'Made in America' documentary: More than just a concert film

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Image Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Made in America is not your average concert documentary. Yes, the 90-minute film featured performances from the likes of Pearl Jam, Skrillex, Run DMC, the Hives, and more. But it was also a tale of struggle, triumph, achievements, and failures. Giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the two-day festival that took place in Philadelphia last year, director Ron Howard and Jay Z shared the stories of the people responsible for the success of the inaugural event.

Here are seven highlights:

1. Nicole Zalewski. This single mother exemplified hard work and resilience. Through her work as the festival’s official food vendor — a duty that had her preparing $6,000 worth of food — the Philadelphia native hoped to raise funds to help revamp her truck food business. Admirable, indeed.

2. Janelle Monae’s backstory. The Q.U.E.E.N singer revealed some of her humble beginnings. In addition to working as a maid, the Kansas City-bred singer also worked at Blockbuster before her rise as a soul-stirring artist.  Proud of her modest upstart, Janelle attributed her signature black-and-white attire to memories of her working-class parents who wore uniforms everyday. “When I was a maid, my mom [worked] as a custodian. She would drop me off, put on her uniform, and I would have my green shirt…and I would have on some khakis. So we both have on our uniforms.”

3. Lilian Fowler. When Howard asked elderly local resident Lilian Fowler about the festival, she had a few reservations. “The music that we get here is the ‘bang bang’ music. You should have a variety, not just the ‘bang bang,'” she said. However, Fowler did warm up to one aspect of the festival: Jill Scott. Looking out her window, Fowler was impressed when the soul singer performed an opera intro to her hit “He Loves Me”. “Now that’s not bad,” she said.

4. Jay Z’s reality check. When questioned whether or not he was destined to lead, Jay declined the notion, admitting he never set out to be a leader. “My responsibility is to be as open and as honest as possible and let that radiate towards the people. I’m not an elected official; I’m a recording artist.”

5. Jay Z’s sound advice. A huge advocate of taking the appropriate steps to greatness, Shawn Corey Carter said he believed that there’s more to one’s goals than the end result. “A lot of people think they can put out something — they have these ideas and start with the end of the process. They’ve forgotten all the steps to lead to that,” he says. “I gave my demo out to every single label and no one signed me.”

6. Jay Z’s shout-out to EDM. Jay’s not restricted to hip-hop; he’s also a fan of electronic dance music. Intrigued by the music of Skrillex, the rapper believes that EDM is the music of the future. “The EDM music that people are dismissing as a fad, it’s the music the next generation are claiming,” he says. “Kids don’t want to listen to their dad’s music. They need to be on the cutting edge of something new.”

7. Jay Z showing his soft side. Don’t let Jay Z’s powerful persona fool you. He’s a guy with a soft spot. While visiting his old apartment at 560 State Street (mentioned in his hit song “Empire State of Mind”), Jay Z was caught in an emotional moment, walking us onto the roof of his old building and looking across at his new one: Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center.

What did you guys think? Sound off in the comments below.

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