After an all-star tradition of Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Anderson. Paak and the late Nipsey Hussle, this year is headlined by Childish Gambino and Lil Wayne, who anchor a lineup of Teyana Taylor, Ella Mai, City Girls, Wizkid, 6lack, Gunna, Lil Baby and YBN Cordae.
“This year, we’re making the move over to FedEx Field — we wanted to give people a little bit more room,” founder Brandon McEachern told WTOP. “We always try to stay connected to the culture of the District, so we’ve got New Impressionz, which is a go-go band out of D.C. [and] YBN Cordae is actually from Maryland, or let me make sure I say that right: ‘Murrrland!'”
The joking pronunciation comes from a proud North Carolinian who founded the festival with longtime friend Marcus Allen as a nod to their hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina.
“If you break it down, ‘green’ is broccoli and ‘boro’ is city,” McEachern said. “At first we wanted to do a T-shirt line. We put T-shirts together that had ‘Broccoli City’ on them, then we had some others that said ‘Organic + Fly.’ People hit us up like ‘Oh my god, I just went all vegan, I’m cleaning myself up, I’m eating organic and I’m feeling fly.’ For us, organic just meant being honest and transparent, but it ended up turning into eco-friendly and sustainable living.”
It quickly became a bicoastal operation with McEachern in L.A. and Allen in D.C.
“I started the t-shirt line and showed Marcus, who was like, ‘I’m with you. Anything you’re trying to do, I’m with you. I’ll play the Robin to your Batman. I’ve got your back, bro,'” McEachern said. “Marcus is very resourceful. They call me the left-brained one that just throws out crazy visions and Marcus is the one that either calms me down or says, ‘Alright B, this is how we should do it.’ In every business, you need a wild one and one who can formulate that wildness.”
Those “wild” ideas grew from a T-shirt line into an entire music festival, which debuted in L.A. in 2010 starring Dom Kennedy and Kendrick Lamar. The inaugural event saw 500 attendees, which was “insane for us at the time.” In 2013, they moved it to D.C. with 5,000 guests.
“There’s just something about D.C. I don’t know if it’s the mumbo sauce, but it’s something in the energy of Washington D.C.,” McEachern said. “You have so many people of different walks of life. I don’t think people feel entitled in D.C. It’s a place where people actually work to do things and they respect the process of what you’re doing. … There’s just something special in the water out there: folks are bold, they’re brave, it’s just a wonderful spirit to have.”
The festival has grown from St. Elizabeth’s Gateway Pavilion in Southeast D.C. to the Half Street Fairgrounds outside Nats Park. Last year brought over 30,000 to RFK Stadium.
This year expands into a three-day event, including the networking event BroccoliCon on Thursday and a trap karaoke night on Friday, featuring live performances by Trippie Redd.
“A lot of people would come up and ask, ‘How did you all put this together?’ I got that question so many times that I was like, ‘Yo, how can we create something where people can come learn how to create their own Broccoli City?'” McEachern said. “Everybody wants to create their own festival, everybody wants to do something great, but sometimes you have to nurture yourself, you have to invest in yourself, you have to be around like-minded, forward-thinking people.”
Believe it or not, he says he’s actually looking forward to BroccoliCon more than the music.
“I know that sounds crazy, but at the end of the day, how can we continue to nurture and water each other, especially in our minds, to know that we can do these certain things? I think that Broccoli City has made a lot of young kids look and say, ‘Oh, I can do a festival! If this dude is doing a festival, I know I can do a festival’ — and that’s where the change happens.”
He wishes he had such a mentor growing up, but thanks other members of his community.
“All the way down to cats who owned barber shops back in North Carolina and seeing how they had the ability to help out younger people, whether that was letting me sweep up the barber shop floor, basically empowering me to make a change in my life, or old ladies at the church who continuously bake cookies,” McEachern said. “I never really had a mentor … and to get kind of deep … I never really felt like too many people reached back. … But you don’t know that mind you’re sparking because people have such great potential inside of them.”
Unlocking that potential simply requires a hungry mentality.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” McEachern said. “A lion is only a lion because of what he believes about himself. … When a lion sees an elephant, he doesn’t see tusks that can crush him or a big foot that can stomp his back, he sees lunch because of his mentality. So that’s what happened to me. … Who knew? A country boy with ashy knees from North Carolina?”
Anyone can rise up from anywhere, as long as you surround yourself with the right people.
“That’s what this game is, man — you’re either going to be around fertilizer or you’re going to be around rocks,” McEachern said. “Come out so you can get fertilized, so you can build with other people and continue to nourish your dream, then have a super good time. … Come out, get your dance on and twerk a little bit, but then Thursday and Friday bring your note pad.”
Find out more on the Broccoli City website. Hear our full chat with Brandon McEachern below:
WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Brandon McEachern (Full Interview)