Jay-Z Takes Shots at Philly Mayor Jim Kenney Over Made in America Move - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Jay-Z Takes Shots at Philly Mayor Jim Kenney Over Made in America Move

Made in America festival founder Jay-Z is disappointed in that the City and Mayor Jim Kenney want to keep the festival in town but not on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

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    Jay-Z Criticizes Kenney Over Plans to Move Made in America

    Rapper Jay-Z criticized Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney over the decision to move the Made in America Festival off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. But Mayor Kenney says the entire thing was a misunderstanding.

    (Published Thursday, July 19, 2018)

    What to Know

    • The Made in America festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway since 2012.

    • The City wants to keep the festival in Philadelphia beyond the 2018 edition but has yet to reveal any plans.

    • Festival founder Jay-Z is angry with how Mayor Jim Kenney has handled plans to move the festival.

    No phone call, no meeting, no notice. That’s how rapper Jay-Z says the City of Philadelphia acted when it decided to end the rapper’s annual Made in America festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

    “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,” Jay-Z, who founded the Labor Day weekend festival, wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer posted online Wednesday.

    “It signifies zero appreciation for what Made in America has built alongside the phenomenal citizens of this city,” Jay-Z wrote.

    The annual festival, which has drawn acts from Pearl Jam to Rihanna to Jay-Z’s wife Beyoncé to the Parkway for Labor Day weekend since 2012, is lauded by concertgoers but seen as a nuisance by some residents and drivers annoyed by road closures and parking restrictions.

    Rihanna, Coldplay Hit the Parkway at Made in AmericaRihanna, Coldplay Hit the Parkway at Made in America

    The entrepreneur and rapper says that MIA serves as “a multi-cultural platform that represents strength, freedom of speech and perseverance for artists and music lovers.”

    Despite the good vibes and tourism dollars generated by the tens of thousands attending the annual festival, Jay-Z says that Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has been trying to end the Parkway party.

    “In fact, this administration immediately greeted us with a legal letter trying to stop the 2018 event,” Jay-Z said.

    The 2018 festival, featuring Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Zedd and others is still set to take place on the Parkway.

    Jay-Z points out that MIA is one of the only minority-owned festivals, with an economic impact of $102.8 million since its founding in 2012 -- not to mention paying $3.4 million in rent to the city. Former Mayor Michael Nutter was in charge when the festival began; Kenney inherited the festival when he took office in 2016.

    “We consider this stance a failure on the Mayor’s part,” Jay-Z said. “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?”

    Besides the millions Jay-Z says his festival raised for the City of Brotherly Love, he also says founders have been philanthropic, donating nearly $3 million to the United Way of Philadelphia, which a rep for the United Way confirmed to NBC10. Jay-Z also said the festival encouraged social action.

    "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? The city is right, in one respect, the first Made in America festival took place when there was a great need for tourism,” Jay-Z said in the op-ed. “By their admission, the festival first started as a ‘unique attraction to the City on an otherwise quiet Labor Day weekend. Over the years, tourism has grown overall.’ Our question is, ‘How do you think that tourism grew, Mayor Kenney?’”

    The city made a brief statement to NBC10 Tuesday night saying the 2018 edition of the festival this September would be the last on the Parkway and that they would like to keep the festival in the city, but at another location.

    Toward the end of his news conference on the soda tax Wednesday afternoon, Kenney responded to Jay-Z and the plan to move the concert.

    "First of all I love Jay-Z," Kenney said. "I think he's extremely talented. He's very philanthropic."

    While Kenney said he loves the concert and wants to keep it in Philadelphia, he also said having it on the parkway created some "operational difficulties" due to the amount of time it takes to set up the festival and take it down.

    "We were in conversation with the people we thought were communicating that to Roc Nation and to Jay-Z," Kenney said. "Apparently they weren't."

    According to Kenney, the Parkway council commissioned a study that reported on the stress on the infrastructure of the Parkway. They then decided to move the Made in America Festival and sent a Request for Proposals (RFP) to Roc Nation to find another location for 2019, according to Kenney. 

    "Since they responded to the RFP and had no complaints we thought that it was okay to look around for some other prominent sites in the city where we could do it," Kenney said.

    Kenney said they're looking at four or five possible venues in the city for the festival next year though he didn't specify where.

    "We are in discussion with the right people now and I'm confident we will work everything out," he said. "We want to keep the concert. We want to maintain a good relationship with Roc Nation and we're going to work hard to do that."

    Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation along with Live Nation, put on the concert said they would discuss future options and “handle accordingly.”

    Live Nation has already backed up Jay-Z.

    "From Billie Holiday to Will Smith, Patti LaBelle, Jill Scott, The Roots and countless others, urban music is an indelible part of Philadelphia’s culture and history," Live Nation said in a statement to NBC10. "By handicapping Made In America’s ability to bring the best show possible to the best site possible, this administration makes a statement about how it values the arts and plans to protect and expand the city’s vibrant musical heritage."

    Read Jay-Z's full statement below:

    The Made in America festival is a multi-cultural platform that represents strength, freedom of speech and perseverance for artists and music lovers. Philadelphia, an iconic city, represents those ideals. The location is integral to the pulse of the festival. The Parkway is a cultural arts center that is symbolic to over 600 artists that have performed at this event. The Parkway captures the freedom and spirit of inclusivity that drew us to the city of Brotherly Love. The celebratory nature and essence of this festival has inspired locals as well as visitors from across the nation to enjoy Labor Day in Philadelphia.
     
    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.
     
    Since 2012, Made In America, one of the only minority-owned festivals, has had a positive $102.8M economic impact to Philadelphia and the festival has paid $3.4M in rent to the City. Made In America employs over 1000 Philadelphians each day and 85% of our partners are Philadelphia based companies.
     
    We have studies and reports that prove the festival significantly contributes to Philadelphia’s tourism bottom line. We cannot comment if the Mayor has reviewed any of these materials.
     
    We consider this stance a failure on the Mayor’s part. 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?
     
    In addition to contributing to Philadelphia, since its inception, Made In America has donated $2.9M to the United Way of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Cause Village, the festival’s philanthropic footprint and hub for social action, averages more than 15,000 social actions taken over the two-days via ongoing partnerships with more than 56 charitable and activist organizations representing all causes.
     
    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? The city is right, in one respect, the first Made In America festival took place when there was a great need for tourism. By their admission, the festival first started as a “unique attraction to the City on an otherwise quiet Labor Day weekend. Over the years, tourism has grown overall.” Our question is, “How do you think that tourism grew, Mayor Kenney?”
     
    We will discuss our options internally and handle accordingly.

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