This week marks Howard University's 89th Homecoming. Here's why it will be unlike any other.
Written by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)
Each October, D.C. braces itself for Howard University’s Homecoming, where current students, alumni and people just looking to partake in the festivities gather in celebration. It's part of a transitional period, one that marks the middle of the semester, a change of season and a reminder that the holidays are just around the corner. People come from all over the country to experience the legend, which has been well-documented and given the stamp of approval from hip-hop. Artists ranging from the Notorious B.I.G. to Ludacris have sung the event's praises, which becomes more about tradition than celebration once students join the alumni ranks.
Howard Homecoming consists of a full week of activities which are amplified by celebrity presence. Howard has produced a multitude of notable alumni, many of whom have flooded the entertainment industry. You have the best chance of spotting them—and other random celebrities—during Yardfest, a free outdoor concert-meets-reunion that takes place on the Friday of Homecoming Week.
To critics, being asked to pay for Yardfest is like being asked to pay for air. Nevermind that the damage was just $5 for a show consisting of performances from A$AP Ferg, Big Sean, Juicy J and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the question on the tongues of everyone affected was "why?"
Yardfest serves as a launchpad for emerging talent, but star power is the reason that it's Homecoming's main attraction. Biggie famously appeared along with Diddy—who didn't graduate, but proudly reps the school; the school, in turn, proudly claims him—in 1995. Jay-Z and DMX have performed in the past. Ten years ago, Kanye West—then only known as a producer—performed pieces of what would eventually become "Gold Digger" and his debut single, "Through the Wire" to an infuriatingly lukewarm reaction. Little did the crowd know, they were watching one of the most important artists of the next decade. Since then, Jeezy has performed twice and the sight of Rick Ross inspired grown men to run just to catch a glimpse of him in all of his grandiose glory.
Last year, the spectrum of performers ranged from local acts to Naughty by Nature (who connected with a crowd born during the peak of their popularity) and 2 Chainz, who had performed in 2007 back when he still went by Tity Boi and was one-half of Playaz Circle. 2012’s Yardfest offered the biggest surprise in over ten years when Drake, sporting a red Howard crewneck and ear-to-ear smile, stormed the stage during 2 Chainz’s performance of “No Lie.” The reaction was so powerful that the sound was cut off and the crowd was warned it wouldn’t return unless everyone relaxed and took several steps back. Not even a torrential downpour could stop brave fans from watching Meek Mill and T.I. share the stage. It was the best Yardfest in years and the last of its kind.
This year, rumors began swirling that Yardfest would no longer be free, leading to rumblings of disapproval from the current student body and alumni base. When this was confirmed, it ignited everything from sneers to outright fury. To critics, being asked to pay for Yardfest is like being asked to pay for air. Nevermind that the damage was just $5 for a show consisting of performances from A$AP Ferg, Big Sean, Juicy J and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the question on the tongues of everyone affected was "why?"