Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé Steal Tidal's Star-Studded Show

Beyoncé at the Barclays Center, October 20, 2015EXPAND
Beyoncé at the Barclays Center, October 20, 2015
Photo by Kevin Mazur for Getty Images

Jay Z’s music-streaming service, Tidal, has declared war.

In case the grandiose unveiling of the brand, which included a declaration signing, wasn’t enough to persuade fans to become subscribers, Tidal and its arsenal of artist-owners unleashed an audio assault on its competitors last night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

In celebration of attaining 1 million subscriptions, Tidal announced it would recognize the platinum feat with an exclusive concert for fans. “Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists,” Jay Z wrote in a rare statement via Twitter.

Though the concert was promoted as a social justice fundraiser — equipped with a live telethon and several short PSAs sprinkled in between performances — there were several much deeper undertones being portrayed on the stage: namely, unity and strength.

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Tidal rising stars Indochine, Bas, and the Flatbush Zombies loosened up the sold-out arena for an eventful night ahead. Canadian crooner Alessia Cara recited her breakthrough single “Here” before bashfully exiting the stage. Brooklyn native Justine Skye wowed guests, surprising them by bringing the homegrown 2 Milly collective onstage to perform their infectious “Milly Rock.”

Skye’s set was followed by a brief PSA, which blared through the mammoth jumbo screens at Barclays. The message may have been missed by the countless fans screaming, cheering, and jeering at the previous sets, which were more like sprints than marathons.

Benjamin Booker rocked the house briefly before Power 105.1 radio host Angie Martinez introduced the newest artist-owner at Tidal, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley. It was his reggae-infused tune “Welcome to Jamrock” that incited the crowd to stand up for the first time during the night. But Bob Marley’s own son was one and done, like most of the artists on the bill.

Platinum producer Hit-Boy, backed by a quartet of violinists, entertained the crowd by tapping his MPC beat machine and unveiling a new song featuring A$AP Ferg and Quentin Miller. The lone country performer, Thomas Rhett, charmed through his set, singing his latest, “Die
a Happy Man.” The screams reached a fever pitch when teen heartthrob Nick Jonas graced the stage. He sang and danced to his latest, “Levels,” yet he, too, was only there for a moment. Displeased at the length of Jonas’s routine, a disgruntled fan snickered, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Recent Roc Nation acquisition Vic Mensa amped up the arena once more, with a suitable track — “You Mad” — before making way for T.I.

The headliner portion of the night seemed to have begun as T.I. rapped through two songs, including his uptempo anthem “Ain’t About the Money.” He introduced the crowd to the Brooklyn-bred cast of the viral YouTube series Money & Violence and announced that the second season would be streamed on Tidal beginning in January. “One time for Tidal, turn up!” T.I. yelled before grinning and prancing off the stage.

Shortly after, the piano keys to Meek Mill’s infamous Dreams & Nightmares intro began to ring, and the arena went pitch-black. Meek’s most notable number was evidently a crowd favorite. In fact, it provoked the arena to cheer and sing along with the embattled rapper. Rick Ross joined his protégé onstage for their collaborative cut “I’ma Boss.” A fully clothed Ross then eased into “BMF,” the tune in which he imagines himself as not one but a series of high-trafficking drug dealers.

French Montana presented his ode to the incarcerated Bobby Shmurda by performing his rendition of the Brooklyn adolescent’s Billboard-topping “Hot Boy," and sets from Usher and Cipha Sounds followed suit. Brooklyn’s own Fabolous persuaded the crowd to cheer for his borough once he hit the stage, and he eased into his Jay Z–assisted track “Brooklyn.” An on-key Jay Z emerged from behind the smoke machines to recite his verse and join Fab onstage.

“We raised a lot of money,” Jay told the crowd. “We’re also having a good time.” Hov’s headlining routine included three different tracks from three different points in his career. There was the gritty “Where I’m From,” off of his second studio album, In My Lifetime; the Blueprint single “You Don’t Know”; and “Fuck With Me You Know I Got It,” featuring a now-shirtless Ross. Mere months after becoming a Tidal artist-owner himself, Lil Wayne joined his idol Jay Z to perform “Hello Brooklyn.” An energetic, screeching Wayne excited fans with his careless tune “No Worries” before making way for his Young Money, Cash Money labelmate Nicki Minaj.  

Minaj and her background dancers immediately beckoned the whole venue — ushers included — to participate in the party at hand. She eased through her hits "Truffle Butter” and “Moment for Life” before ceremoniously sharing the stage with Beyoncé. (The two debuted their collaboration “Feeling Myself” exclusively on Tidal at the beginning of the summer.) Beyoncé pranced around Minaj as they traded verses. It was like two teenagers at a slumber party teasing each other. An epic dance-off transpired between Minaj’s dancers and Beyoncé’s, which led to the two meeting at the center of the stage for a glaring stare-down, which dissolved into giggles and an eventual embrace.

Jaws dropped, fanatics cheered, and all eyes were fixed on the female megastars. After a brief break, Beyoncé returned to the stage, donning an all-black fur cape.

“This is my favorite song to sing with my husband,” Beyoncé proclaimed with a heavy Houston drawl. The song, “Holy Grail," performed by Jay Z, was thrilling. Beyoncé swung her blond side-pony feverishly as she played hype-woman for her husband.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are in the presence of greatness,” Jay Z said. “Make some noise for the Queen Bey.”

After engaging in some PDA with his wife, Jay urged the crowd again to “Make some noise for everybody that touched the stage tonight.”

Though the sets were fleeting, and one trip to the bathroom may have meant missing your favorite artist, the message was clear: Tidal has an army of artists willing to back the platform.

“This is the first annual event,” Jay said. “We gon’ run this shit again and again if y'all want us to bring it back.

“Sing this song loud enough that they hear it in Timbuktu,” Jay then demanded, cuing “Empire State of Mind.”

Your move, Apple Music. 


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