Clinton wows Cleveland with celebrity-studded rally

Beyonce and Jay-Z pose with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton after their “Get Out The Vote” concert event in support of Clinton at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

Erin Zaranec

Political rallies have become a standard staple in the election cycle. Government officials speak, then a political candidate is introduced and gives remarks on their policies and their opponent before circling the outskirts of the crowd taking selfies and shaking hands.
Walking into Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center on Friday, the only indications of a political affair were ‘Stronger Together’ signage and information about how to vote set up on three larger-than-life screens seen above a stage.
The auditorium of the Wolstein Center — which has a regular seating capacity of approximately 13,600 — was dimly lit but buzzing with energy as local sensation DJ Steph Floss hyped the crowd at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s ‘Get Out The Vote’ rally.
Cleveland natives like Chip Da Ripper, Kid Cudi and Machine Gun Kelly blared over the speakers as the crowd filtered in, with nearly everyone opting to stand and dance instead of getting settled in a seat.

For nearly two hours DJ Steph Floss provided musical entertainment before Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Gov. Ted Strickland and Rep. Marcia Fudge came to the stage.

“When my granddaughters … look at the (presidential portraits) up on the wall at school, they will now see an African American president. And they will then see the face of a woman president,” said Brown after encouraging the crowd to vote and to vote early.

While Friday night’s concert may have been a political affair like none seen thus far on this year’s campaign trail, the message was loud and clear: Cleveland is an influential city in an important swing state, and its residents must vote.

The lights dimmed, a black and white American flag took over the screens and the tune to Jay-Z’s “Dirt of Your Shoulder” brought the crowd to their feet. The night was then dominated by some of the hottest names in hip-hop, with four rap artists and a pop icon serving as the opening acts for 69-year-old Clinton.

“Ohio, you have the power to change the world!” shouted Jay-Z as he remixed a majority of his raps to include the swing state’s name.

“Tonight, we’re here for a good cause, but before I get to that, we’re just going to party,” he told the crowd.  

And what a party Clinton hosted.

Jay-Z was joined on stage by Big Sean, whose performance transitioned into appearances by Chance The Rapper and J. Cole — each of whom had their own input about voting and voting early. 

“You’re facing one of the biggest elections in your life coming up,” Big Sean said before performing some of his more R-rated hits, including the popular “I Don’t F-ck With You.” 

He asked the audience to raise a middle finger to “the other guy” in the election before he put his hood up and filled the stage with an energized performance.

Chicago native Chance The Rapper, who formally endorsed Clinton last month and has been hosting pro-voting rallies through Chicago nonprofit SocialWorks, Inc., slowed the pace on stage with a performance of his hit “Blessings.”

As the song faded out into its final measures — “are you ready for your blessings? Are you ready for your miracle?” — the 23-year old made his support for Clinton clear:

“It doesn’t really matter who I am. I am here to celebrate our next and first woman president,” Chance the Rapper said. “She is running this battle right now, she is killing this race. But she needs all our help.” 

No artists who performed mentioned Republican nominee Donald Trump by name, but all made it known they want to see Clinton become the first woman in the White House.

After a performance by J. Cole, headliner Jay-Z swept the stage and the city of champions prepped itself to go under the reign of a new queen — Beyoncé.

During a performance of “Beach is Better,” the crowd filled in Jay-Z’s lyric about his wife, Beyoncé, to which he teased, “I don’t think they’re ready yet … nah, maybe they’re ready now.” 

The lights dimmed, the beat dropped and suddenly the arena filled with screams louder than any song of the night: Beyoncé was on stage.

After performing hits like “Formation” and “Diva,” Beyoncé addressed the screaming crowd.

“Less than 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote. Look how far we’ve come from having no voice, to being on the brink of making history,” she said. “I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country, and know that her possibilities are limitless.”
The backdrop to the night’s performances were bold graphics, including an American flag emblazoned with the words ‘Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote,’ a red screen with the words ‘Lincoln said women should vote,’ along with a quote from the nation’s 16th president and a quote from Clinton that read “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”

With the crowd’s energy renewed, Jay-Z joined his wife on stage for a duet of “Holy Grail” before introducing the reason for the evening’s events: Clinton herself.

“This other guy, I don’t have any ill will,” Jay-Z said. “(But) he cannot be my president. He cannot be our president. Once you divide us, you weaken us. We are stronger together.”

Clinton walked out to screams almost matched to the ones received by Beyoncé, and the blurred lines between Hollywood and politics took center stage as the power couple of pop and hip-hop embraced the Democratic nominee. 

“This is what America is, my friends,” said Clinton as she thanked Beyoncé for showing that the nation is stronger together and thanking Jay-Z for addressing societal issues in his music. 

The room, which minutes before was blaring with X-rated lyrics, audience members raising the Illuminati symbol and other pointed hand gestures, now had all eyes on the woman behind the message of the night’s event.

While pop culture took a backseat to politics once Clinton stepped on stage, she was sure to give a nod to Beyoncé’s custom made pantsuit and the custom designs donned by her background dancers — “didn’t you love the pantsuits?” she laughed as the crowd cheered.

“We have unfinished business to do,” Clinton said. “More barriers to break and a glass ceiling to crack once and for all.”

Clinton encouraged residents of Cleveland to vote early, providing them with the address of Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections, and giving information on how to become a last-minute volunteer on the campaign.

Despite having stiff competition from her headliners, by the end of her short speech, Clinton stole the show.

“Remember,” Clinton said, “Jay memorably said something we should all recall: Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk. And Martin Luther walked so (President) Barack Obama could run. And …Obama ran so all the children could fly.”

Erin Zaranec is the entertainment editor, contact her at [email protected].