The Boston Urban Music Festival (B.U.M.P) held on August 7, was sponsored by Mayor Menino and the City of Boston, to celebrate music, diversity, and peace. This was a free event, and City Hall was already crowded an hour before the show started. Space was still available on the stairs, but spots near the front of the stage were packed five rows deep. Radio station and media vans were parked all around Government Center. Never have I seen City Hall this crowded before. Judging by the scene, you would have thought Jay-Z was in Boston performing, instead of up-and-coming artists.

DJ Hustle Simmons introduced the first act of the night, the Boston-bred hip-hop artists Young Riot, who performed the single “So Wavy.”  Young Riot threw free t-shirts into the crowd, turning fans into what resembled a pack of feeding-frenzy piranhas. Everyone sways their hands to the music as the air begins to fill with smoke from cigarettes. Hustle Simmons further rallied the crowd by asking where everyone was from. The audience screamed and jumped for each shout out. “Who’s from Dorchester? Where are my people from Roxbury?”  And everyone went especially crazy after hearing artist/producer Ryan Leslie was in the house.

Second to perform was another Boston-based group, Bad Rabbits. The five-person band built upon the energy of the first performance.  Their stage presence is supernatural, as they are a powerhouse of vocals and talent. Each act is set up with a synchronized line-dance involving lead vocalist, Dua Boakye, guitarists Salim Akram and Santi Araujo, and bass player, Graham Masser. Drummer Sheel Davé set the rhythm to Dua’s falsetto voice. Once the bass-line and drum beat kicked in, everyone in the audience lost control and let the music take over.  I felt the bass pounding in my heart and throat.  Bad Rabbits then exploded on stage into pure head banging bliss.

Dua Boakye’s energy never let up; he was overcome by the music, running across the stage, chest bumping his bandmates.  During the chorus of their final song, Bad Rabbit’s danced to “She’s Bad.”  Boakye threw his black rimmed glasses across the stage, head banging with everyone one last time.  At the end of their bit, they screamed, “Who are we?  I can’t hear you–what’s our name?” Everyone shouted in unison, “B a d  R a b b i t s!”

DJ Hustle Simmons returned to the stage, continuing with his shout outs: “Shout out to the people in the back. Girl with the pink umbrella, I see you. The people in the back must be like, ‘Oh God, yeah that’s us.’”

Music was blasting while we waited for the next act to come on stage. The bass was getting louder and my body felt like an instrument, like it was part of the act.  M-Dot and a mob of people assembled on stage rapping. They started throwing t-shirts and the audience again turned into a pack of animals, ready to catch anything coming their way. Girls sat on top of boys’ shoulders, swaying to the music. For their second song, M-Dot rapped without music, and the DJ performed with the drummer.

A Half an hour into their performance, one boy threw an M-Dot shirt on stage, and a photographer threw it back into the audience. The crowd was growing restless–and high from smoking weed. They chant in unison, “Where’s Wiz? We want Wiz!”

The fourth performer was crooner and ladies-man Ryan Leslie, who graduated from Harvard. He is electrifying on stage; all that’s missing was a set of fireworks behind him, even though the air was filled with smoke from marijuana smoking.  Leslie’s stage presence was magnetic; he was dressed in a v-neck shirt, suspenders hanging off his shoulders, jeans tucked into ankle boots. Playing the keyboard and singing, Ryan Leslie was a dominating presence.

The crowd was going wild for his every move. At this point, the crowd no longer resembled a pack of people, but was behaving as one unit, with the sole intention of praising this god-like performer in front of them.  Leslie, understanding this, jumps on top of an amp to serenade with his song “Diamond Girl.” A girl behind me shouts to her friend, “Oh my God, he looked at me!” Leslie was wearing sunglasses.

A fellow onlooker shouted about the drummer’s performance: “He broke the drum stick! He’s a beast!” But Leslie was not finished; he climbed a few notches on the stage column and continued to possess the crowd. A sea of heads was all around me. The audience had doubled in size, revealing thousands. People were watching the show from parking garages near City Hall.

Leslie finished his performance and thanked everyone for showing up. DJ Hustle Simmons returned and said, “Okay, have a good night everyone. Be safe getting home.” After letting this sink in, he continued, “I’m just playing with you. Wiz is coming up next.”

The crowd’s reaction was nothing compared to the way it reacted to crooner Ryan Leslie. People were pushing and shoving to the front of the stage. The photography pit was overwhelmed with fans. At this point, there was no such thing as personal space. Wiz came out with DJ Peter Parker and other artists, and all of a sudden, a mob of fans from the pit ran across the stage. Fans near the front were inspired, and almost knocked over the railing in front of them. Wiz safely left the stage as police officers surround the photographer’s pit.

Then DJ Peter Parker announced that Mayor Menino was present at the show. Parker said, “You guys are animals! Be careful. Pretend your momma taught you some manners.” The audience did not seem phased. Fans continued trying to sneak back into the pit, but were immediately stopped by cops.

A guy behind me shouted to DJ Parker, “F—k the mayor and f—k you!”  Parker responds, “I love you, too.” The guy gives Parker the finger.

“Everyone move the f—k back. Please take a step back!” Parker shouted as cops set up railings around the stage.

Everyone was smoking weed. Age was not an issue. Fans were on top of City Hall’s roof. Cops were trying to regain control.

Parker warned the crowd that the show would resume one last time, but would cease immediately if anything unruly happened again.

But when Wiz Khalifa safely returned to the stage, the audience ignored the warnings and continued to push closer. Between sets, Wiz interacted with the audience: “Who follows me on Twitter?”  The response was a monstrous screams.

“What is the first thing I say every morning?” Wiz continued. In unison the audience screamed, “Waking and baking!”

At this time, two boys, estimated age fifteen, were stumbling in my direction. They were both coughing and one looked like he was about to pass out. Just as he was about to fall, two men from nearby rushed over. “Move out of the way or help!”  they yell. The men grabbed the passed out boy by both arms and dragged him out of the crowd, as his friend stumbles and coughs behind them.

On stage, Wiz asks, “Who has good weed?!” People around me answer, “Over here!” Continuing with the performance, Wiz pulled off his shirt revealing his skinny frame covered in tattoos. Something was happening behind us. The crowd’s attention was distracted. A group of people were waving and pointing at the ground.  Cops pushed through to the emergency, helping the belligerent out of the crowd.

Wiz finished the day’s festivities with his popular song “Up,” and the audience sang along: “Cuz everything’s better when you’re high/ Everything’s better when you’re high/ If you don’t smoke I don’t know why.”

About The Author

Ashley D’Hooge graduated from Emerson college in Boston. She has written for several publications and currently resides in Boston.

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