When it comes to municipal policy, change is often slow. Not when Jay-Z is involved.
Six days after news broke that Philadelphia was kicking the Made in America music festival off the Ben Franklin Parkway, where it has been staged every Labor Day weekend for the past six years, the Kenney administration has done an about-face.
MIA fest will remain on the Parkway “for years to come,” Mayor Kenney announced Monday afternoon in a joint statement with Desiree Perez, COO of Roc Nation.
The Jay-Z-helmed production company coproduces the fest with Live Nation, and was apparently taken by surprise by Billy Penn’s story about the event needing to find a new location next year. Jay-Z himself penned a scathing op-ed in the Inquirer taking Kenney to task for the idea.
Then Questlove chimed in, ragging on Kenney as a “party poop” and drawing parallels to the administration’s handling of The Roots and their now-ended curation of a different Parkway festival, Welcome America.
The Parkway is at the heart of the controversy. People who live and work near the tree-lined boulevard are regularly inconvenienced by the many events held there. City spokespeople have cited concerns voiced by these residents and business owners as the reason they were asking MIA to move.
But the backlash was huge — likely much more vocal and pronounced than the Kenney administration had bargained for.
In addition to Jay-Z’s opinion piece, hordes of people on social media added their voices to the cry to keep Made in America on the Parkway, citing its iconic appearance and central location as essential components of the two-day outdoor fest — part of what made it great. The news about Kenney bucking the hip-hop titan went viral, showing up everywhere from the esteemed New York Times to the tabloid Daily Mail.
Roc Nation spokespeople confirmed that if MIA wasn’t held on the Parkway, they weren’t interested in other Philly locations, and Milwaukee even went so far as to send Jay-Z a letter inviting him to host it in their city instead.
But all of this has now been worked out.
Mayor Kenney and his people reportedly met with the Roc Nation representatives in Philly on Monday, July 23, although the location was not announced. Afterwards, they issued the joint statement saying they’d kissed and made up. The statement made clear that moving forward, the parties will try to work out some of the “operational and community challenges” associated with the event.
“I am greatly appreciative of everything that Made in America has done for the City of Philadelphia and I remain committed to its continued success,” Kenney said. “I’m optimistic that we can turn an unfortunate misunderstanding into a positive outcome and even stronger event.”
Though Roc Nation’s Perez used the term “miscommunication” instead of “misunderstanding,” she echoed the mayor’s confidence.
“After a candid and constructive discussion with the Mayor, we are confident any miscommunication is corrected, and we are proactively addressing any concerns,” Perez said. “We are committed to bringing the best experience possible to Philadelphians and all music lovers as well as the continuing prosperity of the city.”