It wouldn’t exactly be going out on a limb to make the claim that The Meadows—in only its second year—is already New York City’s marquee fall festival. While the summer season is certainly ripe with competition, the options are a whole lot thinner as the temperatures begin to drop. And when one of those few options has a lineup that looks like this…well, there’s not much of a debate.
Last year’s inaugural lineup, which featured a diverse group that included Kanye West, The 1975, Chance the Rapper, Grimes, and more, seemed tough for Founders Entertainment (the festival organizers) to match. But with this year’s lineup, there’s plenty for music fans across the spectrum to be excited about.
Perhaps the happiest group will be the new generation hip-hop fans, who will be treated to top-tier rap dynamos Migos and Future, technical beasts Run the Jewels, up-and-coming studs Joey Bada$$ and 21 Savage, and living hip-hop legends LL Cool J, Nas, Big Boi, Ghostface Killah, and a guy you may have heard of named Jay Z (more on him later).
Indie-leaning pop fans can belt their souls out to the 80s/New Wave-influenced indie synth pop of Sky Ferreira (who, hey, you never know, may finally have that second album soon), or the subversive stylings of multi-instrumentalist and producer Dev Hynes performing under his most famous moniker, Blood Orange. That’s not even to mention the experimental avant-garde music that M.I.A. has been making for now over a decade, as well as the soulful R+B of Erykah Badu and upcoming artists like Lizzo. This festival’s range knows little bounds.
Rock fans? Well, you’ll have to settle for a couple of the era’s most notable indie bands (TV on the Radio and Broken Social Scene) alongside a few decade-spanning iconic outfits (Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer) and a genre-bending virtual group that constantly plays with the structure of music as we know it (Gorillaz); these are just a few of the notable and intriguing names that stand out when perusing the endless depth of The Meadows’ lineup.
This year, The Meadows adds a third day—Friday—to the same location (Citi Field’s enormous parking lot) where last year’s fest famously and unfortunately ended under less-than-ideal circumstances for its headliner. That Friday is where Founders entertainment is hoping to kick things off with a bang, as this year’s headliner—see, I told you we’d get back to Jay Z—is just about as safe a pick to rock a massive NYC headlining set as any act in the world.
Not only is Shawn Carter one of the most prolific, renowned, and beloved hip-hop stars of the past two decades, but this is a homecoming show, and his first proper NYC showing since January 13, 2014—a 44-month performing absence from the city where he was born, raised, and continues to call his home. In that period, a lot has happened that we don’t have the time or space to get into here; let’s just say that you can figure it out by listening to Lemonade and 4:44 back-to-back when you get a chance.
4:44, Jay’s 13th album which dropped this summer, exists in and of itself as a main attraction for the weekend to come. This album, which follows the lackluster efforts of Blueprint 3 and Magna Carta Holy Grail, is so clearly the Bed-Stuy native’s best work since 2005’s The Black Album that it almost hasn’t been worth discussing. The album is one of the best pieces of hip-hop work to come out all the year, and proves that even at 47, Hov still has some tricks up his sleeve.
It’ll be thrilling to hear some of the 4:44 instant classics like “Kill Jay Z,” “Moonlight,” and the album’s titular track mixed in with some of the more timeless hits like “Big Pimpin,” “Encore,” and “Public Service Announcement.” If the crowd is lucky, maybe he’ll even throw in a fun deeper cut like “Heart of the City.”
I’ve seen Jay Z twice before—one of those times was the final stop of the Magna Carta tour back in 2014—and was blown away both times by the live act. The prowess and technical skill that he has always possessed is clear, and his astronomic net worth has not affected this; he can rap anything, with anyone.
After the 2016 deaths of David Bowie and Prince, I made a vow to myself that I would go to any means necessary to ensure that I never miss out on a chance to see a live performer widely perceived to be of ‘legend’ status. I saw U2 perform The Joshua Tree back in June. I saw Tom Petty in July. Bruce Springsteen remains an unchecked name on this list. Next week, I’ll finally get to live a lifelong dream and see Paul McCartney. Does Jay Z fit in with the rest of these names? At this point, you bet he does.
Collage by Morgan McMullen