Despite being busy with the On The Run II Tour alongside his superstar wife Beyoncé, JAY-Z wrote a scathing op-ed to the mayor of Philadelphia after plans were announced to change the location of his annual Made in America festival. JAY-Z ripped the mayor's office in a letter that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday, July 18.
The future of the music festival, which JAY-Z points out in the letter as the country's only minority owned festival, appears to be in jeopardy following an announcement from a representative for Mayor Jim Kenney revealing that this year’s festival would be the last to be held on the city's iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, meaning that JAY-Z will have to find another venue if he wants to keep the festival going.
In his op-ed response, the hip hop mogul expressed his gripe with how the city officials conducted the matter, revealing that he was given no prior notice about the event's change in location. He wrote:
"We are disappointed that the mayor of the city of Philadelphia would evict us from the heart of the city, through a media outlet, without a sit-down meeting, notice, dialogue, or proper communication. It signifies zero appreciation for what Made In America has built alongside the phenomenal citizens of this city. In fact, this administration immediately greeted us with a legal letter trying to stop the 2018 event."
In his open letter, the father of three pointed out what the locale has meant to the yearly festival, which brings in the likes of artists and entertainers such as Beyoncé, The Chainsmokers, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Imagine Dragons, The Weeknd, Steve Aoki, and Kings of Leon.
"The location is integral to the pulse of the festival. The [Benjamin Franklin] Parkway is a cultural arts center that is symbolic to the more than 600 artists who have performed at this event. The Parkway captures the freedom and spirit of inclusivity that drew us to the City of Brotherly Love."
He also pointed out the benefits and kickbacks that the city of Philadelphia has received since the Live Nation production's inception in 2012. The letter indicates that Made in America has had a $102.8 million economic impact on the city and has paid $3.4 million in rent to Philadelphia to host in that particular location. Jay explains that the music fest "employs more than 1,000 Philadelphians," while 85 percent of its partners have been Philadelphia based companies.
In a statement obtained by Bustle, Live Nation expressed their support for JAY-Z and Roc Nation. "Live Nation wholeheartedly supports Jay-Z and Roc Nation’s bid to keep the Made In America Festival at its home on the Ben Franklin Parkway," reads the statement. "We have yet to hear a compelling or plausible explanation for why the festival cannot return to the site where it has successfully been housed for six years and generated $102.8M in positive economic impact to the city."
In 2013, The New York Daily News reported that, according to city officials, the festival generated at least $10 million in economic revenue for the city in its first year. The multicultural showcase also saw record breaking sold-out crowds in 2015, selling 140,000 tickets for the two day event, according to AXS.com.
In an e-mail explaining the location change obtained by BillyPenn.com, the mayor's office stated that, because tourism revenue had increased over the past six years, “the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary.” The city's email per BillyPenn.com also stated that in 2017, the city spent more than $1.1 million on various city services associated with the event, and that only $600,000 was covered by Roc Nation who will make an additional payment of $80,000 later this year. JAY-Z had this to say in response:
"How does an administration merely discard an event that generates millions in income and employs the city’s people as if we are disposable now that we have served our purpose?"
Despite being a mixed-genre festival, JAY-Z's letter went on to query whether the motives of the mayor's office had anything to do with the showcase being a minority owned business. As the rapper asserted in his letter, with Made in America's economic benefits and success seemingly proven year after year, it's unclear where Mayor Kenney's administration could find fault. The inclination led JAY-Z to question:
"Is this an accurate representation of how he and his administration treat partners that economically benefit his city? Do they regularly reject minority-owned businesses that want to continue to thrive and grow alongside his city’s people?"
At a press conference on Thursday, July 19, Kenney responded to JAY-Z's accusations, calling the whole thing an “unfortunate misunderstanding” while revealing that the city is looking into alternative spots for the event. “First of all, I love JAY-Z. We love the concert and we want to keep it," he said, according to PhillyMag.com.
While beef is a commonplace factor in the world of hip-hop, JAY-Z's issues with the city of Philadelphia were certainly an unexpected turn of events for the emcee.