For Mark Gonzalez, starting the Art of War hip hop festival was a way to shatter stereotypes.
“I started this event five to six years ago because as an artist I saw a need to counter the negative connotation attached to hip hop,” Gonzalez said. “Real hip hop, our true culture, is misunderstood and misrepresented in mainstream channels.”
The three-day festival scheduled for this weekend, which kicks off Friday night, aims to set the record straight and will feature the core four elements or pillars of hip hop culture, including breakdancing, DJing, MCing, and visual art. It promises to be a family oriented event with fun and engagement for all ages.
Gonzalez, who has been organizing music events in San Antonio for almost ten years, says that venues here were reluctant in the past to support hip hop because of the negative connotations attached to the genre and its artists.
“As an artist, I had to take promotions into my own hands. I would set up small parties,” Gonzalez said. “And from there it took off, and the need for large venues emerged.”
Fast forward to 2015, and this year’s AOW festival kicks off this Friday with an event called “Track Battles.” From 7 p.m. to midnight this free event will take place at The Paint Yard located at 525 San Pedro Ave.
The second day of the festival will take place at Josabi’s, a music hall in Helotes, from 2 p.m. to midnight. It will highlight a wide range of events including professional b-boys and b-girls battling for prize money and music producers going head to head in a “Beat Alert” battle.
“Some producers create music that is all digital,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t want that, we want live creation and improvisation.”
Emcees with original lyrics and beats will battle it out for a spot on the Saturday night concert line-up, featuring Ghostface Killah from the Wu-Tang Clan. Ghostface released his latest work, “Sour Soul,” in February and he’s described as a natural storyteller with a certain knack for describing reality. Tickets for the entire day are $25 and are available for purchase here.
The third day of the festival highlights the visual and language arts of hip hop culture, known as style writing, aerosol art or what many may commonly refer to as graffiti. Artists will begin painting at 10 a.m. on Sunday at The Paint Yard’s Urban Shop.
Fifty aerosol artists from the U.S. and Mexico will paint the shop and neighborhood walls. Beatriz “Triz” Rodriguez, is the new owner of the shop and co-founder of Universal Style School, a hip hop educational organization.
“This is one of many community cultural events we will host here at TPY-Urban in these upcoming months, it is intended to build culture and vitalize the downtown core,” Rodriguez said.
Both Gonzalez and Rodriguez, the Art of War and Universal Style School, are teaming up due to their common goals and interests that they share.
“We want to build our culture in San Antonio, and make it a place known for hip hop culture while also keeping our creativity and fresh ideas here in our town, rather than sending it off to Los Angeles or New York,” Gonzalez said.
“Hip hop is a model for learning and creativity and self determination. It is a model for sustainability, and showing young people what it is to thrive,” Rodriguez said. “I want that for my hometown, which is why I chose to found and launch the school here in SA.”
For more information about the event and performances, readers can visit the Facebook event pages for the Art of War.
*Featured/top image: A local dj works at his turntable during Hip Hop 101. Photo by Jerimey Sharp.