Rapper Future performs at Stanford’s Blackfest

Blackfest concert moves to Levin Field, rapper Future performs for free and students run the show.

Blackfest is back with Future. The annual spring concert sponsored by the Black Family Gathering Committee and the Black Community Services Center will feature headliner Future as well as local rappers, Greek organizations and campus dance groups.

The event takes place this year at Levin Field on Saturday, May 4, beginning at 2 p.m. and is free for all.

Blackfest is a tradition that dates back over 20 years when it was a family picnic, but since 2003 BFGC students with a passion for music and the creative arts have invited popular and emerging national R&B and hip-hop artists to perform as headliners.

The high-caliber talent tradition continues this year with rapper Future. It’s been a good year for the young star from Atlanta. He has been featured on four top 20 songs on Billboard’s hip-hop/R&B charts and just released his second album, which features big names like Kanye West, Drake and Rihanna.

Future was selected by the BFGC because of his relevance in the current music scene and his dexterity moving among the worlds of performance, studio collaboration and songwriting.

“Students want to see someone who is not limited in his craft. Future is not only a popular rapper, but he is also a talented songwriter who has written current singles for artists including Rihanna and Ciara,” said event chair Ashley Lyle. “Future brings an energy to the show that is fun and upbeat as well as smooth.”

Future will join an elite group of Blackfest performers.  Previous headliners include Kendrick Lamar supported by E-40 (2012), Detroit’s Big Sean (2011), rapper Wale (2010) and the R&B group Day26 from MTV’s Making the Band 4(2009).

A wide range of opening acts, selected by BFGC through a video submission process, will support Future’s performance on Saturday. There will be step shows from campus and local Greek organizations and dance performances by Stanford’s Alliance, HD Crew, Jam Pac’d and Catch a Fyah.

Anjana Bala of the jazz/hip-hop dance ensemble Jam Pac’d said she looks forward to “increasing our presence on campus and expressing ourselves in an innovative and highly receptive space.”

A new twist to the show this year will be a cypher, a circle of artists taking turns rapping over a beat, showcasing local rappers.

Levin Field, on Mayfield Avenue near Florence Moore Hall, is the new location for the event, part of an effort to foster more of a festival vibe than a concert experience. The hope is that the open field will enable people to socialize and engage with each other and the vendors more seamlessly than on the Frost Amphitheater slope where the concert was held last year.

Lyle is a fourth-year veteran of Blackfest, having rotated through various jobs from artist relations to vendor management to co-chair and now chair. She explained that every year the committee sits down and asks, “What does our community want out of Blackfest and how can we give them that experience with the right combination of performance, vendors and any other elements?”

The goal has always been to bring the community together to showcase homegrown talent along with a national headliner.

“We believe that creative expression is important, and there should be outlets to express oneself,” said Lyle.