Updated 3:57 p.m.
Want a lesson in how to lose respect in the popular music world? Just look to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
Not only did industry titan Jay-Z pen a scathing op-ed saying he was extremely “disappointed” in the mayor for his administration’s decision to move the popular Made in America festival off the Ben Franklin Parkway next year, but now Questlove has also weighed in.
In a post on Instagram, the leader of The Roots likened the move to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
“Now Philly is losing its SECOND annual festival — without warning,” he wrote. “Who does that??”
The “first” fest Questlove refers to is Welcome America.
The Roots had played the Wawa-sponsored Independence Day festival since 2009, long billed as the largest free concert in the U.S. But in Mayor Kenney’s first year in office, the Philly-native band was passed over — and not by their own choice.
Questlove made that apparent in 2016 by throwing shade at the city’s supposed “new plan” for the Fourth of July event. “#goodluckwiththat” he tweeted, with a link to the news.
He returned to the topic on Instagram, drawing a parallel between what Kenney had pulled with that festival and with MIA this year. The Roots “resuscitated” Welcome America from “cliche hell,” he said, and accused the Kenney admin of being unappreciative.
“I know PHILADELPHIANS want us back,” he commented, “but, this administration & their coded word reasons for why they felt they could do better shows ignorance of the highest order. All we are trying to do is give our city some culture.”
In his op-ed, Jay-Z was similarly critical. “We consider this stance a failure on the mayor’s part,” the artist wrote, adding a jab that questioned whether there was racial motivation. “Do they regularly reject minority-owned businesses that want to continue to thrive and grow alongside his city’s people?” He also suggested that the city sent a “legal letter trying to stop the 2018 event.”
After the news blew up and national outlets started printing headlines about Jay-Z’s beef with Philly’s mayor, Kenney struck a semi-conciliatory tone.
It was just an “unfortunate misunderstanding,” his office told Billboard. Asked about the festival situation at a news conference about the city’s soda tax Wednesday, Kenney stated that the city “loves” MIA and wants to keep it.
However, he noted, there have also been complaints about the disruption caused by holding the event on the Parkway. In an Inquirer article on the topic, a union leader attributed those complaints to “an elitist group,” and said he was worried this might set a precedent to cancel or move additional events on the Parkway — something the city claims is not a risk.
Live Nation, which coproduces the festival, said it “wholeheartedly” supports Jay-Z and Roc Nation’s bid to keep MIA on the Parkway.
“We have yet to hear a compelling or plausible explanation for why the festival cannot return to the site where it has successfully been housed for six years,” the events company said in an emailed statement, “and generated $102.8M in positive economic impact to the city.
Questlove, who continues to host the annual Roots Picnic in Philly at Festival Pier, accused the mayor of being a “party poop.” Like Jay-Z, he also took issue with what he saw as a lack of communication. “This is what happens when you don’t/ahem won’t communicate with people.”
According to the city, lines of communication have now been opened with Jay-Z’s people.
“We are working with Roc Nation and Live Nation to resolve this issue and we are committed to continuing our partnership with the Made in America festival.”
Asked by Billy Penn if the mayor was worried about continued or additional backlash, a spokesperson said he did not have a comment.