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Africa’s largest hip-hop festival, Hennessy Back to the City, is an explosion of music, street art, and culture

After a two-year hiatus, Africa’s largest hip-hop festival, Hennessy Back to the City, returned to Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg with a bang.

Since announcing their partnership in 2020, this was the first event with Hennessy at the helm, which saw hip-hop reenergised in the heart of Newtown and the day transform into a melting pot of urban culture and exhilarating experiences for all in attendance.

Attracting more than 15 000 adoring fans and a line-up of more than 100 local and international artists, the event was headlined by some of South Africa’s greatest hip-hop mavens including A-Reece, Big Zulu, Nadia Nakai, and superstar, AKA, as part of the showstopping Hennessy Moment on stage. Fans were also treated to appearances by none other than international rap legends, Talip Kweli, Lost Boyz, and Keith Murray.

AKA on stage at the Hennessy Back to the City Festival, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied
Image: Supplied

The calendar event, which continues to highlight legends and trailblazers across music, street art and fashion, represents the pinnacle of artistic expression and urban culture. Industry stalwart and festival founder, Osmic Menoe, says that the festival epitomises the inner city coming alive with true freedom of expression, and provides a destination for hip-hop fans, artists, and industry-related individuals to connect and celebrate the experience of true hip-hop culture.

Menoe adds that he is delighted to have Hennessy on board for the festival, “This partnership is a breath of fresh air, not just for the festival but for the culture. The connection is genuine, and this is just another giant leap in the genre’s expansion.”

Khomotso Ledwaba, Marketing Manager at Hennessy, agrees that it was a very natural partnership for them. “Hennessy has long been synonymous with the culture. Ever since first being uttered in a verse, the brand has featured in over 2500 songs and to date, it is the most mentioned alcohol spirit brand in the music industry. Going beyond Hip-Hop, we have also collaborated with many other global urban culture legends, ranging from street artist icons such as Shepard Fairey, KAWS and Faith XLVII, to dance duo, Les Twins, and more. Iconic events like Back to the City are just another extension of our existing relationship with the culture.”

AKA on stage at the Hennessy Back to the City Festival, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied

Ledwaba adds that Hennessy Back to the City is a special event that champions the current generation of talent across the various vocations of the genre. “It’s a way for us to celebrate artists who have perfected their craft; those who continue to push the boundaries of their success and who embody Hennessy’s Never Stop. Never Settle ethos. Our Back to the City showcase brought SA hip-hop to life through immersive creative moments, expressed through powerful collaborations between top local talent.”

Speaking on this year’s theme, Freedom of Movement, Menoe mentioned that there is a current need for a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. “The festival is an ongoing exploration of how hip-hop culture is evolving. The genre continues to be shaped by pioneers and contemporary artists alike, such as POC, Gogga and others, which has propelled it to the global force it is today. Since its inception, Hennessy Back to the City has been an advocate for promoting sustainability and economic growth, through passion. In South Africa, the motivation for the local hip-hop scene has always come from within.”

As a first-time partner, Hennessy ensured that they pulled out all the stops, providing fans with invigorating experiences throughout. This included VIP treatment of some hip-hop headliners such as Loot Love, Stogie T, JR, and Scoop Makhathini who, among other guests, were able to enjoy the festival and performances in the true Hennessy way. Furthermore, festival lovers dabbled with the Hennessy basketball cube, where they tested their 3-pointer skills to join the rolling leader board - a nod to their ongoing global partnership with the NBA. Hennessy also showcased their first-ever fashion capsule collection with French duo, Les Twins, who also subsequently designed the 11th edition of the Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition bottle last year.

The peak of the event saw the culmination of the Hennessy Moment on stage, where Hip-Hop royalty AKA delivered a showstopping performance under a curtain of fireworks, ending the evening in true style.

To see what else went down at the festival, check out @HennessySA and @Backtothecityfestival.

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