Summer 2022

JUL 1 | Masters of the Mic

A vintage microphone with behind show title "Masters of the Mic" in big letters

JUL 1 | 7:30 PM

The best and most iconic MC’s of all time, together for one unforgettable night. Legendary MC Rakim, one of the genre’s greatest lyricists, joins forces with DJ Jazzy Jeff. Plus storyteller Slick Rick, Funkdafied rapper Da Brat, innovative wordsmith Big Daddy Kane, Treach—lead rapper of Naughty by Nature, and Talib Kweli, known for his consciousness-raising verses, all take the stage.


In the history of hip-hop, few artists have had as great an impact on the development and progression of the art form’s lyrical style as Rakim Allah. Universally referenced as one of the “Masters of the Microphone” and an influence and inspiration to his peers and followers alike, Rakim first exploded onto the scene with the release of the iconic “Eric B. Is President” in 1986 with long-time collaborator Eric B. The single marked a turning point in the rap world, raising the bar for future emcees and revolutionizing the way rhymes are delivered to this day. No serious discussion of hip-hop’s greatest performers is held without a deferential account of his achievements, and no serious rap artist grips a microphone without channeling some of his legend.

Rakim’s intricate, intellectual lyrics draw their force from his worldly experience, inner faith, and progressive contemplation; his liquid and seemingly effortless delivery—often imitated but still unrivaled-from a fire fueled by a deep understanding of not just hip-hop, but also the jazz and R&B influences that have surrounded him since his youth. His recordings—including the all-time classics Paid In Full (1987), Follow the Leader (1988), and The 18th Letter (1966)—have sold millions of copies worldwide. Billboard, Rolling Stone, MTV, and a host of other publications consistently refer to Paid in Full as “the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time”—a claim often repeated in audience polls. These platinum albums line the walls of the Broadway, MCA, and Universal labels and, with a Rakim appearance near guaranteeing an explosion of sales, he has been recruited to add his star talents to projects for Alicia Keys, Jody Watley, Damian Marley, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, Lloyd Banks, Limp Bizkit, Gang Starr, and Truth Hurts among many others.

Rakim’s uncanny innovation was the focal point of the critically acclaimed recreation of Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle,” and has helped propel movie soundtracks such as Juice, Brown Sugar, Rugrats, American Psycho, and 8 Mile to best-seller status. His role model status has led world famous brands such as Reebok, The Coca Cola Company, LVMH, Ecko, and Sean Jean to choose him as a spokesperson.

Now with 25 years at the top of hip-hop’s greatest list, the Long Island, NY native not only continues to record for himself, but also works with young artists signed to his own record imprint, Ra Records. With recent tributes—including being named the No. 1 Lyricist of All Time by The Source magazine, receiving the coveted BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and being nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—two original music projects, his first feature film role, and sold-out international tours, Rakim continues to lead where others just follow.

Biography provided by artist management.


In 1985, Jeffrey Allen Townes exploded onto the music scene as half of the superstar duo known as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (longtime partner/artist/actor Will Smith). The precocious duo went on to sell over 15 million records worldwide and win three Grammy Awards (including first ever awarded for rap), three American Music Awards, two NAACP Awards, two Soul Train Music Awards, and an MTV Music Award.

In 1990, Townes fulfilled a longtime dream and started A Touch of Jazz, Inc. (ATOJ), a full-scale musical production facility, in his hometown of Philadelphia. Housing four complete digital and analog rooms, ATOJ also has a variety of vintage microphones, keyboards, state-of-the-art equipment, and a “live” room. Pre-production, recording, and mixing are performed magically and almost effortlessly by Townes’ constantly replenishing team of talented young producers. Townes prides himself on having created a laid-back atmosphere that allows all those who enter to feel unity, inspiration, and deliver their most personal and innovative creative work possible. The relaxed environment and the tremendous amount of great music it yielded helped solidify ATOJ’s reputation for being the place to create original music.

Biography provided by artist management.


Ricky Martin Lloyd Walters, known to the world as Slick Rick and widely regarded as “hip-hop’s greatest storyteller,” is a London-born, Grammy-nominated performer and the most successful British-American rapper in music history.

The hip-hop veteran began his career in 1983 as a member of Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew, pioneering what is today celebrated as the “Golden Age of Hip-Hop.” With four albums to his credit—the landmark The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988), The Ruler’s Back (1991), Behind Bars (1994) and The Art of Storytelling (1999)—Rick has collaborated with a range of musical icons including Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Outkast, Jermaine Dupri, Mos Def, Common, Aaliyah, and more. His music has been sampled and interpolated over 650 times by artists like Eminem, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Beastie Boys, TLC, Nas, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Black Star, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, and Color Me Badd. In the process, he’s become the most sampled hip-hop artist ever. Many of the new songs became hit singles, underscoring his timeless influence.

Thirty years after his legacy-defining debut, in 2018, two Kanye West-produced albums and Nas’ Nasir splendidly spotlighted two “Great Adventures” samples. Beyond that, Rick made cameo appearances in a pair of music videos—for The Black Eyed Peas’ “Constant” and French Montana and Drake’s “No Stylist”—that pay homage to Rick’s lyrical and fashion flair. Ever the influence, he has been referenced in more than 60 songs from the early 1990s to present day, by recording artists such as Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Pitbull,, Amy Winehouse, Big Sean, and Future. Slick Rick has acted and appeared in more than 10 movies and videos. Music isn’t Rick’s only passion though. On top of being a uniquely gifted lyricist, Rick is an actor and music producer known for his fashion sense and growing list of business and philanthropic endeavors. He is known for his infamous eye-patch and heavily adorned jewelry. This self-expression through personal style has become his signature and has never been successfully duplicated. In October 2018, Rick became the face of Pop-In@Nordstrom, an exclusive collection celebrating the heritage, history, and future of MCM. Shot by photographer Sue Kwon, the campaign drew heavily on the performer’s penchant for wearing luxury brands like no one else.

Recognizing the need for positive influences, Rick has devoted his time to mentoring youth on the dangers of violence. Additionally, he has partnered with various local and national organizations to raise awareness and funds for the issues impacting underserved communities.

Biography provided by artist management.


On April 14, 1974, a star was born. Shawntae Harris-better known by her stage name “Da Brat”—is a rapper, radio personality, and actress. As a child, she lived part-time with her mother and grandmother and attended a strict Pentecostal church four times a week, where she sang in the choir. She also lived with her father and his mother, where she had fewer restrictions. Harris attended Kenwood Academy during the 1990 and 1991 school years, and she ran track and played basketball. She graduated from the Academy of Scholastic Achievement, a continuation charter school, in 1993.

In 1992, Harris’ big break occurred when she won the grand prize in a local rap contest sponsored by Yo! MTV Raps. For the prize, she met the young rap duo Kris Kross. They introduced her to their producer, Jermaine Dupri, who signed her to his So So Def label. Dupri cultivated Da Brat’s image as a “female Snoop Doggy Dogg,” and she became one of the first female “reality-based” rappers. Harris has said that her stage name was inspired because she is “a spoiled only child.” Da Brat’s debut album Funkdafied was released in 1994 and entered Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop/R&B Album chart at No. 1. The album went platinum, making her the first female solo rapper to sell one million units. The eponymous single reached No. 1 on the Rap Singles chart and No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her follow-up hit from the same album, “Give It 2 You,” reached #26 on the Hot 100.

In 1996, Da Brat released her second full-length album, Anuthatantrum, which included the single “Ghetto Love” featuring T-Boz of TLC. During the rest of the ’90s, Da Brat came to be known more for her “featured” appearances on other rappers’ and R&B singers’ albums. Some of those artists were: Kris Kross’ “Da Bomb” (1993) and “Young, Rich & Dangerous” (1996), and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” remix (1996). She also made her feature film debut that year in Kazaam (1996) with Shaquille O’Neal. Da Brat went on to do many other features and collaborations: Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, Brandy, Kelly Rowland, and Krayzie Bone, just to name a few.

In early 2000, Da Brat released her third full-length album Unrestricted, which produced the moderately successful singles “That’s What I’m Looking For” (US No. 56) and “What’chu Like” (US No. 26), featuring R&B singer Tyrese. In 2001, Da Brat appeared as Louise in Carey’s 2001 movie Glitter. In 2003, Brat released her fourth album, titled Limelite, Luv & Niteclubz. In late 2007, she was involved in a night club altercation, which resulted in criminal charges and a three-year prison sentence from 2008 to 2011. Following her release from prison, she launched a web series about life after the experience-entitled Brat Chronicles: In Transition on YouTube.

As Harris strived to rebuild her brand, she made her radio debut and joined the nationally syndicated Rickey Smiley Morning Show as the new co-host in 2015. In December of that same year, she made a special guest appearance on the season finale of the highly successful television series Empire. Da Brat can now be seen week nights on Fox Television’s Dish Nation. She is also a regular member of the cast on the TV1 reality show Rickey Smiley For Real; Jermaine Dupri’s Rap Game on Lifetime network; and “Growing up Hip Hop” on WE tv.

Biography provided by artist management.


On September 10, 1968, Brooklyn, NY gave birth to one of hip-hop’s most lyrical, diverse, innovative, and trendsetting M.C.’s known by some as Dark Gable, Black Caesar, and King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal, but known to the world as Big Daddy Kane.

This baritone-voiced and stylishly-dressed M.C. was the first one to bring the playa element to hip-hop, and along with Bobby Brown and Michael Jordan, put dark skin back on the map. Kane was the first rapper to ever hold not one, but two sold-out shows at the world-famous Apollo Theater for women only. He appeared in various publications from Right On to Source to Madonna’s infamous book, Sex. His rapid fire, metaphoric battle rap style earned him respect in the hip-hop community. Kane’s influences are Muhammad Ali, Marvin Gaye, and Grand Master Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers, his rap hero—but once joined on stage with dancers Scoob Lover and Scrap Lover, audiences can clearly see influences of James Brown and the Famous Flames.

With several gold albums, Kane has endured a long career with releases like: Long Live The Kane (1988), which features hit songs “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” and “Raw;” It’s A Big Daddy Thing (1989), which features “Smooth Operator,” “Warm It Up,” and the Teddy Riley produced hit “I Get The Job Done;” and Taste Of Chocolate (1990), which features “Hard Being The Kane” and “All Of Me,” a duet with the late legend Barry White. His additional albums included Prince Of Darkness (1991), Looks Like A Job For… (1993), and Daddy’s Home (1994).

Kane has recorded several songs for movie soundtracks including “Lean On Me (Rap Summary)” from the film Lean On Me, “Nuff Respect” from Juice, The Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced “A Job Ain’t Nothin’ But Work” from Mo’ Money, and “Raw” from Colors. Kane has also made a few movie appearances in Posse, Meteor Man, and most recently, Dead Heist, Love 4 Sale, and Just Another Day. Kane’s baritone voice has been heard as the narrator of the documentary film Notorious and with a couple of cameo appearances in Brown Sugar and Gunmen.

As a powerful figure in the rap game, Kane has collaborated with many artist such as Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, and Craig G on the Marley Marl produced “The Symphony.” He worked with Public Enemy and Ice Cube on the single “Burn Hollywood Burn,” with Heavy D on the single “Don’t Curse,” with UGK on “Next Up,” with Busta Rhymes on the remix of “Don’t Touch Me,” with Patti LaBelle on the gold-certified single “Feels Like Another One,” and with Quincy Jones on his multi-platinum masterpiece ” Birdland” and the title cut “Back On The Block” from the album of the same name. After recording five successful studio albums, winning a Grammy, being named as an Honoree at the 2005 VH1 Hip Hop Honors, and racking up millions of fans and listeners worldwide, Big Daddy Kane has undoubtedly cemented himself as a hip-hop legend.

Biography provided by artist management.


Treach is the front man of the multi-platinum selling rap trio Naughty by Nature that took the world by storm in the early 90s. Treach worked with fellow group members Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee. Sometimes he would share verses on songs with Vin Rock, but often, especially on the group’s earlier albums, Treach would be the sole performer on the song. Naughty by Nature pulled off the neat trick of landing big, instantly catchy anthems on the pop charts, while maintaining their street-level credibility among the hardcore rap faithful, making them one of the first groups to perform such a balancing act.

Discovered by Queen Latifah, Naughty by Nature is probably best known for its massive international hit song, “O.P.P,” which was released in 1991 off the self-titled sophomore album. The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Other hits off Naughty By Nature included “Hip Hop Hooray,” with a music video directed by Spike Lee, and “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” The group later released their third and fourth albums, both of which peaked at No. 1 on the R&B/hip-hop Charts and produced hit singles that kept the groups popularity high. Their album Poverty’s Paradise (1995) garnered the group a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Rap Album.

Treach began his film career in 1990 when his friend, the late Tupac Shakur, helped him land a role in the critically acclaimed Juice, and Treach fell in love with acting. While continuing his recording career, he dedicated half of his time in the 90s to playing minor roles in features such as The Meteor Man (1993) and Who’s the Man (1993). Acclaimed roles in Jason’s Lyric (1994), television’s New York Undercover, and First Time Felon (an original film) followed.

Over the years, Treach’s range and roles expanded. He submerged himself in film work, landing larger roles in films like Boricua’s Bond (2000) and 3 A.M. (2001), followed by a leading role in Love and a Bullet (2002) about an expert assassin whose next target is a woman he falls for. Treach starred in Face, a film by Bertha Pan which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. He continued to build his acting resume with The Book of Love, Playas Ball, and a role in the Showtime drama Conviction opposite Omar Epps, Dana Delaney, and Charles Dutton. He had a reoccurring role on Showtime’s Soul Food. Treach’s role as a first-time felon on the HBO series Oz was written specially for him by writer-director Tom Fontana. Treach co-starred with Steven Segal in 2005 in the action-packed thriller Today You Die and landed a role on an episode of the HBO hit The Sopranos in 2006.

In 2009, Treach landed the leading role of Agent Neil Shaw in the newest installment of The Art of War series in The Art of War III: Retribution. Treach relied on his martial arts skills to play the role of Shaw, who fights through the mean streets of Korea to stop terrorism. He also starred in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent and had role in the urban drama Before I Self Destruct, directed by 50 Cent.

Treach continues to tour with Naughty by Nature, act in movies, and star in reality television series. He recently appeared on VH-1’s Couples Therapy Season 5 with his wife Cicely Criss in 2014. Treach has been on WE TV’s Growing Up Hip Hop for the last five seasons, supporting his oldest daughter Egypt Criss, who is also a cast member. In 2020, Treach produced and starred in the intense and controversial movie Equal Standard with long term friend Ice-T, the movie’s executive producer.

Biography provided by artist management.


The Brooklyn-based M.C. Talib Kweli earned his stripes as one of the most lyrically gifted, socially aware, and politically insightful rappers to emerge in the last 20 years.

“I’m a touring artist. I’m an artist that’s internationally known. I’m not just a local artist at this point in my career. I’m cognizant of the fact that what I do is beyond where it started. I’m trying to reach the apex of where I am now, but without turning my back on or dismissing what I’ve done before.”

After nearly 20 years of releasing mesmerizing music, Kweli stands as one of the world’s most talented and most accomplished hip-hop artists. Whether working with Mos Def as one-half of Black Star, partnering with producer Hi-Tek for Reflection Eternal, releasing landmark solo material, or collaborating with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Just Blaze, J Dilla, or Madlib, Kweli commands attention by delivering top-tier lyricism, crafting captivating stories, and showing the ability to rhyme over virtually any type of instrumental.

In 2011, Kweli founded Javotti Media, which is self-defined as “a platform for independent thinkers and doers.” Kweli has set out to make Javotti Media (which released his 2011 album, Gutter Rainbows, and is named after his paternal grandmother) into a media powerhouse that releases music, films, and books.

Biography provided by artist management.




Dan and Gayle D’Aniello,
Wolf Trap 2022 Season Underwriters