Kanye West performs at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2015.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
The first annual Roc City Classic, produced by Jay Z‘s Roc Nation, saw Manhattan’s Flatiron district (and those streaming via Life + Times) bow down to Kanye West, headliner for the event held in Madison Square Park. The “free” show wasn’t exactly easy to attend – concertgoers were forced to get inventive in order to win tickets, either by way of Power 105.1’s website, or via sponsors Sparkling ICE and HTC.
Despite the difficulty, the lucky crowd waited patiently for the rapper to take the stage, with host Angie Martinez and basketball superstar Kevin Durant (along with Tulsa’s Skylar Diggins) having to stall a bit. “Get cozy, do a little jumping jacks, a little cardio,” the radio host joked — and she wasn’t kidding. As the crowd waited in the nine-degree temperature, Yeezy was the only thing that could warm the wavering morale.
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As special guest Travi$ Scott hit the stage first, he did his best to entice with tracks including “Mamacita,” as West prepped to take the stage — just hours after the artist debuted his Adidas collab Yeezy 750 Boost as well as the first track off his forthcoming seventh album, “Wolves” (featuring Sia and Vic Mensa). Though the surrounding side streets were closed off due to a heavy police presence, the rapper didn’t fret — dusting off his Beck Grammy gaffe and subsequent media criticism to focus entirely on the music in his first public appearance since the ceremony.
Against his signature bright red backdrop, the star launched into a hit-heavy set that included Yeezus cuts “Black Skinhead,” “New Slaves,” and “Blood On The Leaves,” in addition to special guest appearances by Pusha T, Big Sean, and 2 Chainz, who performed “Mercy” together [Sean also indulged the crowd in his hit “I Don’t F–k With You”]. West also showed support for surprise guest, newcomer Fetty Wap, whose single “Trap Queen” he dubbed his “favorite song right now.” The innovator then closed on his current single “Only One,” leaving those hoping for a Rihanna and Paul McCartney surprise appearance (on “FourFiveSeconds”) disappointed.
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The entire crowd, plus onlookers including the apartments above Italian hot-spot Eately, watched with baited breath during the hour-long set, which kick-started NBA’s All-Star weekend. Those who couldn’t stomach the cold holed up in Jay Z’s 40/40 Club next door (also the after-party location), where they served complimentary Hot Toddy’s featuring Jay’s cognac D’Ussé.
All in all, the event allowed West to do what he does best – disrupt, as even the production stirred a bit of controversy. Before it got off the ground, residents, business owners, and community leaders voiced concerns, suggesting the area was not appropriate for such a large-scale (and loud) show. However with lights raised towards the frigid sky, and the electric backdrop of the historic Flatiron building, it was hard to care about anything else.