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May 14, 2012

Hip-hop reigns at Stanford's BlackFest 2012

Popular music continues to be the big draw at the annual spring festival. Record attendance is expected at Frost Amphitheater.

By Robin Wander

Kendrick Lamar,  who has been called the New King of the West Coast by rap royalty, will headline the show. (Photo: Courtesy of Stanford News Service)

A piece of California's rich musical history – and future – will be on the Frost Amphitheater stage May 20 at the annual Stanford BlackFest music festival, sponsored by the Black Family Gathering Committee and the Black Community Services Center.

E-40, one of hip-hop's elder statesmen and a Bay Area music icon, opens the festival followed by Compton's own Kendrick Lamar, who was recently crowned New King of the West Coast by rap royalty Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Game. E-40 and Lamar promise to deliver a stellar afternoon of beats and rhymes alongside a variety of supporting performances.

Contributing to the 2012 festival are performances by Black Greeks from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. The urban youth empowerment program Mural Music & Arts Project and campus dance groups Catch a Fyah and DV8 also will perform.

What started out more than 20 years ago as a family-style picnic grew in 1999 to include performances by Stanford groups and the surrounding community. There are also vendors, 3-on-3 hoops, dominoes and spades tournaments and kids' activities.

In 2003, a headline artist premiered and that put the event on the path to what it is today, a national spectacle focusing on top-tier musical talent.

"After years of providing good music, food and fun for Stanford students, affiliates and families in the Bay Area, we wanted to take it to the next level and offer BlackFest in a venue that would be available to many more people than in years past," said event co-chair Ashley Lyle, '13.

Nanci Howe, associate dean and director of Student Activities and Leadership, one of the festival sponsors, praised the student event organizers.

"Much good work has been done this year to create a fun, family-oriented atmosphere in one of the best kept secrets at Stanford, Frost Amphitheater. We look forward to a new take on the long-standing Black family gathering experience."

Carolus Brown, residence dean and event adviser, notes that BlackFest is a significant memory for current students and alumni.

"In conversation, fond memories of the BlackFest artists always come up," he said. "But what most people don't realize is the amount of student leadership development happening each year – managing emotions, dealing with crises, coordinating conflict with civility, and giving back to their community are all relevant experiences that the co-chairs of the event get exposure to each year."

Ramping up

"In working with the BlackFest team on this event, it's clear that there is much excitement around moving the event to a more established concert venue," said Elaine Enos, executive director of the Office of Special Events and Protocol, one of the sponsor organizations.

While she acknowledges there are many more details to plan for in Frost versus one of the recreation fields on campus, Enos says the new location will have a positive impact on the event overall. Additionally, the Frost model can accommodate the anticipated growth of BlackFest in the years to come.

R&B band Day 26, of P. Diddy's television show Making the Band 4, headlined in 2009 and rapper Wale headlined in 2010. Both, independently, drew crowds of approximately 1,500.

Last year Big Sean from Detroit performed with locals Netta Brielle and LoveRance and southern sensation Travis Porter. Attendance more than doubled from the previous year and there were over 1,000 Facebook and Twitter followers.

This year when BlackFest graduates to Frost Amphitheater, attendance could reach 5,000. Popular performers never hurt the numbers.

"BlackFest 2012 artists were selected because of their strong following at Stanford and in the larger Bay Area. As a committee, we thought that Kendrick best represented the conscious nature many enjoy in hip-hop, and E-40 represented hip-hop's fun side," said Cameron Henry, '12, event co-chair.

Stanford students will be able to enjoy the festival for free with Stanford ID and visitors can buy tickets for $20. Frost gates open at 1:30 p.m. and the show is from 2 to 7 p.m. Food vendors will be on the grounds.

Sponsors of the event are the Black Family Gathering Committee, Black Community Services Center (BCSC), Office of Special Events and Protocol, and Student Activities and Leadership. The Black Family Gathering Committee is a Stanford voluntary student organization that partners with the BCSC to plan, produce and execute BlackFest.



Cameron Henry, BlackFest co-chair:

Robin Wander, Stanford News Service: (650) 724-6184,


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