Hot 97's own Laura Stylez is excited for On Da Reggae & Soca Tip 2015 concert on Governors Island in New York City. The radio host opened up about her most memorable Elephant Man moment, past surprise celebrity guests and shares why fans should definitely come out and celebrate the (technically) end of the summer.
With performances by Machel Montano, Barrington Levy, Gyptian, Assassin, Kranium, Konshens, Collie Buddz and more, Stylez exclusively talked to Music Times about New York's biggest Reggae concert.
Music Times: So, Labor Day weekend is such a big event for the West Indie community in New York. What makes this event different than any other Caribbean festival?
Laura Stylez: Well, to us it's more I mean of course we are honoring the Caribbean community, but you'd be surprised how everyone gets together for a day of just celebrating. Like let me tell you something, On the Reggae and Soca Tip is one of my favorite shows that Hot 97 puts together even when I didn't work here I would make it a thing to always, me and my girlfriends would always make sure we got our tickets to come. 'Cause it's just one big party. I think people really enjoy like the dancing aspect of it cause if you go you're not going to be stereotypical sit down concert. Everyone always ends up like up, cheering, singing, screaming, dancing and I think, I think that's really what it's about.
MT: Which artist are you looking forward to seeing?
LS: I mean, I don't really have a favorite; everyone who's on there has something special. I mean of course everyone is coming, I'm so excited to see Barrington Levy you know what I mean? He just came back, he put out a new project this year and we hadn't heard from him in a very long time. Just this year in performances are amazing. Kranium coming out of Queens... he's super dope. Konshens, Collie Budz, Gyptian... Machel Montano he has one of my favorite songs right now.
MT: Will there be any big surprises?
LS: Listen, I've been trying to snoop around here because nobody would tell me. I remember last year you know I saw Ashanti pop up on stage, I saw Ne-Yo pop up on stage I mean what's cool about these artists is that they're such fans of the people on the lineup they just want to show up and be part of the party. And then sometimes you forget like, "Oh my God I forgot they had a song together." You know so you never know you're favorite collaboration could become a reality right there on that stage.
MT: So like a lot of people would see some of the things at this festival as obscene. What do you think about the culture, the dancing, the costumes and everything surrounding it?
LS: Well, maybe it's because of the way I was raised, but I love it, I think it's just beautiful. And even my girls who tell me like, "Listen I'm not that great of a dancer," but they super get into it like I don't see anything, I don't see anything offensive. I mean I'm Spanish, I'm Hispanic, I'm a Latina and it's like I grew up dancing salsa, merengue very close. You know, it's like we just celebrate it. When you get there it's so much more than just that like yeah you might see a bit of grinding here and there but we really, really is like everybody kind of like there's literally times when people are just holding hands together like jumping up and down. You know what I mean just celebrating the day. So what's really cool about On the Reggae Tips is it's super positive too. There's so much love there and that's the one thing that people forget.
MT: So Made in America is on the Saturday and Sunday, and your concert is the day before. So how can you convince someone to like spend that extra $55 just to come enjoy Soca and Reggae in New York and even to go see Beyoncé in Philadelphia?
LS: It's Reggae and Soca I mean look it's just a different vibe you know what I mean? It's like Beyoncé is awesome and all the artists on Made in America, that bill are awesome. But like I told you it's a completely different experience that you'll get On the Reggae Tips. Listen not everybody can travel to Philly, not everybody has money to travel to Philly, to get a hotel. That is a commitment. If you're staying local and you want something fun a festival vibes, then On the Reggae and Soca Tips is the perfect show for you.
MT: what's your most memorable moment at Reggae and Soca Tip?
LS: I think it was one year, I don't remember what year it was, but Elephant Man came on and you know Elephant Man is just known for having like RAHH - his energy is like on 1000 all the time. But he came out and, I think he might have been a surprise guest, but the entire crowd was screaming so loud and nonstop and jumping up and down that you almost couldn't hear him perform and I loved every second of it. It's like I don't even know how they... I freaked. But people were just so into it. I mean I think it was at Hammerside Ballroom at the time. I saw people literally jump off the lines that they were on when they were in the back trying to get drinks to run to see Elephant Man and I just think people, artists like that are super special. I have never been to a concert like that, not even Summer Jam, you know where people are screaming at the top of their lungs for that long, I mean that's commitment. But artists like Beanie Man, artists like Elephant Man will bring that out.
It's a really special concert man there's so much love and we all just get together and it's like yes are celebrating the Caribbean community but you see people from all walks of life come and just be involved in just one big party.