Jay-Z’s Rags to Riches Story: Made in America

Thu., Sep. 13, 2012 12:07 PM EST
by A.R. Shaw

Jay-Z’s Rags to Riches Story: Made in America

Words and Images by A.R. Shaw

In early May, Jay-Z stood on the steps of the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yes the same steps that Rocky Balboa climbed in a moment of triumph in the classic film Rocky.

Like Rocky Balboa, Jay-Z rose from poverty to become a champion in his own right. The boy who grew up in a public housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y., and began rapping as a teenager would eventually become the master of  the music genre. Jay-Z started his own label and broke Elvis Presley’s record by releasing the most No. 1 albums (11). He aligned himself with the right business partners and opened a chain of nightclubs (The 40/40 Club). He invested in Carol’s Daughter, a popular black hair care line, and created Roc Nation. And he is part owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Jay-Z’s life was a million-to-one shot, but he made the best of a bad situation and rose from poverty to prosperity. He is the personification of what it means to be ”made in America.”

On that humid afternoon in May, Jay-Z was dressed in a black blazer, white V-neck shirt and sported the new Nike Air Yeezy 2 sneakers. He was joined on stage by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to make a special announcement.

The man who seemed to have done it all was delving into a new venture.

Jay-Z announced that he would serve as curator and headline performer at a festival aptly called ”Made in America.”

Scheduled to take place during Labor Day weekend along the Ben Franklin Parkway in Fairmount Park, the two-day event was set to feature 30 acts on three stages.

Jay-Z’s biggest task was to create an inaugural event that could compete with the top music festivals of the summer.

Here is how the two-day festival unfolded.

Sept. 1

2:00 p.m.

After fighting gridlocked traffic due to road closings, I arrived at Fairmount Park shortly after 2:00 p.m. Thousands of fans filled the park dressed in patriotic attire. Three stages were set up in separate sections of the park. The Rocky Stage, placed in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, served as the main stage. The Liberty Stage was slightly smaller and placed near the center of the park, and the Freedom Tent had the look and feel of an intimate nightclub. Spirits were high as some were already intoxicated while listening to the first act; Gary Clark Jr. The Lenny Kravitz-like rocker’s ode to New York, ”Bright Lights,” appeared to be the fan favorite.

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