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First-ever Hip-hop Back-to-School fest kicks off at Bayfront

The Hip-hop Back-to-School Music Festival Sunday at Bayfront Festival Park might have been more aptly named a party to celebrate the final hurrah of summer.

The Hip-hop Back-to-School Music Festival Sunday at Bayfront Festival Park might have been more aptly named a party to celebrate the final hurrah of summer.

"I don't want to think about school," University of Wisconsin Superior psychology senior Sara Wittmers said as she listened to Duluth band Kritical Kontact. "I've got two more days," she said.

She got a free ticket because a friend was one of the disc jockeys performing, but considered the door price of $35 one reason attendance seemed so sparse.

By 3 p.m., the crowd consisted of about 100 people.

But for Susan Sajna, 44, a psychology professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the $26 ticket she paid in advance wasn't unreasonable, particularly since she was getting to see and hear Afroman up close Sunday night.

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"We didn't blink at the price," Sajna said as she bopped continuously to White or Wheat's thumping bass.

Billy Smith, the Duluth promoter for the first-ever festival, said he hoped that by 9 p.m., when Vanilla Ice was scheduled to take the stage, the crowd would reach at least 1,200 people.

Smith grinned when asked what he thought of a concert promoting the start of the school year being filled with rappers saying things that most teachers would frown on.

For example, Afroman's popular "Because I Got High" song includes the lines: "I was gonna go to class before I got high. I coulda cheated and I coulda passed, but I got high."

He said things like that help create controversy, which could help sell tickets.

Overall, however, he said this concert features a lot of unknown local hip-hop artists who write lyrics that are much deeper than the foul-mouthed stuff dominating hip-hop music on most radio stations.

"You got to pay attention to what people say," Smith said, and that would reveal that these artists write far more thoughtful lyrics than the raunchy stuff kids listen to on their radios.

Katie Flovick, 34, of Cloquet brought her son, Cole Johnson, 14, to the concert for his birthday.

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"They're going to listen to it regardless," Flovick said.

While Flovick doesn't prefer that her son hears cursing in the songs, she's more concerned about keeping him from listening to lyrics that advocate violence.

That made Johnson one very, very happy concertgoer Sunday.

"It's definitely sweet," Johnson said.

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