I’m out of shape. It’s a reality. I just recently started working back out again because stairs were looking like obstacles I could not surmount without sounding like Lord Vader when I was through.
I can’t run a marathon. I can’t even run the block. And I definitely wasn’t prepared to run the race of the Tidal X Brooklyn benefit concert in the New York City borough Tuesday night.
Welcome to Antisocial, the events-and-happenings blog for people who have social anxiety disorders. Or something like that. I basically just go to things and quietly weird out. It’s fun. For someone. Not always me. But SOMEONE.
From the response of the crowd, I could tell that Tidal X was also fun, but it was also exhausting because it kept Brooklyn’s Barclays Center rocking well past midnight.
Like, until 2 a.m., to be exact.
With 100 percent of the proceeds going to victims of recent natural disasters in Houston, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Mexico, Tidal X boasted a lineup that could make your head spin—both from amazement and bewilderment—as everyone featuring everyone was on that night, from the beloved and highly favored (headliners Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder), to those you politely tolerated while everyone else went nuts (Chris Brown), to “She’s still working?” (Iggy Azalea), to the Bronx, N.Y.’s finest (Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez, whom I now very badly want to perform together after typing this), to get-’em-hype DJs (DJ Khaled and Kaskade), to a lot of, for me at least, “Who?”
There was both good “Who?” (Jessie Reyez, whose EP I immediately downloaded as soon as I got home, just off the strength of her performance of the very timely “Gatekeepers”) and literally “I had no clue they existed until Tuesday night,” like Tee Grizzley, whom the crowd was definitely into even though I was lost in my own thoughts, which included “I am old” and “When will someone sing or rap a song I recognize?”
Thank goodness for DJ Khaled and his merry band of special guests, which included Busta Rhymes, Swizz Beatz and T.I. Otherwise, I might not ever have got hype.
While most focused on the night’s overall theme of positivity and unity, with lots of shoutouts to Puerto Rico and its plight, not everyone stayed away from the political. Stevie Wonder, who closed the show (at 1:30 in the morning!!!), brought up how he recently took two knees for the nation in solidarity with the NFL protesters, and Pastor Donnie McClurkin called out for God to help in the White House.
No one said the president’s name, per se, but it was heavily implied that something had gone terribly wrong in our nation’s disaster relief efforts—particularly in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where many are still without power and water—and now it was up to the people, and the celebrities at Tidal X, to band together to get the job done.
“As people with influence and the power to inspire and galvanize people, there comes a responsibility to use that platform for something substantial when given the opportunity,” Chicago-based hip-hop artist Vic Mensa told The Root while walking the red carpet.
I briefly chatted with Mensa about President Donald Trump and his tendency to bring up violence in Chicago as a counterpoint whenever others in the news try to focus the conversation on policing, police brutality, gun violence and mass incarceration. Mensa’s response could easily have been applied to the situation in Puerto Rico.
“It’s not coincidental,” Mensa says. “This is a tactic, a technique, if you will, of white supremacy. You create a chaotic, self-destructive situation for your capitalist constituents, then you let it tear itself apart, then you point to it as the reason to why these people can’t be left alone to their own devices. You know, so, I just recognize it for what it is in its historical framework. It’s not new. This is what white supremacy does. It’s a mind game. And so Chicago is just [a] pawn in Trump’s mass manipulative mind game.”
Even though the concert didn’t start until 8, I was there at 5:30 p.m. to work my first-ever red carpet, making this actually an eight-and-a-half-hour excursion. Somehow, in all my years of journalism, including entertainment reporting in ol’ Bakersfield, Calif., I’d never managed to work a red carpet where celebrities and wannabe celebs alike chatted it up with TV crews and bloggers. Let’s just say it was an experience, and I’m glad I was wearing tennis shoes.
Thankfully, I was sandwiched between red-carpet newbie, and digital editor at Fuse, Bianca Gracie and red-carpet veteran, and news and entertainment reporter for Hollywood Life, Jenna Lemoncelli. They both gave me tips: Be aggressive; keep questions light and short if the red carpet is crazy, since most folks won’t have a lot of time to chat; and be aware that most of them are plugging a product—like rapper Yo Gotti, who was wearing a silver jacket with black lettering detailing when his newest album will drop (Oct. 27).
The person who was easiest to talk to was WBNA player, Roc Nation Sports member and recently wed Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings.
I asked her if she had any advice for us out there looking for the kind of love she has with Daniel Smith.
“I married my best friend. We grew up together. We went to middle school together,” Diggins-Smith said. “Find somebody that loves you, cares about you, that you can be honest with, that you can be yourself with, and go there. Do it!”
Oh, those honeymooners! They make it sound so easy! Lemme just go fire up Tinder right now and find that guy.
The concert—one part music fest, one part endurance test—tested both my ability to have a good time despite crippling anxiety from being in a large space with thousands of people and my ability to stay awake. It wasn’t that the acts weren’t good; it was more that I was already tired before I got there, willing myself to go on to get to Jay-Z’s and Stevie Wonder’s performances later in the show.
For most acts, the performances were short.
This was good in the case of some, like Iggy Azalea, who kind of rap-squatted her way through her song “Work” and then did nothing else, while a troupe of black women did the most, gesticulating wildly in support of this nonfactor of a song.
“Work,” a song I kind of actually sort of liked when it first came out but had since forgotten about, was an interesting choice, considering that her biggest hit is “Fancy,” a far superior bop, steadied by the poppy vibes of Charli XCX. But “Work” it was!
Perhaps it was more a conscious choice to re-educate people about her background (the song features the lyric “No money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami”). Regardless, everyone just sort of politely sat through it and clapped (it was for charity, yo), instead of being dicks about her existence within the poppier end of hip-hop.
Speaking of only performing one hit, dropping a rap squat and sauntering off—Cardi B performed her banger “Bodak Yellow,” and the New York City crowd collectively lost their shit. The regular-schmegular-degular girl from the Bronx went even further than “bloody shoes” and had a whole blood-red, skintight bodysuit on, complete with revealing cutouts and a lot of boob action.
After Cardi finished her hard rock performance, she dropped the patina of toughness and melted into all smiles, thrilled to be a part of the concert, sauntering off the stage while commenting on how “fat” her ass looked.
Other notable moments:
Obviously, this was the main draw here.
Jay came out and performed songs old and new, from opening with “Empire State of Mind” to covering songs from 4:44, including “Family Feud” and “The Story of O.J.” He also did his half of “Niggas in Paris,” which mildly annoyed me because all I could think was, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Jay and Kanye had secretly made up already and Kanye was here, and then Kanye could come out and do his verse!?” But that did not happen because, as far as I know, that has not happened. There were no big surprises like that during the night, unless you counted all of DJ Khaled’s special guests—which I do not—because they totally did “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” without DMX.
In their defense, though, DMX was probably busy with jail or something.
I was surprised at how excited I was to see J.Lo. Maybe it was enduring all of the earlier, lesser-known acts whose songs I didn’t know that made me all the more grateful that she came out to “I’m Real” in a red, deconstructed hoodie-type onesie with thigh-high, sparkly red boots on and mermaid-long blond hair. I was happy to see her! She was like an old friend, happily still willing to go through elaborate dance routines for you, one more ’gain.
I was also disturbed to find that not only did I remember quite a few of the words from “Jenny From the Block,” but I also remembered some of the words to “On the Floor,” her last big hit. (Well, actually, I remember the words to this parody by the Key of Awesome better, to the point where I prefer the parody to the original, but that’s beside the point.)
The only songs by them I know are “Work From Home” (a song I like) and that nightmare song where they name-drop Michelle Obama. They did not sing the Michelle Obama song, thankfully. Watching them also made me realize that unlike with Destiny’s Child, TLC, En Vogue or any other girl group of my youth, I could not pick any member of Fifth Harmony out of a lineup.
(This isn’t so much a slam on them as a slam on me for clearly being old.)
I also hated their outfits (it’s really hard to pull off pink latex).
Smith did an acoustic set that the people behind me talked throughout, joking that she looked like her brother Jaden. They also seemed annoyingly unaware that she’d done any music since “Whip My Hair,” which is just ... I mean, c’mon. I’m old, and even I knew that Willow Smith has branched out since her initial stab at being a child pop star.
But it wasn’t just during Willow. These annoying people were annoying the whole night with their “jokes,” constant bumping into my hair, running commentary and shouting “Where’s Beyoncé?” when Jay-Z was performing.
In a show where Jessie Reyez, quite passionately and explicitly, sang about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry on her track “Gatekeepers” ...
Where Yo Gotti talked about it “going down in the DMs” ...
Where almost every woman performing did it sans pants (with some notable exceptions, including Princess Nokia—thrower of soups, first of her name—and Reyez, who both rocked denim) ...
And where Chris Brown—CHRIS BROWN—sang an entire song about the lack of loyalty among “hos,” Pastor McClurkin was there to remind you about Jesus.
I actually respect McClurkin for this. If you’re looking to convert sinners, what better place than a Tidal X concert where Chris Brown is performing?
I’m not much of a follower of any religion, but McClurkin and his large backing choir were memorable and good. Also, McClurkin was there to remind everyone that this was a party with a very distinct purpose—helping those in need—which was nice.
As if sensing me glaring at him from section 24, row 18, Chris Brown came out talking about how this night was about positivity. No negative vibes. Yada yada. My glaring, of course, meant nothing. Brown has a huge fan base, and they were very hyped for his marginal singing, schmedium bangers and admittedly fantastic dancing. Even I, a proud hater, can admit that the jerk can put on a show. Hence why it’s so disappointing that his personality is so explicitly trash.
But again, the show was for charity, so I sat there and watched, politely saying nothing. I wasn’t the only one sitting down. But I was the only one sitting down not singing along the words to “Loyal.”
You let me down, guy also sitting, two rows in front of me!
The magic of Stevie Wonder is that in concert, live, he still sounds the same as he did years ago when he first recorded many of his hits. Unfortunately, this magic was still not good enough to make me stay for all of Wonder’s final set because my man the musical genius in all his old age did not take the stage until 1:30 a.m. I was bleary-eyed and starting to have a—for real—meltdown. I left just as he was going into “Superstition”—along with about half the audience, who were also pooped.
I was so mentally exhausted and out of it, it took me a good 20 minutes to find a cab to take me home because I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand. My brain kept saying shit like, “We need to get home before we wander into traffic and get hit by a car,” but my body was like, “Let’s stare at this streetlight for five minutes.”
Needless to say, I did, eventually, make it home in one piece, but I doubt that I’ll try another late-night, all-night music fest like Tidal X again. I loved the experience, but even Stevie Wonder couldn’t keep my brain from fracturing into little pieces of woe from exhaustion.
No one can stop that. That’s just who I am.
All photos in slideshow by Getty Images for Tidal.