One such famous friend, Kanye West, brought his G.O.O.D. Music collective (and girlfriend Kim Kardashian, who remained offstage) as surprise guests and performed several songs while Jay took a respite. “Mercy” and “I Don’t Like” proved exciting, but tracks like “Cold” and Common’s “The Light” felt flat and lagged the overall energy. Their exit on the other hand, when all members of G.O.O.D. turned their backs to the crowd wearing matching posse jackets, was brilliant, in a boy band meets rap moment.
Drake, the festival’s other big hip-hop performer, walked in at one point to watch alongside Meek Mill and Wale (who had performed earlier in the day). Drake seemed to be taking mental notes for his own set while concurrently in awe. It was a moment most fans didn’t get to see, high in the V.I.P. rafters, as three young stars watched reigning giants Jay and Ye at work.
Drizzy in his own right has increasingly strengthened his solo stage show. His set mirrored much of his Club Paradise performances seen this summer, yet with noticeably less live singing. Drake appeared in an all-white ensemble, showing off his summer tan and wearing two in-earpieces emblazoned with the face of late singer Aaliyah. He flew through his staple of hits like “Over,” “Crew Love,” “HYFR,” and “I’m On One,” and opened up the stage for guest appearances from French Montana (“Pop That,” “Stay Schemin’”) and 2 Chainz (“No Lie,” “Spend It”). The latter, by the sheer pandemonium he caused on both nights, is officially rap’s newest superstar.
Though more limber and sure-footed than usual, Drake battled the age-old problem of playing to the wrong crowd, and the energy of his set suffered as a result. Many in attendance were anxiously waiting for Pearl Jam to take the same stage following the rapper and it was clear from audience reaction that “Jeremy” and “The Motto” don’t really mix. Drake was keenly aware of the generational divide and kept it pithy, even shouting out Pearl Jam several times. “This is one of the biggest honors,” he humbly said before leaving, “opening for one of greatest bands of all time.”
Most hip-hop aficionados (present company included) left following Drake’s set to beat the traffic and rejoin the cell phone grid (So many Instagrams to upload, after all). Jay-Z, being the gracious host, stuck around and treated fans to a rock/rap mash-up of his “99 Problems” with Pearl Jam in what was undoubtedly a legendary moment in music. Lesson of Made In America: never leave a Carter party early.