On the banks of the Bronx River, the music rises as the sun sets. It’s an old-school evening, and the D.J. digs deep in the crates and blasts Tito Puente’s “Ran Kan Kan,” moments later following with the Moments’ “Girls.” The French version, no less.
Concrete Plant Park was the latest setting for the True School NYC Summer Park Jam, a weekly series of family-friendly outdoor gatherings that celebrate the most essential element of hip-hop culture: the D.J., with regulars like Red Alert, Jazzy Jay and Breakbeat Lou.
The free parties are held all summer at different spots in the Bronx and Harlem, and the site of September’s jams is Concrete Plant Park, a hidden sliver not far from landmarks in hip-hop history. Afrika Bambaataa once threw legendary open-air parties in the housing projects just north of there. Overlooking the park, where the elevated tracks of the No. 6 curve, graffiti artists once photographed their masterpieces as they rolled past.
Young and old, men and women, even guests from overseas, come to savor the music and, if they dare, bust out their dance moves.
But the D.J. rules.
“We want the D.J. to shine,” said Christie Z-Pabon, who organized the jams with her husband, Jorge Pabon, known as Pop Master Fabel. “That goes back to before recorded hip-hop, before the M.C.’s became the stars of the show.”
Which is not to say that rappers are not welcome. They just have to be invited. And first among them is Grandmaster Caz, of the Cold Crush Brothers, a pioneering hip-hop act. He presides over the stage, often reminding people about the range of sounds early hip-hop embraced, from rock and electronics to soul and salsa.
“Caz is our forever host,” Ms. Z-Pabon said. “He has cemented his place. Even when he’s dead and gone, he’s said he’ll come back and be our host.”