On Friday, May 11, a cryptic but visually stunning teaser clip was released, signaling that Jay-Z had something up his sleeve.
As soon as the video went public, the speculation about what Jay was plotting began. Most of the assumptions were about either a new album or some type of new business venture, or maybe a concert. This news came on the heels of a good deal of Brooklyn Nets press (mainly surrounding the new logo), so perhaps it had something to do with the team. Whatever it was, it seemed as if they were being purposefully vague to keep people excited.
Then, on Sunday, the New York Times told those of us who read the New York Times on Sunday evenings that Jay-Z would "Curate and Star in Two-Day Music Festival Philadelphia." An announcement was expected to take place Monday morning with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and the festival was said to be an eclectic mix of artists and could include as many as 28 acts.
This morning, the announcement took place as predicted, with comments from the mayor as well as representatives from the United Way and Budweiser. When it was Jay-Z's turn to talk, he took the mic for about three minutes, discussing his love and respect for Philadelphia, the money that would be raised by the concert, and a few small details about the event (70 percent of the artists are confirmed but mum's the word on who they are).
Oh, and he brought Freeway onstage.
Well, "brought" might not be the appropriate word. Rapper and Philadelphia native Freeway ended up onstage. I'm not going so far as to say Freeway pulled a Lil Mama, because he didn't look surprised or upset, but it became obvious toward the end of the seven-minute press conference that Shawn and his onetime protégé hadn't discussed the post-conference protocol. Or maybe Jay just assumed that Freeway understood that when people who own things and run metropolitan areas are taking pictures, IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO GET OFF THE STAGE. The following is what happens when assumptions are coupled with thinking it's still 2003:
When I first saw this, I laughed. I laughed and I laughed because I love disrespect. In addition to general disrespect, I love disrespecting Freeway, because one time he took part in an almost career-ending freestyle battle with Cassidy. (He lost. Badly.) In addition to regular disrespect and Freeway disrespect, I also love Philly disrespect, because too much is going their way of late (76ers, Meek Mill, Liberty Bell) and something needed to happen to bring them back down to earth. That thing: having one of your finest sons booted from the big kids' table and told to go count that stack of Legos at stage left.
But after my internal hate tirade, I began to feel bad. I mean, did Jay really have to do Freeway like that? I know he was in full illuminati mode this morning, and trust me, they were watching, but couldn't he at least let him stay for one picture and then ask him to leave? These thoughts went through my head for about two minutes, and then I finally wised up and realized Jay did exactly what he should have done. The only person to blame in this situation is Freeway. He brought this upon himself, an embarrassment that eventually led to this (courtesy of Instagram and Respect magazine editor-in-chief Elliott Wilson):
Upon seeing this picture, I immediately contacted Grantland editor and proud Philadelphia native Chris Ryan. He's been smiling a little bit too much lately, so I was stoked to take him down a notch. His response:
Did you know that if you look at the inside of the Liberty Bell with a black light it says, "YE, A MAN WILL RISE. HE WILL BE LO A BEARDED YEOMAN. HE WILL RUSH A RAIS-ED FLOOR OR STAGE AND HE WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT TO PERFORM HIS VERSE FROM '1-900-HUSTLER.'" So it should come as no surprise that if Jay-Z is making a public appearance in the Greater Philadelphia area, Free is in the building. You mad that he's not wearing a suit? Be mad that he didn't jump in this photo and start shouting, "FIRST THING'S FIRST! WATCH WHAT YOU SAY OUT YOUR MOUTH"
And then, after spending 90 minutes making a GIF and then sending it to him, he responded (in almost record time) with:
It's messed up that Jay moved Freeway off to one side when the cameras were on, but that's OK. We'll see how Hov feels when his invitation to a "Very Special Night With State Property, Live at the Camden Aquarium" gets lost in the mail. Streets is always watching, Shawn.
And then finally:
If you want to have more of a back and forth, I'm down.
No, Chris. I don't. Not one bit. We're done here.
This Jay-Z dismissal is another classic example of him not purposefully being disrespectful, but very obviously acknowledging the distance between him and his protégés. Lest we forget, Jay is the man who once said about mentee/glorified hypeman Memphis Bleek, "Bleek can be one hit away his whole career, as long as I'm alive he's a millionaire." What happened on that stage this morning is Jay expressing the same sentiment regarding Freeway. It's Jay saying: "As long I'm alive and have kindness in my heart, I'll give you, Freeway, some screen time and a weekly allowance, but when it comes to your career, you're a loser. But I love you. Loser."
Oh, what a great morning in Philadelphia to be an accidental hater and not really make an announcement. It was later revealed that the lineup will be unleashed on the public May 21, $99 tickets will go on sale on May 23, and Obama will be invited to perform, but who cares about that? Those are facts. This is hateration we're talking about.