Clocking in at more than four hours, the Tidal X 1015 benefit concert not only took over the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, it took over most of Saturday night (Oct. 15) for everyone in attendance.
The star-studded event packed in over 20 performers, from rising talent like Kevin Garrett, Lil Yachty and Sir the Baptist to household names such as Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys and Beyonce. Organized in collaboration with Robin Hood, the largest poverty-fighting organization in New York, which will donate all proceeds towards supporting education across the pipeline, the evening marked the second ever Tidal X concert.
Last year’s inaugural event celebrated the streaming service reaching 1 million subscribers.This year, the underlying theme was less celebratory and more revolutionary, as nearly every performance touched on prevalent causes such as female empowerment, racial equality, police brutality and, of course, the importance of voting.
While Tip (T.I.) performed his impassioned new track “War Zone” — in addition to fan favorites “Live Your Life” and “What You Know” — one of the evening’s most compelling and politically charged performances came from Common. The Chicago native kicked off his provoking performance with the 2005 track “The Corner” and ended with an affecting spoken-word rendition of “Black America Again,” off his upcoming album of the same name.
Much like Common’s album title, Lauryn Hill also touched on the notion that racial injustice is nothing new as she introduced her opening song “I Find It Hard To Say (Rebel)” by stating, “This is a song I wrote about police brutality like, 10 years ago.” The rest of the performance saw her spit rhymes on “Final Hour” and “Lost Ones” at lightning speed, setting the scene for fellow female hip hop artist Nicki Minaj.
Minaj slinked on stage in a sheer black lace bodysuit and latex cardigan (that she later took off and coyly yelled at the crowd, “Stop taking pictures of me!” as she shook her butt) before diving into a mashup of her hits. Her performance included the only surprise guests of the entire evening (that’s right: no sightings of Tidal owner Jay Z) from Fetty Wap and Monty, who dropped by for a few verses of “679” before Minaj reclaimed the stage as her own. Earlier in her set, she added a new verse to “Win Again,” in which she rapped Barack needed a Michelle, Bill needed a Hillary — but as for Melania, she questioned, “You want a brainless bitch?”
Minaj ranked among the most anticipated performances of the night, alongside Keys — who had minimal stage time and only performed two tracks — and Beyonce, who performed twice. The first came early in the evening: a visually stunning performance of “6 Inch” and “Haunted” lifted straight from her just-wrapped Lemonade tour, complete with projected holograms that mimicked her every move — because there’s no such thing as too much Bey.
Although the crowd was obviously there for the top-shelf performers, the evening featured strong sets from artists not named Knowles or Minaj. Kevin Garrett, who co-wrote and produced Beyonce’s “Pray You Catch Me,” charmed the crowd with his delicate and harmonious performance; Lil Yachty, took the reigns on D.R.A.M.’s chart-topping hit “Broccoli,” which he’s featured on; DNCE offered an infectious fusion of Prince’s “Kiss” with “Cake By The Ocean”; and Emeli Sande gave a stellar preview of her upcoming album, with new singles “Hurt” and “Garden.” While all aforementioned performances were sonically striking, they also all shied away from speaking to America’s current landscape as some of the bigger names on the bill had previously done — offering momentary distraction from the otherwise heavy night.
Beyonce picked up any slack though, as she closed out the evening with the slow and sultry “All Night” made complete with a call to action. As the clock crept past midnight, Bey took to the stage once more, standing strong as ever supported by a 13 plus all female backing band. She told the crowd though she too has felt powerless and frustrated at times, “Doing nothing is not an option right now, y’all.” She then added, “Please go out and vote; get in formation,” and when the Queen speaks, her people tend to listen. Taken as a whole, the night was about more than a well-curated concert. The benefit aspect of the event, in addition to the decision to end with such a strong message from (arguably) the world’s biggest music star, clearly proved that Tidal can use its platform for more than just entertainment.
Check out the full lineup below.
— Vontay is typing… (@AyeYoVontay) October 16, 2016