On Saturday, July 10, hip-hop made an illustrious impact on Staten Island, one of New York City’s most underestimated boroughs. The inaugural Staten Island Peace and Unity Festival took place this Saturday with Ashanti and Ja Rule as headliners alongside Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, and Redman. Sponsored by community organizations The Water Team, Uncle Chase Entertainment, Wakeem Entertainment, and 3J’s Creation Entertainment. Spearheaded by Kay Woods, CEO of The Water Team, the objective of the event was to encourage unity among New Yorkers after the aggressive limits of the now year-long pandemic, especially Staten Islanders.
At the top of the show, Kay Woods disclosed the mission of the festival. “The main purpose of this concert is about peace and unity. It ain’t about nothing else,” Kay Woods disclosed to the audience. “We ain’t doing this for the gram.”
Ja Rule and Ashanti kicked off the concert with their signature team dynamic and ran through their most favored hits in the likes of “Mesmerize,” “Always on Time,” “Down Ass Chick,” “Happy,” “Livin’ It Up,” and more. The festival marks Ashanti’s first time visiting Staten Island, a borough of New York where Murder Inc’s music played a role in the coming of seasoned trends.
Catching up with the R&B princess, she shared that she did not have any expectations about performing on Staten Island for the first time, and all she wanted was energy and love. The promising borough certainly fulfilled that desire as their outpouring of love was on full display.
“I really didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t know what we were coming into,” said Ashanti. “I felt like I wanted it to be energy and love and it definitely was.”
The Grammy award-winning singer highlighted her induction to the Class of 2022 Hollywood Hall of Fame during her performance and was moved by the response she received from Staten Islanders.
“You know what really surprised me, the reaction that I got when I said that I am getting a star on the Hollywood Hall of Fame,” said Ashanti. “That felt like family.”
Staten Island is known for its role as being the birthplace of the Wu-Tang Clan. In return, the legendary group has managed to play a chunky role in the global recognition of the “forgotten” borough. New York City boroughs such as Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are places where voluminous hip-hop events are known to take place and Staten Island is on the verge of joining the lineup.
In what is considered a legendary performance, Wu-Tang Clan members Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, and Cappadonna took to the stage alongside the funk doc himself, Redman. From Cappadonna’s slaying of his hit “Slang Editorial” to Ghostface Killah and Method Man’s nostalgic “Ice Cream” verses and even down to Young Dirty Bastard taking to the mic to the parts of his father, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the festival brewed a moment that will go down in Staten Island’s hip-hop history, as such shindigs are rare.
In a sit down with Ghostface Killah, when asked about his stance on Wu-Tang’s iconic status on Staten Island, the “Mighty Healthy” emcee explained that he rarely thinks about it, but when he does he is humble about his role in putting Staten Island on the map.
“I know what we did and whatever I do is just regular,” said Ghostface Killah. “I’m humble to it and I’m grateful that the most high has aligned me with who he has aligned me around, to be on that one team to spread this to the world.”
Staten Island rapper Yah-Sin, who also happens to be the nephew of Method Man, finds importance in Wu-Tang performing on “the island” as the presence of such legends “remind islanders that legends and great legacy can be created right here and reach out to the entire world.”
Chatting with Method Man, he shared that while he knows and understands Wu-Tang’s prominence on Staten Island, he poses the question as to what figures of his stature can do for their hometown communities:
“You have to give back more than just give back. Your presence alone is sometimes good but it ain’t good enough. Especially in situations where people are hungry, people are starving,” said Method Man.
“You can come around and give turkeys on thanksgiving, but once that turkey is gone, what they got to eat next?”
He continued, “There are people out there who will work for what they want. They are ready to work now. It’s just that the opportunity has passed them because they are not in a position or in a place where they can be seen and heard and be put into those places where they can provide for their families and take care of themselves. So what we do is, we put these festivals together hoping to inspire somebody to want better for themselves.”
The Wu-Tang Clan also used the festival as an opportunity to publicly present Staten Island legends, the Force MDs with the platinum plaque they earned from their contribution to Ghostface Killah’s debut album Ironman.
The festival was a Staten Island affair that introduced a new tone to the borough’s hip-hop status. As the theme affirms, “peace and unity,” its historic reputation is mostly due to the social fellowship of rivaling local towns such as Stapleton and Park Hill, both stomping grounds of the Wu-Tang Clan. Originally, the event was set to take place for two days with Lil Durk slated to headline day two, July 11. However, day two was postponed due to matters that were beyond the control of the organizers.