Free live music, free food and free beer — what could be better? This was a reality Oct. 13 at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia during the Heineken Red Star Access Concert. The event was exclusive, to say the least; you had to enter to win through Heineken’s website, and if you were lucky enough to win, tickets were sent via text message and required an RSVP within six hours. As a part of Heineken’s Red Star Access series, legendary emcee Nas and rising star Wale performed onstage, with one of hip-hop’s pioneers, Q-Tip, DJing the event and comedian Affion Crockett as the host. This type of star-studded lineup rarely comes through Philadelphia, especially as a free event.
It all began at 4 p.m. as Q-Tip hit the stage with his MacBook Pro, a pair of headphones and a pair of sunglasses on, blasting classic hip-hop tracks as fans poured into The Electric Factory. After Q-Tip blessed the crowd with his amazing mixes for an hour and a half, Wale hit the stage with Washington-based go-go band UCB for a 45-minute performance. It’s been a few years since Wale has performed with a live band, and it was a pleasant sight to see. He ran through a wide array of songs, from “Nike Boots,” a single released before his debut album, to new songs from Maybach Music Group’s compilation album “Self Made 2.” His set jumped all over the place but provided fans from all stages of his career a chance to enjoy themselves. Wale blew the roof off of the building when he brought out Philadelphia’s own Freeway for “What We Do,” a song that any true hip-hop fan from Philly knows word for word.
As Wale wrapped up his 45-minute set, Q-Tip came back on and gave the fans an incredible tease. After returning to the stage and playing more current hits, he said, “what if Phife Dawg, Ali and Jarobi were backstage and this was a surprise the whole time?” At this point, I, along with many others in the crowd, believed that we were about to see A Tribe Called Quest reunite onstage, but Tip was just messing around with us. Instead, he played a number of their classic hits, which got fans in the mood for another legend, Nas, who hit the stage after another hour of Q-Tip DJing.
Nas, who will return to Philadelphia and The Electric Factory Nov. 7 with Lauryn Hill as a part of his “Life Is Good” tour, gave the fans a 45-minute sample of what to expect when he returns. He performed new hits including “The Don” and “Daughters” but also brought back classics like “The World Is Yours.” Nas and DJ Green Lantern moved through the set seamlessly, bringing it to an end with “One Mic.”
While Heineken probably has a hard time justifying the expenses involved with its Red Star Access series across the country, the brewing company provided an incredible afternoon and early evening of fun for hip-hop fans in Philadelphia. Between the incredible music onstage and the atmosphere created with free food, beer and games, Heineken definitely delivered one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve been to in Philadelphia this year.