NEW YORK – There’s no bigger breeding ground for talent in music, fashion, culture and sports than New York City, but breaking through means following your passions and obeying your thirst for greatness every step of the way.

For the participants in Sprite’s Thirst of the Boroughs program, NBA All-Star 2015 was the culmination of a journey that saw rising stars in the world of style and music from each New York City borough get a chance to display their passion and show their talents while also revealing their own unique identities as trendsetters through a variety of events centered around the NBA All-Star Game.

“To be part of something that’s a movement; it’s not just about basketball, it’s also about following your passion,” said Bronx rapper Chris Rivers. “It’s been a blessing. I used to watch All-Star weekend when I was younger, and I still do, so to be someone that’s participating in the event is amazing. I grew up watching it and now I’m in it. That’s crazy.”

The 10 participants took the stage at Irving Plaza the Friday before the NBA All-Star game for a cypher prior to a historical concert presented by Sprite that featured
rap icons Drake and Nas, longtime partners of the brand.

Sprite Thirst of the Boroughs Concert
Q-Tip warms up the crowd at New York's Irving Plaza with a DJ set.

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

View a gallery of full-screen photos from the concert 

“It’s amazing. It’s crazy to be able to grace the same stage as Nas and Drake, and Sprite gave us that spotlight and let us shine,” said Joel Rodriguez, half of the Queens-based rap duo Timeless Truth along with his brother Aramis.

Prior to Drake and Nas taking the stage, the winning borough was announced after fans voted on and by using borough-based hashtags on Twitter. Capturing the crown were the reps from Staten Island, hip-hop artist Tyrone Briggs and fashion designer Rajsean Bell, founder of the Rose Dreams label.

“Words can’t explain it,” Bell said. “Staten Island always feels left out of everything. It could be just a radio shout out – they’ll say every borough, every side borough, they’ll even mention New Jersey before they say Staten Island. It gets frustrating. So when we have opportunities like this, we take advantage of it. It means the world to me, my partner, my mother, my grandmother, everyone. It’s bringing unity to our community.”

Sprite Thirst of the Boroughs Concert
Staten Island, represented by hip-hop artist Tyrone Briggs (left) and fashion designer Rajsean Bell, founder of the Rose Dreams label, claimed the Thirst of the Boroughs title. 

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Before the show, the group traveled to NBA House at Moynihan Station, where they paid a visit to the Sprite booth and taught visitors, young and old, about the art of hip-hop.

“It was such a great experience to have families come in, parents with their children, and they had a very cool booth where we got to coach some teens and parents on how to rap,” Aramis Rodriguez said. “It was even more of a gift to listen to what they came up with.”

All of the artists expressed gratitude for the exposure the Thirst of the Boroughs program gave them as they try to make their mark in their given field. 

“It’s nice to be acknowledged for your craft and your work,” Manhattan-based stylist Anastasia Nicole said. “You work hard every day and so for other people to acknowledge you in a career you are passionate about feels great.”

Obey Your Thirst is a rallying cry to those who relentlessly follow their passions wherever they may lead, and all the participants said they live that to the fullest.

“Obey Your Thirst applies directly to the Lemar & Dauley brand and even our philosophy,” said Brooklyn clothing designer Kareem Blair. “From beginning to end, we’ve always gone in our own lane. From design to our business strategy to our store distribution, all those decisions –  some more powerful than others – contributed to the following that we have and how people appreciate and respect the brand and us as designers and entrepreneurs. So we’re definitely aligned and parallel with the mantra of Sprite.”

For Briggs, who got to stand on stage and soak in the applause after his borough came out on top, the Thirst of the Boroughs involvement is something that he will never forget.

“This is the best experience I’ve ever had as far as my music,” he said. “The whole program showed me about friendly competition. It’s not hard to be unified. And we became a small little family, all of the boroughs. But when it came time to compete, we competed. It was a great experience.”