When I first heard Jay Z was putting on a free concert for Barack Obama, I went on a mission. I contacted a posse of friends to go with. When I heard that tickets were going out to Campaign for Change offices Thursday morning, I planned to get to work late. But instead I stood in the blazing Miami heat for two fruitless hours.
The whole ticket experience was crazy frustrating. I took this photo of a campaign official turning away depressed fans in Coral Gables. As I’m standing there, the girl next to me gets a phone call. “They just started giving out tickets in Coconut Grove!” Then my friend John texted me, “they just started a ticket line on the UM campus!” SO. FREAKING. DISORGANIZED. Disheartened, I headed off to work. It wasn’t until much later in the afternoon when one of my friends suggested um, hello aren’t you Afrobella-who-blogs-frequently-about-the-campaign, maybe you should apply for media tickets, did I take that course of action. I was SO pleasantly surprised to get a response Sunday morning. Thanks and respect to the Campaign for Change for recognizing bloggers like me! I had a BALL last night. Let me tell you about it!
Upon arrival at Bayfront Park, I strolled the length of the general admission line, chatting with volunteers as they registered attendees to vote and trying to figure out where the heck the media entrance was. Once we got in, ooh Lord security was tight. Media was cordoned off in a triangle of grass near the front of the stage, and we weren’t allowed to leave the area. “You can interview people over the railing,” I was informed. I tried to explain – that’s not what I was trying to do. I needed to feel the people, to take photos, to mingle, to experience. That wasn’t the campaign’s plan at all. Press and public weren’t intended to mingle. After a while, there was a merciful concession. “OK. I’ll escort you around the audience for 15 minutes.” Within that teeny window of time, Steve and I wandered the crowd snapping pics of the coolest Obama shirts we saw. And there were some really inventive ones. Check em out!
Some were purchased online (I heard MoveOn.org mentioned more than once), others bought at the Denver Convention. One of the most ingenious was handpainted by the artist of RodRoyal.com. I was loving it.
So… I have a confession to make. I didn’t play entirely by the rules. Beer run + Wyclef rocking out on a reworked version of Ready or Not led me to rebel. I literally left the media area by crawling through a hole in a metal railing. Not my finest moment, but I crawled through without even looking back. Absolutely no regrets. I saw quite a few of my peers meandering throughout the crowd later on, so I know I’m not the only one who was a maverick (Sorry. Palinese is infectious)!
I had never before seen Wyclef Jean perform live. I know he plays all kinds of instruments, and is known for performing in a variety of languages. I was a big, big Fugees fan, and his first album, The Carnival, was a very special soundtrack to my freshman year of college. Any album that samples The Mighty Sparrow’s Only a Fool and includes Mona Lisa, one of the baddest slow jams of the Nineties, is a classic in my book.
Clef did not disappoint. He rocked out on bongos and electric guitar, he brought out his sister Melky Sedeck to sing “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Guantanamera got the whole crowd swaying and singing, and of course he sang “If I Was President,” extemporizing and switching in lyrics for “Wyclef for Vice President,” which made the audience erupt in laughter. As my coworker Tim mentions in his review, Wyclef laced “No Woman No Cry” with hopeful lyrics about Obama making fairer laws for Haitian immigrants.
Pitbull came out and made some controversial statements about McCain and Palin. Before too long the voter registration vibe was gone completely out the window as everyone broke it down to “Culo.” If you’re not from Miami, you might not understand. That song is like an unofficial anthem in certain quarters. People get CRUNK to “Culo.” Then Wyclef kept the bacchanal going with a flag waving soca jam that gave me a prelude to Miami Carnival. This 19 minute long YouTube clip shows the highlights — strong language alert. Artists were speaking from the heart and f-bombs were dropped on stage. I mean, it was a campaign rally yes… but it was also ultimately a Wyclef and Jay-Z concert. If you have tender ears and a judgmental mind, don’t click. If you want to dance in your chair and experience a taste of Sunday night’s fun, go ‘head!
Wyclef starts in with the soca action at around 4:18. Find something to wave!! I’m just glad SOMEBODY uploaded videos, because I definitely know at one point I was jumping up and down with my camera in my hand, still filming. So my videos are probably total garbage.
Jay-Z’s approach was different – if Wyclef was fire, Jay-Z was cool as ice.
Rockin’ sunglasses almost all the way through his set, Jigga gave Miami a ridiculous unleashing of greatest hits. “Roc Boys,” “Can I Get A…”, “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” “Jigga What?” “H to the Izzo,” “Song Cry,” “99 Problems” OMG! Jigga delivered.
During his set, I pretty much got down like I haven’t since my early twenties. Some dude in front of me kept rapping lyrics and pointing at me as I danced. “It’s a MOVIE!” he yelled, as he pointed to his noggin. “We’re gonna take this to the GRAVE!” I didn’t get what he was saying at first, but I get it now. Sunday night was an experience to remember, for sure.
Apparently this greatest hits retrospective set is something Jay-Z’s been doing during recent performances. I say this because the dude who was rapping with/at me kept predicting what song Hova would do next. He knew the grand finale would be “Big Pimpin,” which I’ve loved ever since I first laid eyes on the video (did you all know it was filmed in Trinidad during Carnival?) He mixed “Big Pimpin” into “Hard Knock Life,” and finally closed with “Encore.” At the end of all that, the crowd didn’t even ask for one. Close to midnight, Jay-Z stalked offstage and the sated audience left the venue peacefully. Click here for a complete slideshow of photos by Logan Fazio.
I don’t want to speculate how many people were registered to vote at the Jay-Z concert, but if half the crowd was, then watch out GOP! I’ve been seeing so many comments online about Obama supporters being “communists” rallying for “Dear Leader.” In my opinion, all of that is jealousy. Don’t get mad because a McCain Palin rally would never, and could never have the energy of what went on Sunday night here in Miami.
I’m sincerely hoping the positivity and passion I saw in the heart of downtown Miami can spill throughout the rest of Florida, where teachers are making racist statements about Obama before classrooms of children, sheriffs are playing the “Hussein” card at political rallies, and old men are posting ignorant, embarrassingly spelled signs on their lawns.
To see so many young people amped up, passionate, angry because of the past 8 years, and determined to usher change into this country really stoked the fires of optimism within me. It didn’t feel like a concert. It wasn’t just a concert. It was a movement. And judging from the polls, that movement is getting stronger as we draw closer to November 4.