It started out pure voter registration drive, with legions of clipboard waving Obama volunteers ensuring the thousands packed into Bayfront Park Amphitheater were ready to cast a ballot, and Jay-Z playing all coy: "I'm not here to tell you who to vote for. But I'll tell you who I'm voting for. Barack Obama."
But it didn't take long for Sunday night's free Hova and Wyclef Jean show to explode from coy to crazy to cathartic for the Miami masses.
The turn came after Jay's live brass band belted out "Roc Boys," leaving Mr. Carter in sudden silence to spit an a cappella verse from "Minority Report," his anthem to Katrina victims, while images of flooded New Orleans streets flashed on a massive video board.
In unison, as a massive photo of Dubya flashed on screen, the crowd screamed right on beat: "Fuck Bush!"
So it was mighty hard to doubt the Bayfront crowd's passion, even if it wasn't easy to parse out where Obama support ended and diamonds-in-the-air Jay-Z love began.
Voter registration booths near the park's entrance showed steady business from the get-go and Obama staffers -- many wearing sequined "Change" shirts with matching, silver-sequined black baseball hats -- pushed audience members to volunteer on election day to get out the vote.
Wyclef struck a political tone early, peppering verses in "No Woman No Cry" with his vision of an Obama administration marked by peace, equality and -- to a loud Miami cheer -- fairer laws for Haitian immigrants.
Guest rapper Pitbull pulled off one of the lines of the night: "McCain rhymes with something we used to push on the streets in Miami, but that don't mean we want him in office."
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But best rapper alive that he is, Jay-Z couldn't let the night end without one-upping Pitbull for the best Republican smackdown. "Listen," he started quietly, chuckling, "this is where I always get in trouble. The guy on the other side, I'm not talking about him. I'm talking about somebody else ... someone else on that other ticket ...." Jay let the silence hang for a minute before the guitars let rip with "99 Problems (But A Bitch Ain't One)."
Hmmm, wonder who that song goes out to?
(P.S.: Jay-Z's back at it again today at noon for one last shout-out before voter registration closes down.)
-- Tim Elfrink