Jay-Z gathered over 30 artists for the annual Tidal charity concert at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Beyoncé among them (though she didn’t perform). Every year the artists line up, and every year it benefits a worthy cause. This year, however, has the ignoble distinction of being 2017, meaning there‘s no shortage of acutely dire causes to support. Proceeds went to disaster-relief programs directing efforts towards hurricane-affected areas, as well as Mexico City, which suffered a massive earthquake in September.
Over the course of a few hours, Tidal cycled through its artists at a rapid clip. Nearly all the musicians, from Cardi B to A$AP Fergto Fifth Harmony, were allotted one or two songs each, except for the heavy hitters like DJ Khaled or Jennifer Lopez. There was little time for statements or gestures beyond the music. Still, the subtext from many of the artists was self-sufficiency in the face of the Trump administration’s insufficiency, mainly when it came to Puerto Rico (which got the most enthusiastic cheers whenever mentioned).
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who gathered his own coterie of stars from Marc Anthony to Jennifer Lopez to sing on his benefit track “Almost Like Praying” for Puerto Rico, said on the red carpet beforehand, “As an artist, my responsibility is only to what inspires me, but as a citizen, these are not normal times and it’s all hands on deck.”
“Listen, it’s very personal for me when it comes to Puerto Rico,” he continued. “I have family that has a curfew and has no electricity.”
Puerto Rico is also personal for Lopez, who’s from the Bronx by way of the island. Besides headlining Tidal’s event, she led a telethon in Miami and donated $1 millionalongside New York governor Andrew Cuomo. As she told the crowd at Barclays sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, “This country we’re living in . . . it’s up to us to create the world we want to live in.”
Government response to the devastation on the U.S. territory, which is still largely without power or clean drinking water weeks after being hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, appeared to come slowly, and that was before Donald Trump went golfing. The president blamed lethargic aid relief on the fact that Puerto Rico is an island, or in his words, it’s “surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” Sometimes he blamed the island itself for the hurricane’s devastation, citing what he perceives as bad leadership and infrastructure woes. Occasionally, he spoke positively of FEMA’s efforts and its attempt to get electricity, potable water, and paper towels to those in need.
Tidal, on the other hand, chartered a plane to transport supplies; Real Housewives alum Bethenny Frankel chartered four. Pitbulllent his own private plane to help transport cancer patients from the island. Beyoncé released a song “Mi Gente,” and all proceeds go to disaster relief. Whatever President Trump lacked in optics and action, celebrities have had it in spades.
Chicago rapper Vic Mensa put it simply: “When a sector of the community is in dire need, you have to help. I think people need to have that conversation with themselves, being that you have an administration in office that’s openly racist, sexist, Islamophobic, xenophobic—pretty much all -ists and -isms and –phobics you can be. That’s our duty to pick up the pace on our end because clearly justice is not going to be served.”