While different Philly hip-hop acts had been rocking the stage at 52nd Street and Market Street all afternoon long on Saturday at the Converse Block Party, the place wasn’t really set on fire until a couple of old area legends came back through to show some love. As big a hip-hop fan as I am, it had been a minute since I had listened to some Beanie Sigel and Freeway. But the two Philadelphia icons â€“ along with Young Chris â€“ came through as Stalley‘s special guests for Saturday’s free block party to celebrate local street culture, basketball, music, and art in conjunction with the launch of the newest Converse Pro Leather collection.
And the minute the duo started diving into old classics like “Roc The Mic”, “Feel It In The Air”, and of course, one of my favorite anthems of all time, “What We Do”, it felt like we were put into a time machine. The crowd was hyped, and everyone from the young teenagers to the older moms went crazy when Freeway dropped the “f— a Lex ‘cus the clique fit good in the caravan” line. Young Guru was on stage holding it down behind the boards. Stalley and Young Chris were up there too, and Beans and Freeway brought some of the young rappers like Chill Moody and Young Savage up to enjoy the love as well. It wasn’t just a party. It felt like something more, which is what Converse wanted.
After re-launching the Pro Leathers in UBIQ on Friday night, Converse and Dime converged on West Philly on Saturday afternoon for one of those essential summer afternoon block parties. There was a Jack & Jill Ice Cream truck, Little Barry’s Ice Cream came down on their old school bicycle, and one hot dog stand selling what they were calling “The Dapper Dog” to make sure no one went hungry.
I had to hit up the Baby Blues BBQ station, which was handing out free servings of some of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had.
The block party was part of a series of community events held in cities across the United States, including Washington, D.C, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Dedicated to celebrating all of the street culture â€“ basketball, music and art â€“ that embodies so much of what Converse is about, they’re all in conjunction with the re-launching of the Pro Leathers.
I had been to the block party in D.C. during the World Basketball Festival, and between the pickup runs, the free food, the free gear and the performances, this one was just as good. With DJ Diamond Kuts playing tracks like â€ªDJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Princeâ€ª‘s “Summertime” (a must for ANY summer party), a lot of people just hung out and enjoyed the food. Others had to take it all in. There were breakdancers and girls playing hopscotch, as well as two basketball hoops for anyone who wanted to bear the weather and get a game going.
Converse was running stands for people to design their own free t-shirts, and some of the locals were getting area codes stamped on the front, as well as “52nd Street” and “The EL”. They also had a tent for customizing sneakers, a photobooth set up, and even a Wheel of Fortune where someone could spin it and have the chance to land a free shirts, wrist bands, or perhaps even a sling bag.
But the most people were converged around a tent to the left of the stage. Jadakiss rolled to the party, and hung out, mingled and signed autographs for fans for around two hours. When I heard about the special guests who were coming, I had figured someone like Jada might stick around for a half an hour, bang out a couple quick autographs and then sneak out the back. Instead, he was there most of the afternoon.
Once again, in a fitting capper for the ultimate Philly experience, Julius Erving showed up just as he had on Friday night, coming back to the hood to help introduce the staring musical acts while rocking a Philly snapback, and white and gold Pro Leathers.
All photos by Jason Hurst (www.hurstphoto.com)
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