Last Friday’s Jay Z concert has sparked an ironic debate. The 4:44 rapper performed a new freestyle where he told the attendees to “gentrify your own hood.” Fans have had mixed responses. Some have called out the foolishness of a statement that makes no literal sense. Others have looked past the poor word choice and focused on the obvious theme of ownership and economic empowerment. I’m a bit surprised Jay hasn’t emerged from his Twitter hibernation to address it.
The real irony is the audience that was told to go “gentrify” it’s hood.
B-Sides 2 was noticeably wealthier and whiter than most Jay concerts. Fans have pointed out the lack of energy from the concert crowd when Jay played memorable tracks like “Pump It Up Freestyle.” On StubHub, tickets started at $250. Meanwhile, the folks who actually know the words to Jay Z’s deep cuts were watching clips from poorly-recorded cell phone footage.
This is not a new phenomenon. The Golden State Warriors fanbase experienced the same when the team started winning. As ticket prices rose, the crowd at Oracle Arena soon reflected the rise of tech in the Bay Area. Longstanding Dubs fans now complain that Too $hort’s “Blow The Whistle” does not get the same audience reaction it once did.
I failed to acknowledge this audience factor in my February article How Rappers Can Maximize Their Mixtape Anniversaries. My main focus was that “hip-hop fans want to reward artists to monetize their old mixtapes and back catalog.” I suggested that Drake should follow up So Far Gone’s ten-year anniversary with a tour because day-one fans will surely be there.
These concerts attract both die-hard fans AND casual fans with high discretionary income. As ticket prices rise, those casual fans outweigh die-hard ones. Smaller venues—like the 1,500 capacity Webster Hall where Jay’s concert was— are more prone to this.
There are a few ways to fix this:
- Make folks pay with their time instead of money. J. Cole’s Dollar & A Dream Tour was a “free” concert. It attracted loyal fans because it forced fans to go through loops that only a die-hard fan would deal with. They didn’t post the actual location until the day of the concert. And once fans got there, they waited hours on end without certainty that they would even get in. Rich folks don’t got time for all that.
- Rush or lottery tickets. This is a common way for Broadway musicals to extend their reach with younger fans. A number of tickets are usually reserved for these customers. They can be purchased at face value or a heavy discount. These fans usually have to wait in line as well.
- Exclusive pre-sale. Jay has a number of select groups that he can offer pre-sale tickets to. Tidal subscribers, anyone who downloaded 4:44 on a Samsung phone, you name it.
Hip-hop’s continued mainstream expansion has brought changes. There’s an important balance. It’s possible for rappers to both embrace newer fans and celebrate those who have supported from the jump. Ans since Hov is still hip-hop’s most reverential figure, the culture follows his every move. It will be interesting to see what he does in B-Sides 3.
But next time, Jay needs to throw an official live stream on that concert. Jay has too many partnerships with data and video streaming companies for us regular folks to be out here relying on bootleg links like its a pay-per-view boxing match.