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Photo: Outside scene of AFROPUNK 2017 in Atlanta (Erin Davis/VOX ATL)

The Avant Garde Blackness of Afropunk’s Lineup: An Alternative Approach to Black Excellence

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As the weekend of Oct 13th-14th approaches, the city bustles and buzzes with the anticipation of an influx of upcoming activity, which most notably includes the Afropunk Atlanta music festival, which will run both days.

The Afropunk festival is not only a diverse multicultural music fest that has an international influence and platform, but also a growing movement of non-conforming, forward-looking creatives and individuals who live fearlessly and authentically within their unique truth.

Though the concept of Afropunk originated from a documentary on the influences and inspections of African-American culture and punk rock, it evolved into an international music festival celebrating the innovative and unique creative voices within communities often overlooked by mainstream media and culture.

Currently run by co-founder Matthew Morgan, Afropunk’s culture is driven by a subculture of individuals whose radical expression interweaves activism with art, music, creative expression, and of course unapologetic blackness. These “Afropunkers” are the emerging influencers and creatives shaping this unique facet of pop-cultural, and celebrating the avant-garde.

Apart from its cutting edge musical lineup, Afropunk features multiple facets to its event, including an “activism row” reflective of the festival’s socially conscious messaging and philosophy. The festival also showcases various forms of visual art and installation, serving as a platform for underground and emerging artists to exhibit unconventional forms of expression. Additionally, Afropunk is the Mecca for alternative black expression, and it shows in the daring fashion choices of the festival-goers. Afropunk is most definitely a festival in which creativity is worn tangibly on the skin for the world to ponder and celebrate.

The Afropunk lineup has much evolved from its DIY punk-esque roots, and currently showcases artists such as The Internet, Pusha-T and N.E.R.D., whom are the headliners of the Atlanta 2018 festival.

However, this year’s lineup particularly stands out not because of its bolded names, but because of the diverse variety of its musical styles, which are more reflective of the festival’s more experimental and soulful influences.

The must-see sets include Kaytranada, who returns to the Afropunk stages to bring the show to a no doubt transcendent close. Kaytranada’s alternative take on house intermingles hip-hop influence with pulsing dark beats and lowkey melodies with disco feels. His set is sure to mesmerize crowds in the festival’s final performance.

Additionally, Benjamin Booker’s wicked, gravel-voiced croning will also be a highlight of the various performances on the Saturday schedule. His throaty lines sure to be delivered with the raw honesty and emotion that Booker’s work is hallmarked for, as seen in his 2017 album Witness.

Noname, an artist set apart due to her intriguing anonymity and chill prose-like lyrism is also a set sure to stun on the Sunday schedule. Her soulful rap and soft beats are guaranteed to sway crowds of Afropunkers to her emotional, poetic sound.

Not to be counted out, one cannot overlook flourishing musician Serpentwithfeet, who brings a fascinating, multi-genre approach to neo-soul that blends classical and gospel sounds with R&B beats and soulful influences. The genius of the alt-soul artist’s powerfully poignant 2018 album soil promises a tear-jerkingly emotive performance Saturday in the evening hours of the festival.

Overall, Afropunk’s 2018 festival lineup delivers on its promise of diversity and innovation, as well as sets an unprecedented standard for musical and creative excellence.

Erin Davis is a photographer, journalist and creative who strives to document and celebrate the unconventional and unseen subcultures within the Atlanta arts scene.

All photos by Erin Davis

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