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Victory lap.

The sweet smell of success was in the air on Saturday, April 30, in Washington D.C., as the commonwealth hosted the fourth annual Broccoli City Fest – an event that uses Hip-Hop as a conduit to promote environmental sustainability, health education, and physical activity.

This marks the third consecutive year that Gateway Pavilion, located in the Southeast section of the city, served as festival grounds. (The event space was formerly St. Elizabeths Hospital, an institution for the mentally ill.) The festival circuit is steeped in competition, and in the cases of smaller grassroots events, a successful showing is totally dependent on its star-studded lineup.

Not only has BC Fest consistently provided its audience with top-tier talent, but this was the year it officially built its proverbial “church” of supporters – an amalgam of music lovers and purveyors of urban culture reflective of the city’s pool of young professionals; as well as others willing to travel to see its marvel.

The growth of BC Fest’s patronage forced it to explore previously unchartered portions of the Pavilion and add a much larger stage for its marquee acts. The second stage was reserved for local acts and a pop-up version of the increasingly popular Trap Karaoke event while vendors provided those interested with goods and food.

The equal parts grass and asphalt compound were predominately littered with Black and brown faces (a rarity at most festivals) mirroring a HBCU reunion. The gentrified streets of D.C. were to be aptly called “Chocolate City” once again, even if only for the day.

Featured artists BJ The Chicago Kid, Anderson .Paak, DJ and producer Sango, The Internet and Jhené Aiko brought mellow vibrations throughout the day, illuminating the gloomy, cloud-filled sky as best they possibly could. The crooners on the bill, BJ and .Paak, left a lasting impression during their consecutive sets, performing records from their respective 2016 releases In My Mind and Malibu; the former joined Dr. Dre’s protégé during his set to perform their buttery smooth collaboration “The Waters.”

Sango sent the crowd on a musically-driven emotional rollercoaster, during which he played his own compositions alongside pre-ordained party starters like Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” and Drake’s sure-to-be summer anthem “Hype” from Views just a day after it released.

Next up was The Internet, an offshoot of the wily Odd Future bunch who’ve become a Grammy-nominated force to be reckoned with. Lead vocalist Syd Tha Kyd called Broccoli City one of the “best festival experiences” amid a mixed bag of a set, featuring songs like “Dontcha” from Feel Good and “Girl” from Ego Death.

Also hailing from Los Angeles, Aiko brought a similar vibe to the stage during a performance that was capped off by a rendition of Prince’s “Diamonds & Pearls.”

By nightfall, the rain poured down, signaling the change in mood that would come courtesy of this year’s headliner Future. After an impressive run that began with 2014’s Monster mixtape, plateaued with last summer’s DS2, and continues to show a promising future (pun intended) with the one-two punch of Purple Reign and EVOL, the Atlanta native had more than enough material to rock the crowd to its core. Future began with his rambunctious battle cry “Thought It Was A Drought,” before repeatedly turning the audience on it’s ear with trap anthem after trap anthem.

By Broccoli Fest’s end, it was abundantly clear that every win should be capped off by a proper celebration – rain or shine.

Additional reporting by D.L. Chandler

Earlier in the day, Hip-Hop Wired’s D.L. Chandler had a chance to speak with Broccoli City founder Brandon McEachern, who expressed the original intent of the festival and what he hopes to achieve with the yearly event.

“It’s a lifestyle, being green and eating better is a choice we should all have,” said McEachern, a Los Angeles resident who fell in love with Washington, D.C. as a location for his celebrated event. “I’ve been all around the world where other Black and Brown faces are and we don’t have the options like our counterparts have. This is the true calling of the BC Fest.”

McEachern also added that while the musical acts and vendors are the hook to reel attendees in, the information that’s available to all on the grounds is an invaluable resource. McEachern doesn’t preach extremes nor does he believe in drastic changes to one’s lifestyle, but does champion the belief that we should at the very least have the access.

Photo: Victoria Ford/Sneakshot

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