Wes Jackson, founder and executive director of Brooklyn Bodega, knew what he was doing when he decided on the name of the website as it launched in 2005.
“In Brooklyn, in New York, you could go to any corner and find a bodega," he said. "Bodegas take a pulse of what’s going on in the neighborhood and gives it back to the people.”
Bodegas don’t demand that people keep up with a trend because the people direct the trends. And they are accessible. This is Jackson’s aim with Brooklyn Bodega – the online community that listens and gives the fans what they want. “We are for the people, by the people,” he said.
Brooklyn Bodega is probably best known for its Brooklyn Hip Hop festival, which is held every July. The festival has grown in recent years, and this year, Q-Tip will be headlining.
“It is a celebration of the borough of Brooklyn, as well as hip hop music and culture,” Jackson said. “It is a world-class festival in the spirit of the New Orleans Jazz Festival where we can celebrate and perpetuate progressive aspects of the music.”
As the festival continues to grow, so does the website. Jackson is looking at taking it from its virtual space to a physical destination, where fans of the genre could congregate and share ideas. He is planning to open up a restaurant in the Dekalb Market in conjunction with the festival’s July 11th start date that will serve as a eating place, a bar, a music spot – in other words, a bodega.
“We’re looking to bring back that energy of music retail…we want more of an anchor, a place to congregate,” he said.
With record stores closing, Jackson feels the hip hop community needs a "town square" atmosphere to bring fans together. The idea has been sitting in his head for 10 years, and now seems to be the right place and time.
The Brooklyn Bodega is not Bronx-born Jackson’s first business venture. The entrepreneur has done his time in the music business, creating a promotions company in the 90s and a digital marketing company in 2002. He has produced concerts for big names like Nas and De La Soul.
Jackson currently teaches at York College in Queens, where he will soon be teaching a hip hop history course.
For more information about the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival and Brooklyn Bodega, check out the website.