So just recently I paid a visit to Jay Z’s annual Made In America festival. Made In America is a music festival held in Philly, and as of this year LA, where Jay Z tries to unite the three main genres of music together into one gigantic concert. In Philly the venue is located right on the famous Philadelphia Art Museum steps (yes the ones Rocky ran up) making the concert have even more special of a vibe to it. And there was something special going on during this year’s festival since the one and only Mr. Kanye West was headlining. Now we all know how Alex feels about Kanye. And my relationship with Ye’s music doesn’t differ all too much. Kanye is special to me. I truly believe he is one of the true geniuses in the world today. The music he creates is almost not even real. It is so evolved and revolutionized that most people don’t even understand how far ahead he is. Kanye is the ultimate winner, he wins so much that most people don’t even realize it until a few years later. Put me on record saying that in about 1 or 2 years people will look back at Blood on the Leaves and be like “holy fuck” he just sampled a song about lynching African Americans and connected it perfectly to the pop culture world while also making it sound so peculiar, so terrifying, that every time I listen to it chills run down my spine. On Saturday August 30th, I stood for 12 hours against a rail in order to be as close to the greatest performer of our generation. I was as close as you can possibly get without having a ridiculous amount of money. I chronicled this day as best I could live diary style. Hope you all enjoy it.
7:00 AM: I awake extra early to complete an online assignment I have to do for college that is due Sunday night. Since Made in America is a two-day festival there is no other time for me to complete the assignment except for right now. My procrastination problems (that started in 5th grade) have yet to change to this day.
8:00 AM: I complete the assignment and go back to sleep. If what I plan to do today is going to work I will need all the energy my body can muster.
8:30 AM: I awake feeling excited. I shower and pick out what I’m going to wear. I choose my purple Jason Williams Kings jersey, with my air maxes and crown royal bass fishing hat. I love that jersey because it attracts fellow NBA junkies, which is always a good conversation starter when you have to stand with the same people for 10+ hours.
9:00 AM: I’m sitting in my drive way on the hot pavement waiting for my friend Grace to arrive so we can pick up the rest of the people who are accompanying us to the concert.
9:09 AM: Grace texts me saying she forgot her tickets (rookie mistake) and has to turn around and go get them. I literally face palm and repeatedly shake my head.
9:30 AM: Running slightly behind schedule, Grace and I go to pick up friend number 2, Matt Myers.
9:40 AM: Speeding things up a bit we arrive at the last pickup location and Frank Hosking III gets in my vehicle. Glad to see him also rocking a peculiar NBA jersey. Somehow he owns an Adam Morrison Bobcats jersey. Props to him. Finally we are on our way to the wonderful City of Brotherly Love.
10:38 AM: We arrive within the boundaries of the city and make our way to the Temple campus to park and to also meet up with my main concert buddy Nigel. Nigel was with me when I first saw Kanye (during his Yeezus tour)… or when Kanye saw me, since you know we kinda locked eyes. That may or may not have been the greatest moment of my life.
10:52 AM: Successfully parked in Temple and met up with Nigel. The entourage closes in on the destination. We make our way down to the subway to take it over to where Kanye and various other wonderful musical acts await.
11:35 AM: We catch the subway over to Independence Hall. Nigel and I try to predict if Kanye will premier new shit or not.
11:49 AM: Just stepped off the train when I received a text from my sister Jess. Her long-term boy friend proposed to her and she said yes. My excitement has now doubled… which before hand I did not think was even entirely possible.
12:00 PM: We buy food at this nice small deli. I get a nice hoagie to eat before not eating anything but cliff bars for the next 10 hours.
12:30 PM: We arrive at the venue.
12:50 PM: Successfully arrived at the main stage rail. We begin to get comfortable with our new home. I count the supplies I snuck in illegally. I have eight cliff bars and five water bottles. We were only allowed one unopened water bottle and zero outside food. I’m feeling confident and energized for the first act: Cherub.
1:22 PM: Making all sorts of friends, the dude to my left has seen Ye once and held rail for Beyoncé at last year’s MIA festival. The guy confirms that he is the real deal by taking a sip of water from his camel back. Three people to my right have never seen Kanye. This may or may not be their first festival. They have come ill prepared without any food and only one bottle of water. I have my doubts they will last to five o’clock, and don’t think at all they will be next to me by the time Kanye comes on at 10:30.
1:41 PM: Cherub in 20. I know a decent amount of songs by Cherub so I was more than ready for them to come out and perform.
2:10 PM: Cherub was dope. Would be much better, however, if they performed at night.
2:58 PM: Feeling really good surprisingly and ready to listen to The Neighborhood.
3:15 PM: The Neighborhood brings the good shit.
3:50 PM: The Neighborhood closes their set real strong. The weather so far also has been killing it. Around 77 and cloudy. This time last year it had to have been 90 degrees, sunny and humid. You don’t know what hell is like until you stand packed in a crowd in 90-degree heat.
4:06 PM: Drunken bro behind me starts calling out people who don’t like Kanye. I love it.
4:30 PM: Starting to get hungry. The breeze carries the delicious smells of all the incredibly unhealthy festival food. I open a cliff bar and eat it.
4:32 PM: Made friends with a beautiful girl who has seen Kanye six times.
4:34 PM: She is much older than me (23). Oh well.
4:35 PM: Big Daddy Kane is next. He better be fucking good.
4:40 PM: “Kanye makes you feel like you’re the only person who matters.”- Drunken bro behind me. I am perfectly sober and still agree with that statement 100%.
4:43 PM: Security guard in front of me says Jay is coming out with Ye tonight. I’ve suddenly forgotten how to use my hands.
4:51 PM: Big Daddy Kane comes out. He is the smoothest cat alive.
5:10 PM: Ain’t no half steppin.
5:44 PM: Almost passed out during Big Daddy Kane’s set. Forced myself to sit down and drink more water than I should. Holding rail is hard.
6:01 PM: I feel like a dick sitting down with my back against the rail but considering I’ve been here longer than everyone else I’m not giving two fucks.
6:20 PM: Standing up now. Nigel and me are reminiscing about seeing the Yeezus tour live. It fucking snowed… Inside.
6:27 PM: Remembered how much I like City and Colour.
6:42 PM: City and Colour’s lead singer has one of the most beautiful voices ever.
6:59 PM: The lead singer talks about Kanye and loosening our hips for him so we don’t pull a hammy.
7:17 PM: Someone yelled out Justin Bieber after the lead singer said they were just a band from Canada. He proceeds to diss Bieber real bad. I love this guy.
7:27 PM: Capital Cities is being played on the big projector screens live from LA. I love Capital Cities and I wish they were here.
7:41 PM: Mayor Nutter walks by which is sorta cool cause I’ve never met a mayor of a city before.
8:25 PM: Nutter walks by again.
8:34 PM: The National arrives, seems completely bombed.
8:37 PM: The National has a really good guitarist.
8:47 PM: The lead singer is emotional as fuck… or he is just very drunk… or he’s both?
8:51 PM: He just threw the microphone on the ground. He is not even 30 minutes into his set.
8:52 PM: The guitarist and bassist are absolutely shredding.
8:56 PM: Lead singer just threw the mic again and started to scream. The dude is kinda a maniac. I like it.
9:06 PM: The guitarist just brought out a violin bow and started to play the guitar with the bow. Like what? Is this real life?
9:25 PM: The lead singer has started to run into the crowd.
9:27 PM: He just ran up to me on the rail. I gave him a hug because really he looked like he needed it.
9:30 PM: Not sure if I should be afraid of this guy or just impressed.
9:31 PM: Answer: impressed.
9:41 PM: They are setting up for Kanye’s performance. Pretty much changing the whole stage. So crazy… They just tested the spot beam light… Chills run down my spine.
9:44 PM: The anticipation is killing me.
9:52 PM: Still making preparations and changes to the stage. Really ridiculous. They are putting reflective material on the floors of the stage.
10:30 PM: People are expecting him to come out on time… Such rookies.
10:40 PM: Crowd is getting antsy; I tell the people around me he’ll make us wait 5 more minutes.
10:43 PM: I was wrong.
From here on out I stopped keeping log of the time on my phone. Kanye ended up coming out to Black Skinhead, which got the whole crowd jumping. I was one with the music. The pain of the day was gone instantly and I was feeling fresh and ready to go. Kanye was less than 10 feet away from me again. That was all that mattered.
His set was ridiculously strong; he went right into it with Cruel Summer hits: I Don’t Like, Mercy, and Cold. Mercy is one of my favorite songs he performs live just cause it fucking BUUUUUMPS. Cold was awe-inspiring since he performed it with a sample of Cold as Ice by the Foreigner, adding an impressive twist onto the already astonishing song. Before going in on New Slaves, he went after it on Can’t Tell Me Nothing, which as an avid fan of Graduation was a fun surprise. New Slaves was crazy. After starting the song, half way through the first verse he stopped and asked those controlling the projection of him on the screens to change it to just a close up of his face in black and white.
He then began all over again and I once again understand why he personally said the second verse of New Slaves was the best rap verse of all time. Next going into Power, I got my favorite verse on video, which pumped me up.
“I was the abomination of Obama’s nation, Well that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation.”
Such a killer line. I’ll never get over it. From Power he goes into his first rendition of Blood on the Leaves. I already talked about how I feel about that song. All I can really say is those horns. He kills Stronger as expected, and goes right into Runaway. Now Runaway is my favorite song of all time, so when I get the chance to hear it live I get highly emotional. Real tears run down my cheek, no exaggeration. Usually he goes into his signature “rants” during or immediately after Runaway, and this show was no different. Except it was. Instead of a negative connoted rant about how people are trying to hold him back, Ye switched it up and talked about having love for everyone, even the paparazzi.
“Before we go to the next song, I want people to realize what we do is we put our love, our heart, our pain, our struggle, our story, our lives in until 3 a.m. every night in the studio for this.”
He explained that everyone should follow their dreams, which although is a cliché, means a lot coming from someone who is actually living his dream.
From Runaway he goes into his Run This Town verse, which I have never heard live before. Very electrifying. He teases us next with Diamonds from Sierra Leone, everyone in the crowd holding their breath anxiously, silently praying that HOVA will make an appearance for his signature verse. Very appropriately, he serenades the crowd next with Heartless, which is exactly how everyone feels after Jay didn’t come out for Diamonds. Jesus Walks gets everyone animated. When Kanye introduces All Falls Down, I almost fainted. Never did I think he would perform this “throwback” of a song. Long live The College Dropout. Later, I was happily surprised to see him play Touch the Sky, which is a personal favorite of mine. Kanye trolls us hard on the next track. He jokingly introduces his next song as “his biggest underground hit,” which makes everyone think he is premiering the leaked track: All Day (WARNING: do not click on the link unless you want to hear a crappy leaked version of the song). Unfortunately it wasn’t All Day, instead he goes in hard to All of the Lights which I can’t say I’m disappointed about. He finishes with Good Life and Bound 2 back to back, which makes sense since they are both two of Kim’s favorite songs. He comes back on stage after leaving for 5 minutes for an encore of Blood on the Leaves, only this time asking us all to form circles for moshing purposes. Kanye is so awesome. During the encore, a crazy ass motherfucker jumps into the crowd from over the rail. When he gets pulled out he comes right up to me on the rail and screams in my face. One of the most terrifying moments of my life, I will only learn later via Instagram that the scary black man that screamed at me was one of my favorite up and coming rappers, Travi$ Scott. Some cool shit right there.
Kanye really can only be compared to (as a performer) to the one and only King of Pop. I remember coming home from the first time I saw him live and trying to explain to my mom what it was like. My mom, someone lucky enough to see Michael Jackson live during his Thriller tour, instantly understood. Despite the age gap, she got what it was like to see one of the most iconic people in the world perform live. She understood what it was like being so close to someone who goes beyond his profession. Kanye is a revolutionist and I am part of that small club who has been able to actually look into his eyes and for him to look back and actually recognize me. And that shit has happened to me twice now. I am already looking forward to the third time.