9 notable moments in New York music this year

Precious Fondren is a Culture and Arts reporter in the Newsroom. Below are some of her favorite albums and experiences in 2023.

Music lovers in New York had plenty of exciting options this year, not just blockbuster stadium tours from Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.

From breakout stars like Ice Spice to concert opportunities from established artists like Drake to the dozens of activities celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

Below are nine concert performances, projects and hip-hop celebrations that stood out.

Exclusive concerts

50 Cent at Barclays Center

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of his successful debut album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which included classic hits like “In Da Club,” rapper 50 Cent embarked on his “The Final Lap” world concert tour this year.

It came to the Barclays Center for two nostalgic, fun-filled nights in August, and it didn’t disappoint longtime fans like me.

In the nearly three-hour show, 50 Cent made room for all of his biggest hits like “21 Questions,” “I Get Money” and “Many Men.” It also featured numerous special guests such as Brooklyn rappers Young MA, Fat Joe and Bobby Shmurda.

SZA at Madison Square Garden

This year, Billboard magazine’s Woman of the Year, pop star SZA, embarked on her first arena tour, named after her chart-topping second album, SOS.

The show came to Madison Square Garden for two nights in early March.

SZA performed most of the 23-song project and reminded fans why they love her with oldies like “Doves in the Wind” and “Drew Barrymore.” She ended with a heartfelt message thanking her fans for believing in her music and supporting her.

Kelela at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park

This summer’s “BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!” concert series lineup was stacked with incredible talent like Anderson .Paak, Kari Faux, and Joe.

Singer-songwriter Kelela was also on the bill for Prospect Park’s Lena Horne Bandshell. She performed songs from her catalog including songs from her latest album ‘Raven’ to a remix of her classic song ‘Enemy’.

The free concert served as the perfect backdrop for a picnic with friends, and we would have gladly stayed another two hours to hear the singer’s angelic voice.

Exclusive editions

Yaya Bey “Exit North Star”

It’s hard to pinpoint what genre Yaya Bey’s “Exodus the North Star” falls into: Is it neo-soul or perhaps more progressive R&B?

Regardless, the Brooklyn-based singer is a rising star and sold out a concert in November at the Sounds Of Brazil venue.

Her six-song EP ‘North Star’ is the follow-up to 2022’s ‘Remember Your North Star’ and fuses the heart and soul of R&B with the coolness of reggae.

The project, which clocks in at just under 17 minutes, has Yaya Bey relishing the vulnerability that comes with being in love.

Another highlight on the album is the song “on the ribs moon”, which features the singer’s sultry voice singing over a light reggae beat as she declares her love for her partner.

L’Rain “I Killed Your Dog”

Experimental instrumentalist Taya Cheek, better known by her stage name L’Rain, has had a busy year: she was the inaugural artist-curator for this summer’s BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series.

In October, she released her third studio album, I Killed Your Dog. The album is a journey through the many emotions the Brooklyn-born artist experiences as she tries to recover from a broken heart.

Tracks like “r(EMOTE)” and closing track “New Year’s UnResolution” remind listeners why Cheek’s is one of the best talents in town.

Ice Condiment “Like…? (Deluxe)”

Billboard named Bronx-born Ice Spice the fourth biggest pop star of 2023 — an impressive feat considering she hasn’t released an official debut album. But she had an extended game, “Like…?”

While the 11-track project is filled with ice Spice’s acclaimed hits like “Munch(Feelin’ U)” and “Deli,” the deep cuts like “Butterfly Ku” and “Gangsta Boo” are what make it fun I’m listening.

On “Like..?”, Spice and her producer Riot USA add a danceability to the sounds of a New York workout. Hopefully fans will get more of that on her debut album after she wraps up her Doja Cat tour.

Exclusive Hip Hop 50th Anniversary Performances

Rock the Bells Festival

This year hip-hop celebrated its 50th birthday in August. For the occasion, rapper LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells festival at Forest Hills Stadium that same month brought together a star-studded lineup that included genre pioneers like MC Lyte, Slick Rick and Ludacris.

But Queen Latifah stood out among the legends. Although I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’m mostly familiar with Queen because of her acting roles, it was nice to be reminded of how important she was to hip-hop.

The crowd rapped word for word with her as she ran through classics like ‘UNITY’

Hip-Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium

Last August, every decade of hip-hop music was on display at the Hip-Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium concert.

The hour-long show featured performances by Lil Wayne, TI, Wiz Khalifa, Ice Cube, Nas and Run DMC, among others.

But my favorite parts of the show were when the ladies took over. Lil’ Kim slayed her nearly half-hour set with hits like “The Jump Off” and now her signature dance move. Lauryn Hill’s appearance during Nas’ set, where she blessed the crowd with her powerful vocals, also stood out.

Genius IQ/BBQ Hip Hop

This year, Genius, the digital media platform where fans comment on lyrics, brought back its annual late-summer IQ/BBQ celebration at Queens’ Knockdown Center and dedicated the event to the past and future of hip-hop.

The concert featured performances from up-and-coming rappers like Lola Brooke and veterans like Pusha T. But for me, the best part of the show was that if you needed a break, you could hang out in the backyard lounge and test your hips -hop knowledge with a fun quiz game that spans five decades of the genre.

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