In the six years since Capital STEEZ died by suicide on Christmas Eve in 2012, Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era have honored his contributions to hip-hop through STEEZ Day, bringing together the late Brooklyn rapper’s closest collaborators and friends for a daylong festival. It was first established in 2015 and three years line-ups have included special guests such as A$AP Mob, Danny Brown, Raury, Ab-Soul and Saba. On Sunday, just one day after STEEZ’s 25th birthday, the fourth edition featured Joey and the entire Pro Era crew, returning acts The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies, and surprise performers Jay Critch, MadeinTYO with 24Hrs, and Mick Jenkins.
Held at Central Park SummerStage in New York, the performers and the crowd were connected through their appreciation STEEZ and what he meant to them. Many in attendance were seen wearing STEEZ tribute tees and Pro Era throwbacks -- a community old and new who come together every year for King Capital. After warm-up sets from Dessy Hinds, Aaron Rose and Chuck Strangers, Dirty Sanchez, on his 47 shit (an expression balance coined by STEEZ), performed his well-known collaborations with him: “Up Above” and “47 Piiirates.” Dirty got support from the crowd as they chanted “Beast Coast!” and “Steelo!,” finishing strong with “Sentimental,” featuring CJ Fly.
More tributes came from other Pro Era members. CJ Fly played STEEZ’s classic song “Doggybag” during his set. When it was Nyck Caution’s turn to perform, he initiated a moment silence for STEEZ. He also used his time to honor controversial Florida rapper XXXTentacion, who was shot and killed in Deerfield Beach on June 18, by playing “Look at Me!” and doing his own remix the song.
Kirk Knight joined Nyck Caution for their Nyck @ Knight collab “Dial Up,” passing the baton for him to go through some unreleased tracks from his upcoming album, It Is What It Is. One highlight was a song titled “Downtime” that explored his reasons for needing some weed and R&R. He followed that with “Knight Time,” where he epically ended the song by diving into the crowd.
Buzzing Brooklyn rapper Jay Critch and Atlanta’s MadeinTYO may not have direct ties to STEEZ, but they exhibited a fondness the rapper’s legacy. Critch provided mostly turn-up anthems for the crowd, running through “Did It Again,” “Bottom Line,” “Sweepstakes,” “Fashion,” and “Speak Up.” MadeinTYO came out with his brother and 24 Hours in Tokyo collaborator 24Hrs, keeping the energy at high levels with his uptempo songs “I Want,” “Ned Flanders,” “Uber Everywhere,” “Skateboard P,” and even previewed a new song produced by Ronnie J. “I appreciate this opportunity to come and bless this stage,” MadeinTYO said. “I appreciate Pro Era. I’ve been a big fan since them ni--as dropped. Since day one, bringing back that fucking boom bap.”
Up next were The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies – two acts who performed at the first STEEZ Day. As groups who are apart the Beast Coast movement, any fans that see The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies billed with Pro Era know they’re in for a riotous occasion. Between both their sets, fans were throwing shoes in the air and starting mosh pits, fueled by UA bangers “Play That Way” and “Packs.” Shoeless or not, fans were extra hyped to see Flatbush Zombies perform, as they did a concise set blow-for-blow hits: “Bounce,” “Headstone,” “Big Shrimp,” and “Palm Trees.” It was also Zombie Juice’s birthday, who came on stage earlier with a WWE World Heavyweight Title belt because he was feeling champion-like. Orchestrated by Meechy Darko, the whole crowd sang happy birthday to him at the end their performance, in which Juice pleasantly approved.
At around 9:20 p.m., Joey Bada$$’ custom patchwork American flag made from red, white, and blue bandanas became the backdrop on stage for the night’s finale. Focused and happy to be celebrating another successful STEEZ Day, Joey hit the stage with explosive energy and kicked f with “Rockabye Baby.” From there, it was an exercise giving the fans what they wanted: All-Amerikkkan Badass Joey. “Ring the Alarm” had Joey bringing back out Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, and Meechy Darko to perform their verses. “Temptation” and “For My People” were instant sing-alongs while “Land the Free” was delivered with a lot passion from the PE leader.
Joey’s moment silence for STEEZ got the entire lineup onstage to show their love for the beloved rapper. Then, Joey performed his STEEZ collabo “Survival Tactics,” one his earliest hits that spotlighted them as young, ferocious lyricists who could drop bombs with the best them. “Fuck police!” and “Steelo!” chants were fitting reactions.
Joey wanted to end the day’s festivities with a bang. He performed “Devastated” -- not once, but twice -- and thanked everyone for coming out to pay their respects for STEEZ. He left the crowd to loud “Beast Coast!” and “Steelo!” chants -- a gesture that STEEZ could probably hear from up above, with his third eye open.