By Rob Markman
Somewhere in America a former drug dealer from Brooklyn and a 1960’s childhood TV star from Oklahoma linked up to document a fun-loving, culture clash in Philadelphia and no one thought much of it. On Friday night Showtime debuted the Ron Howard-directed “Made in America,” a film which captured the creation, curation and adoration at Jay Z’s inaugural Budweiser Made in America music festival. The 90-minute film with a table-setting and powerful narration from Hov.
“We are all flawed human beings, we all have the same struggles and the same dreams. Based on my own experiences, I would’ve never believed that I would be here today,” he said as b-roll of crowd pans and flickering concert lights flashed across the screen.
“Made in America” isn’t just Jay Z’s story; we’ve heard about his hard knock life through his music, interviews and more Hov-centered docs like 2003’s “Fade to Black.” Instead Jay, or rather Howard, focused the lens on the stories of a diverse group of artists like Janelle Monae, Pearl Jam, D’Angelo, Mike Snow, Gary Clark Jr., Skirllex, and Odd Future’s Tyer, the Creator. Fans also get a glimpse into the lives of stage hands and food vendors who relied on the paychecks earned from working “Made in America” to make ends meet.
There is plenty of concert footage, but also key scenes that bridge cultural and generational gaps like when Skrillex gives 59-year old director Ron Howard a hands-on lesson in DJ’ing. Tyler, the Creator also auditioned his off-brand style of humor during an interview with Howard, licking his lips and making goofy faces to the camera.
The film takes fans outside of Philly as well, and caught Jay breaking ground at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and returning to his old “stash spot” at 560 State Street, the same address he shouts out on his #1 hit “Empire State of Mind.”"It was me and my cousin’s place. We woke up, ate breakfast and ran the street. That was it,” the mogul said about his crack-dealing days. “Ran the street and went to the club at night.”
Hov marveled when he got to the roof of the building and took a picture of himself with the Barclays Center, which he helped build in the background, as he talked about the moment he decided to leave the streets. “I knew that something wasn’t right about the things that I was doing. My conscious was alive,” he said. “And so I just decided to let that street life go, and really focus on music.”
Howard buttons the film up with Jay’s headlining 2012 Made In America performance, where he brought out Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music clan. “This is what we represent,” he said to end it all. “We’re telling this story. We’re all people at the end of the day. All walks, all creeds, we all have that belief that you can make it here in the land of the free, the home of the brave.”