, while plenty more waited outside the amphitheater grounds to try to see the last groups of radio-friendly artists displaying their clothes, jewelry or dancers while performing  smash hits. J Mizz, Thug City, E-Dubb, 214 and Tyte Wurk all did excellent jobs of moving and motivating the crowd.  For Cadillac Don & J-Money, Little Rock was the perfect spot to set up shop for another appearance (but that won't happen now due to Tuesday's fire at Club Bada-Bing, where the official Friday after-party made our town big-city material). Another Memphis artist who performed and that is hard on the grind to becoming the next big solo artist from Tennessee was Yo Gotti. Then South Boy made their way to the stage with eye candy that wiggled all the way from the hotel to the stage, then back to the hotel to the nightclub. T The evening's last two performers, Young Dro from the Grand Hustle imprint and Yung Joc from Bad Boy South/Block Entertainment, both are hot on the billboard charts and both led the crowd frenzy while performing their dance hits. After more than seven hours of a great show, Little Rock should feel glad that a local radio station cares enough for its listeners to bring in such talent and put on a great event. Let’s continue to cheer on the champ. Shouts out to all of the artists, their managers, road assistants, dancers, entourage, Lil JJ and all the radio personnel and behind the scenes people that made this event possible and a success.  See you next year at Juneteenth!-Shawn "RockStylez" Brown

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