Kelly Strayhorn Theater & Alloy Studios

July 31 – August 1
Various times

The first annual Cultured Steel Hip Hop Festival is setting up shop at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and The Alloy Studios in East Liberty, running July 31st and August 1st.

Presented by The Pittsburgh Hip Hop Collective, the inaugural Cultured Steel Festival features headlining performances by Talib Kweli and Rapsody, international acts who will be joined by Pittsburgh-based artists Jasiri X, Kellee Maize and Palermo Stone. An expansion of its ongoing monthly offerings, The Pittsburgh Hip Hop Collective is launching the larger two-day event to also feature an art exhibition, film screening and special artist meet-and-greet sessions.

Cultured Steel kicks off with the grand opening of 40 Years of Hip-Hop Arts & Culture, an art exhibition at The Alloy Studios. A tribute to the five elements of hip hop curated by Paradise Gray, the show features artifacts from The Paradise Collection and by featured artist Bob “Durty-1” Freyer. On display will be classic hip hop photos and original hip hop art by renowned artists and photographers from around the globe, including Ernie Paniccioli, Joe Conzo, Andre’ LeRoy Davis, Anire Mosley, ASKEM, Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins and Ignacio Soltero.

In addition to the gallery opening and reception, the event will also include a screening of the new film, The Hip Hop Fellow, about the prolific Durham, NC-based hip hop producer, record executive, DJ, lecturer and rapper, 9th Wonder. Screening at 8 p.m., the 2014 feature-length documentary chronicles the Grammy Award winning producer’s groundbreaking tenure at Harvard University, and also serves as a cinematic tribute to hip hop history and culture.

Not to miss is the festival’s second day boasting a showcase concert at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Headlining hip hop acts are renowned lyricist Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder protégé, Rapsody. Also performing will be leading Pittsburgh hip hop artists Jasiri X, Palermo Stone and Kellee Maize.

Born in New York City in 1975, Talib Kweli Greene is well known for his work with fellow Brooklyn-bred rapper Mos Def, in the famed East Coast hip hop group Black Star. In 2011, Kweli founded his own imprint, Javotti Media, an independent label that works with up-and-coming hip hop talents such as singer Res and rapper Cory Mo. In December 2013, Kweli released his sixth solo studio album, Gravitas, which features guest appearances by everyone from Gary Clark Jr., Abby Dobson and Big K.R.I.T., to Raekwon, Black Thought and Rah Digga.

Née Marlanna Evans in 1988 in Wilson, NC, Rapsody released her debut studio album, The Idea of Beautiful, in 2012 on Jamla, the label spearheaded by acclaimed hip hop producer 9th Wonder. Rapsody, who has also received critical acclaim of her mixtapes, has worked with everyone from Erykah Badu, Raekwon and Mac Miller, to Estelle, Big Daddy Kane and Kendrick Lamar.

Cultured Steel will also feature local businesses and clothing companies on display, and additional programming designed to highlight both the local hip hop culture as well as Pittsburgh’s influence on hip hop. A collaboration between R.A.R.E. Nation, a growing local hip hop music company, Jasiri X and 1Hood Media, The Pittsburgh Hip Hop Collective has hosted popular monthly events since February 2014, including discussions and performances aimed at educating residents and enhancing hip hop and arts culture in Pittsburgh. The collective recently received a prestigious grant from Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a joint project of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, to organize a variety of public events in the city throughout 2014.

Purchase passes and tickets.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...