Hip-Hop Icon Talks Blue Ivy, Philly Music Festival, Jack White and New Brand Partnerships
Shawn " Jay-Z" Carter may be headlining and curating a two-day music festival, "Budweiser Made In America," this Labor Day in Philadelphia -- but don't expect any new music from the rap mogul and father of four-month-old Blue Ivy Carter any time soon.
"I thought I would be more inspired to have all these new feelings to talk about, but I really just want to hang out with my daughter," Jay-Z told Billboard from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum on Monday. "I want to enjoy this time for what it is. I'm sure that bug to get back in the studio will come back at some point."
In the meantime, Jay is in the thick of booking 28 different acts across hip-hop, rock, R&B, Latin and dance genres to perform at "Made In America," which will be held Sept. 1 and 2 in Philly's Ben Franklin Parkway in Fairmount Park. Tickets go on sale next Wednesday, May 23, at Ticketmaster.com and LiveNation.com, with an exclusive pre-sale to be held on Budweiser's Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/Budweiser) on May 22.
Though he couldn't share any of the acts (the lineup will be announced next Monday, May 21), he announced during a press conference that 70% of the acts have already been confirmed. "You know me -- I love the show of it," Jay-Z told Billboard. "I will reveal them in time and we'll do some silly things that no one understands and they'll figure it out."
In the months leading up to "Made In America," Budweiser will sponsor a "Made In…" concert tour that will be localized for each market ("Made In Chicago," "Made In Miami," etc.) featuring performances by unknown and established acts that hail from each city. Though the program's success will ultimately be measured in beer sales, Budweiser VP Rob McCarthy hopes the program will create a strong connection with the brand among young music fans. "When they think about beer, we want them to think about the experiences and touchpoints we can bring them," he said.
"Made In America" is a new take of sorts on Budweiser's "SuperFest" concert franchise, which debuted in the 70s and featured superstar headliners like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin in its heyday. In recent years, it's taken on a more niche focus on R&B acts, from Anthony Hamilton, Kem, Jaheim and others in 2010 to Jill Scott, Hamilton, Mint Condition and DJ Jazzy Jeff in 2011. Jay-Z says he wanted to keep the name for his festival when the opportunity was brought to him by Steve Stoute, his partner in branding agency Translation, but Anheuser Busch execs resisted.
"We had to think of something better than that, and what's better than that than America?" Jay-Z said with his trademark "ha-HA!" laugh. The festival also shares a name with a track from Jay-Z's "Watch The Throne" album with Kanye West, whom he called up to get approval. "He was cool," Jay-Z says.
Billboard caught up with Jay-Z for a few minutes after the presentation to find out more about the festival, his current musical tastes and another brand partnership, his new gig as spokesperson for the Duracell Powermat joint venture.
What was it about the concept behind "Made In America" that made you want to perform as well as curate the lineup?
I had a relationship with Anheuser Busch going back to Bud Select [in 2006], and all those things came together and piqued my interest as another way to make an iPod playlist that's gonna play for two days live.
You haven't confirmed any of the acts who will play at "Made In America" yet, but who's exciting you right now in music?
I like all the new guys in the industry as far as rap. I discovered this new song - it's not really new, but it's a song that I love by Michael Kiwanuka. I really like what he's doing. There's a bunch I just can't think of right now.
You were at the Jack White show at Webster Hall a few weeks ago, so clearly you're a fan of "Blunderbuss?"
Jack White is insane - he's an insane musician. And there's no setlist from what I understand. He just pulls out a song and they have to be ready. Which must take an insane amount of practice.
And also be a challenge when you have to direct a live show, like Gary Oldman did.
We went to Spotted Pig afterward and we spoke on that a bit with Gary Oldman and Jack White. They're doing a great job with those concerts, whoever's curating that.
What about this EDM/dance craze that's blowing up right now. Clearly you have a vested interest in it since Roc Nation partnered with Three Six Zero Group.
I love revolutions. Hip-hop was a revolution. Grunge was a revolution. Electronic dance music feels like a revolution, it feels like the kids' music. I just wanna be a part of it, we have a huge footprint in it which is great for us.
If not new music, what else might keep you busy this summer before "Made In America" and the September launch of Nets Stadium in Brooklyn?
Tomorrow I leave to go on the ["Watch The Throne"] European tour - that'll be through June. In July I'll take some time off, so when we get into August I'll have to prep for really this show and the arena show.
Another brand you're working with is Duracell - what can we expect from that new relationship?
The future of it is really exciting. At some point you'll be able to take your iPhone or whatever device and put some paper under it and it'll charge wirelessly. The idea of that and the conversation around energy, the whole idea is really exciting. Any partnership I'm in has to get to a real, on-point, genius level. I'm not really into slapping my name on a product. You know how scientists say we have an insane amount of energy that will be saved just by not plugging in? I want to help put that footprint on the world.