Live Review: Jay Z’s B-Sides Show at New York City’s Terminal 5 (5/16)


Photography by Theo Wargo courtesy Tidal/Getty

“Who do you think Jay Z will bring out? Kanye has to show up, right? Do you think Hov will perform some new songs? Maybe he’s going to drop an album during the concert!”

There are few limitations to one’s imagination when it comes to an event like Jay Z’s B-Sides show, and while we each had our own perfect date with Hov spinning away on the reel, he had planned out one hell of a night for the lucky few in New York City who had received an invitation.

Despite its designed-by-an-asshole layout, Terminal 5 was transformed into hip-hop’s Canaan on Saturday night. Winding through an almost nonstop two-hour crusade, Jay Z hit the crowd with a mixture of deep cuts, including “Dead Presidents Pt. 1”, “Young, Gifted and Black”, and “Intro” from “The Dynasty: Roc La Familia”.

Jay Z took a moment to unleash a merciless freestyle that took on his recent critics and new competitors, including YouTube and Spotify, as well as discussing racial inequality. The freestyle quickly made its rounds on the Internet this morning, which can seen in Tidal’s full concert footage (his discussion begins around 15:30).

“If I have one bit of advice for you tonight, it’s don’t ever go with the flow — be the flow,” Jay Z told the audience, detailing how he built his own record company and how he was the first person on the cover of XXL when The Source was the top hip-hop magazine.

During the second half of the concert, Jay Z unloaded a series of guests that few could have predicted. The ever-elusive Roc Nation member Jay Electronica came onstage to perform “Exhibit C” and “We Made It Freestyle”, and Young Jeezy brought the party with “Go Crazy” and “Who Dat”. But it was the sudden appearance of Jay Z’s estranged friend Beanie Siegel, along with Memphis Bleek, Young Gunz, and Freeway, that truly stunned the crowd. A public reunion as touching as any soldier seeing his or her dog for the first time after returning from service video you’ve seen on you’re friend’s mom’s Facebook, the Roc crew performed “You, Me, Him, Her”, “What We Do”, and their own version of “Clique”.

Despite being swept up in the glory of what was happening before me, I couldn’t shake a question that had burning in my mind all night: What kind of weight does an event like this hold for Tidal? Everyone will talk about how they were one of the very few to witness this event, or how that freestyle is fire, or how powerful it was to see Jay and Beanie on the same stage again, but what will people say about Tidal? Will they actually become regular users? Will they discuss what Tidal got right with their Discovery and Rising sections and what it’s missing with their friends? Or does everyone at that concert have an alarm set on their calendar to cancel their subscription right before the end of the month?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16:  Jay-Z (L) and Memphis Bleek perform during TIDAL X: Jay-Z B-sides in NYC on May 16, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation)

It’s easy to call out something like Tidal as misguided and doomed for failure. It’s easy to criticize the streaming service’s unveiling when the pen’s in the hands of a stage full of millionaires, but is it so terrible that people with power in the music industry came together to show they want to give the power back to the people? It’s easy to call Jay Z out of touch with consumers when he decides to ask users to spend $20 a month, but how long are we supposed to let people keep persisting under this delusion that the Internet is a magical place where people don’t, and most certainly shouldn’t, pay for services like music and news?

It’s easy to call something like Tidal “dead on arrival,” because they are sick of seeing someone like Jay Z so continuously successful. And that’s fair. I’m guilty myself, but it certainly doesn’t make me, or anyone else, right. It’s just politics as usual. Maybe after it is allowed to grow some more, a few more events like the B-Sides concert, and, you know, people actually trying out the streaming platform, we can begin a legitimate conversation about Tidal. Heck, it might even lead to some money making its way into the pockets of artists.

Dynasty (Intro)
Young, Gifted and Black
Pump It Up Freestyle
Streets is Watching
Friend or Foe
Where I’m From
Say Hello
Tidal Freestyle
Politics as Usual
Guess Who’s Back
Show You How
Jigga My Nigga
Hovi Baby
22 Twos
U Don’t Know
A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More)
So Ghetto
Murda Murda
This Can’t Be Life
Party Life
Ignorant Shit
Grammy Family Freestyle
You, Me, Him and Her (w/ Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, Young Chris, and Neef)
What We Do (Freeway Cover)
We Made It (w/ Jay Electronica)
Exhibit C (Jay Electronica and Just Blaze solo)
Go Crazy (w/ Young Jeezy)
Who Dat (Young Jeezy)
Can I Live
In My Lifetime (Remix)
Feelin’ It
Imaginary Player
Dead Presidents
It’s Like That
Never Change
Blueprint (Momma Loves Me) (a capella)
B.B. King Tribute
Star Spangled Banner (Jimi Hendrix tribute performed by Roc Boys)
Public Service Announcement