The last time Jay-Z was on stage in Philadelphia, the rapper had his friend Meek Mill with him as a guest hero from hometown to successfully complete the Made in America festival at Ben Franklin Parkway the Labor Day weekend.
On Friday, Jay-Z returned to the city, heading the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia at a totally stunning stop in his tour 4:44 his album back to form at the end of his career filled with mea culpa and the self-critical badysis that led the way to eight Grammy nominations this week .
Meek Mill, however, was nowhere to be found. The Philadelphia rapper is incarcerated at the Chester State Correctional Institution, serving a 2 to 4-year state prison sentence handed down last month for probation violations dating back to a 2008 drug and gun conviction.
Mill was not physically in the building on Friday, his presence felt powerful. Fans across the arena on all sides of the octagon-shaped platform displayed posters distributed on the concourses: "Free Meek Mill," "Justice4Meek," and "Probation Is A Trap," citing an opinion piece that Jay-Z He wrote in The New York Times advocated for criminal justice reform last month.
Before the show, Sixers center Joel Embiid, who attended with several teammates with "Stand With Meek Mill" sweatshirts including Ben Simmons and Robert Covington, spoke in support of Mill behind the scenes. (More on that below). Chicago rapper Vic Mensa raised his voice in protest at Mill's plight and unequal justice for minorities in his first set.
And Jay-Z stopped the program twice to focus on Mill, who signed his Roc Enterprise for Nation Management. After "Big Pimpin", spurred the crowd in a rap a cappella with the success of Mill "Dreams and Nightmares".
Later, after "The Story of OJ", his speech 4:44 on American racism, the 47-year-old rapper wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey at Saturday Night Live ] Earlier this year he linked Mill's legal situation to a discussion of protests against racial injustice.
Anthem "it's not about the flag," said the rapper. "That [expletive] is not about inanimate objects, it's about people dying, it's about young people leaving their homes and never coming home, and it's not a problem in black and white, it's a human problem. the world should fight against that. "
"And if you see a young man on probation for 11 years since he was 19 years old" – Mill's conviction in 2008 was due to an arrest two years earlier – "that man is being trampled by the system. He is in jail for making little horses and breaking up a fight, "he said, referring to the probation that violates incidents in New York and San Luis that Judge Genece E. Brinkley quoted in sentencing Mill in an emergency court in November. Then he echoed the chants of "Free Meek Mill" from the crowd.
The 1 hour 45 minute 4:44 show was a gift to witness at Wells Fargo, compared to seeing Jay-Z at the muddy Parkway on Made in America. Working on all sides of the room with a formidable band in the hole below him, the rapper built a set that was, of course, full of hits like "99 problems", "Heart of the city (It's not love") . "Public service announcement", "In the next", and so on.
Jay-Z performs at the Wells Fargo Center in Phila. on December 1, 2017. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
With the stage surrounded by four extremely beautiful two-sided video screens, the show looked great with production values that the best money can buy, like samples like the Stevie loop Wonder "Love is in need of love today," that graceful 4: 44 & # 39; s delicate "Smile."
The songs 4:44 that clarify the infidelities of Jay-Z to his wife Beyonce Also tell a story that goes back to his past, growing up with an absent father in the projects of Marcy Houses in Brooklyn . And as he lamented "many friends of mine who were 16, 17 and 18 who did not make it," he related to Mill, whose father was killed when he was 5 years old.
In "Where I" From ", Jay-Z rhymed about growing up in a place" where the news cameras never come ", and continued with" Marcy Me ", evoking Marvin Gaye when describing the tribulations of life The next song in that well-thought-out trilogy of the Big Apple was, of course, "New York State of Mind." But before going into it, he could not help but smile and compliment. "My transitions are incredible," the master of ceremonies boasted, and the crowd nodded in collective agreement.
Jay-Z gave a shout to the Sixers during his set, after the team visited him in the backstage just before continuing. After that meeting, Embiid talked about Mill.
"We want to support Meek and we want to show him that the city is behind him and we are anxiously awaiting his return," said the big man. "So not only for me but also so that my colleagues go out and show that the city c He's lamely behind him, that's important. "
The Philadelphia 76ers & Joel Embiid and Justin Anderson with sweatshirts & # 39; Stand with Meek Mill & before the Jay-Z concert at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday.
"We are showing support for Meek Mill tonight with these sweatshirts because it is a big part of the Philadelphia community and we want to show you that the city is eagerly awaiting its launch", Sixers minority owner Michael Rubin said in a statement Friday. "It's really disappointing that the judge refused to rule on Meek's bail application because everyone knows he is not a threat to the community."
Embiid, 23, a friend of the 30-year-old rapper, who has been frequent "It's fun to be around, it's like any other human being," says Embiid, who took off his shirt and danced on stage with Mill during his show at Wells Fargo in February. "The perception that everyone has from his past it could be misleading, but he's a great guy. "
" I'm close to a lot of people who are dealing with the case of Mills, "Embiid said. "And in most cases of violating probation, you do not usually get four years in prison, so you've definitely committed an injustice, we just have to be here to make sure people know it. Let's get out, that's why we're here. "