Throughout the weekend of Made In America, speculation ran high that Jay-Z, the public face of the festival, would join other artists on stage during their performances. But he waited for the event’s last fifteen minutes to actually do so when he joined co-headliners Pearl Jam towards the end of their set.
In the middle of their 1993 album track “W.M.A.,” Jay joined the Seattle legends on stage, and the song morphed into a mashup with his “99 Problems.” The lyrics to “W.M.A.” include: “Big hand slapped by a white male American/Do no wrong, so clean cut/Dirty his hands it comes right off/Police man.” The chorus features singer Eddie Vedder chanting “Police got my brother again!” Meanwhile, the lyrics to “99 Problems” include “‘License and registration and step out of the car/Are you carryin’ a weapon on you? I know a lot of you are’/I ain’t steppin’ out of s***, all my papers legit/’Well do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?’ Well my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back/And I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that.”
Thematically, the songs were a perfect match: and Jay-Z’s line in the song “Got beef with radio if I don’t play they show/They don’t play my hits, well I don’t give a s***,” probably resonated with Pearl Jam, who have never played by music industry rules. And, as “99 Problems” is one of Jay-Z’s most “rock” songs, it was perfect musically for Pearl Jam to sink their teeth into. (Indeed, it seems a favorite of Jay-Z’s rock collaborators; he once performed it with the jam band Phish and has recorded a version with industrial metal group Linkin Park).
The collaboration was most likely a one time only event, but Pearl Jam sell “official bootlegs” of all of their concerts on their website, so an authorized version may be available soon.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local