The phones were out in Bushwick on Saturday afternoon, as police cordoned a corner of the neighborhood for an annual block party; a public event put on by Joseph Ficalora, owner of a local steel company who has dedicated the past decade to convincing graffiti artists to paint his buildings under the guise of his group, the Bushwick Collective. Since starting the project in 2012, Ficalora has also put on a small rap music festival that has, over the years, assembled some of the most revered names in ‘90s hip hop to play free shows in Bushwick two decades later. Fat Joe, Cam’ron, KRS-One, Ghostface Killah and, perhaps a decade too soon, Rick Ross. Now, it was Ice-T’s turn. 

“Problem I have with NYC radio is that they don’t fuck with LA hip-hop,” the West-Coast-rapper-turned-East-Coast-TV-cop groused early into his hour-long set, in which he donned a splitched-gold windbreaker and surveyed big then-hits like “New Jack Hustler” and group version of “Original Gangster” that involved considerable crowd work. At one point, he dropped into a rollicking, somewhat random performance of a 2007 deep cut called “I’m So Fly,” a curious relic of the Bush-era, that was delivered with a kind of moving anachronistic incongruity; “my homies always want to go to war like Osama.”

The most energetic moments came from the local crews who turned the stage into a revolving time capsule of various moments in New York hip hop history. First up were the re-united B-Boys, a ‘80s Bronx group with longstanding ties to Ice; the rapper had signed Donald D to his Rhyme Syndicate label. Others notable also-rans included Smoothe da Hustler, the Brownsville rapper who slipped on stage to perform a casually energetic version of his biggest hit “Broken Language” (“If you don’t know this one, I don’t know what to say,” Ice-T warned the crowd.) Even Kool Keith, the somewhat reclusive rapper who pulled Ice for a feature on his upcoming, long-awaited Black Elvis 2, brought the crowd back to the “old school” flows  of ‘80s New York, performing a version of “Ego Trippin,’” the big hit from his erstwhile group the Ultramagnetic MCs. 

The Bushwick Collective is located at 427 Troutman Street.

Among Ice-T’s local guests was the Brownsville rapper Smoothe da Hustler, who cut a record with Ice in 2006.

Images taken by Andrew Karpan.

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