DURHAM – Art of Cool Fest picked up where it left off on Friday during day two Saturday, wrapping up a week focusing in large part on the African American entrepreneurial community.

Blackwell Street filled up early in the morning with a variety of vendors and independent merchants selling everything from clothing to self-care products and more. The city was buzzing with anticipation.

Between AOCFEST and Pride weekend, most places were full of activity.

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Taking the drums to the street for AOCFest crowd to hear.

Sango, who had a standout performance the night before at the Durham Armory, was one of the first sessions of the day for Innovate Your Cool on Saturday. The DJ/producer hosted “How to create on the go: beat session” at American Underground. He deconstructed an instrumental live and gave the crowd an inside look into his production process.

“You have to get out and explore and become influenced,” said Sango, who spent months in Brazil to better understand the Portuguese music he has been fond of sampling. “It’s important to be immersed in the culture.”

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“It’s important to be immersed in the culture,” Sango tells the crowd.

Following his session, there were a number of community events spread throughout downtown Durham at the hotels and outdoor gathering spaces that offered music and an opportunity to mingle.

Before the main stage performances began, a conversation about hip-hop and feminism was held at American Underground between North Carolina emcee Rapsody and Dr. Yaba Blay. The two swapped stories about difficult professional experiences being female in male-dominated industries, as well as the complications of separating art from artists.

“There are some people [artists] that can be thrown away, or at least put in timeout,” Rapsody said.

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Rapsody and Dr. Yaba Blay discuss challenges.

A major announcement came on the heels of the presentation from Rapsody’s mentor, 9th Wonder. In a surprise turn of events, after the festival announced that Royce Da 5’9” would not make it to his set, AOCFEST sent a shockwave through the hip-hop community when they revealed that Little Brother, legendary Durham rap trio that consists of Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh and 9th Wonder, would be performing a special set at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The group hadn’t performed together in a decade after parting ways in 2008. This was a big moment for AOCFEST fans and the hip-hop community at-large.

Check out a photo from the performance: https://www.instagram.com/p/BoVywDZjKFu/

Nas took the stage to a now-raucous crowd shortly after. The seasoned performer covered a number of his classics from Illmatic through Life is Good. The DBAP audience hung on every lyric and could recite most of his catalog word for word, highlighting the impact of his music on generations of hip-hop fans.


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Nas took the stage to a raucous crowd.

To cap off the second night, Erykah Badu captivated the audience with her trademark swagger and fearless feminism. She bounced between singing, dancing and occasionally stopping to play her drum machine. Badu has been on the AOCFEST wish list for years. To have her close out the five-year anniversary is an appropriate ending to another impressive festival weekend.

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