Break out your durags, Nikes, Timbs and your best early-2000s swagger, because Fubupalooza is here to turn back time. The international pop-up experience created by Meka Jackson makes its latest stop in Colorado this Friday, November 15, at Sportswatch Bar and Grill. Part theme party, part marketplace and part concert, Fubupalooza aims to unite local creatives from all different industries for a night of hip-hop music, art, culture and, of course, nostalgia.
Meka Jackson, who also emcees the Fubupalooza events, was inspired by the do-it-yourself spirit of the iconic brand Fubu (which stands for 'For Us By Us'), founded by Daymond Brown in the early ’90s.
"The concept of it was just the 'For Us By Us,'" Jackson explains. "Everything that Fubu tried to do back then with basically just taking ownership and taking initiative instead of looking for corporate entities or other people to back us, just doing everything ourselves and having that independent mindset."
As someone who works with creatives all over the world, Jackson was frustrated by the lack of accessible opportunities for them to showcase their talent.
"It's always the issue with creatives finding the right platforms, whether it's for performances or the right platforms for painters to display their art, for vendors, the right platform to sell their merch and stuff like that," he explains.
Tired of "janky" promoters, participation fees and the lack of collaboration between local artistic communities, Jackson decided to take matters into his own hands and design an event that put creators in the driver's seat. That means no vendor or artist fees, no corporate sponsors, and definitely no third-party promoters.
"I don't really consider myself a promoter, because I do all of the above creatively," Jackson says. "I do music, I do graphics, I act, do media, everything. I'm just taking the initiative to bring people together so it's more of a community effort. I'm not making artists pay for slots. I'm not hitting vendors with crazy vendor fees. I'm actually giving people a platform to come network and be able to come mingle with other dope creatives."
Finding venues for Fubupalooza was fairly easy for Jackson, since he picked locations where he had previously helped produce events. So far, Fubupalooza has touched down in Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, Raleigh, Leicester and London, with New York and other cities planned for the future. Jackson toyed around with the idea of different themes for the events, but a retro early-2000s party was consistently the most requested theme.
While Fubu's original "For Us By Us" motto specifically referred to the brand being created by and for African-American consumers, Jackson wants to make it clear that Fubupalooza is for everyone.
"That was the premise of Fubu back then, because all the artists back then had a lack of representation in the clothes they wanted to wear. But beyond African-Americans, it was more so a culture thing. Fubu's biggest market has been Asia, for example. All these places that tap into hip-hop culture — of course that's from African-Americans, but now it's such a bigger global entity. Regardless of what race you are, some people just have so much love for the culture and appreciation and respect for the culture."
Matthew Jones, a Denver local who makes music under the name BROTH3R, met Jackson in Austin, Texas, through Fubupalooza's resident DJ, DJ SyonKream. After performing at Austin's first Fubupalooza, Jones was determined to bring the event to Denver.
"I went down there and performed and had a really good time, saw what it was doing for the community. I heard the conversations people were having — people were saying that Austin wasn't even that lit until these types of things were happening, the community was kind of separated, etc.," says Jones. "I've been in Denver for a few years now, and a lot of people have been coming to me with the same complaints. People don't collaborate, people don't want to make music, people don't want to be here, the venues cost too much, all these questions. I figured that Fubupalooza would be really good at this time in Denver to help bring together some of these creatives, a lot of which I have collaborated with, who don't know each other but have been here the whole time."
Using his music connections and with the help of his production company Echo Clique, Jones was able to book most of Fubupalooza Denver's entertainers himself. The event will feature performances by music acts Noodlepapi, Yung Linx, Des Rude, King Kaleb, KG Prince, Rooftop York, AYKEOO, L3tariat, Hovey, Nightlight, Ray Jones, Mr. Grigsby, Shinobi, Juicebox of Paradise, and Loverboy Talib, as well as tunes spun by DJ SyonKream. Additionally, Lowkey Industries will be bringing its clothing line, Mutiny Information Cafe will be selling comics, and Privy Jewels will be selling custom jewelry and doing live grill molds. Vendors will also be doing contests and giveaways throughout the night.
"We have a lot of unique performers, very different underground type of stuff," says Jones. "I wanted to keep it true to what was going on in Texas when I was there, in L.A. when I was there, but just get that Denver vibe, you know? It's just chill."
Jones is optimistic that the impact of Fubupalooza will surpass one event.
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"I think you'll see a Denver Fubupalooza again in the very near future, because people are going to be craving it. I would say this community is a little bit more separate than the ones I have seen Fubus in, so I would think that at the end, you're going to see the city is going to be different," Jones says.
In his ideal post-Fubupalooza Denver, "there's going to be a lot more collaboration, a lot more hip-hop shows. It's just going to change the whole way the city goes about talking about hip-hop, having these conversations, celebrating the culture, and things of that nature."
Jackson agrees, and also hopes the spirit of creative collaboration fostered by Fubupalooza will live on after Friday's event. To Jackson, that's what Fubupalooza is all about: "I try to strip everyone of their ego, dare to have a good time, and push the culture forward."