America has an amazing … six [cities]: New York City, Los Angeles (which contains Hollywood, palm trees, and little else), San Francisco (famous landmarks include (depending on genre) the Golden Gate bridge and a gay club, or the Golden Gate bridge and Star Fleet Headquarters), Detroit (as the urban hellhole of choice), Las Vegas (which is home to casinos and Elvis Impersonators) and Chicago (usually in gangster movies). Washington DC exists but consists solely of the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln and Washington Memorials, and the Pentagon; it’s not actually a city. Outside the cities, there’s one generic Midwestern small town where everyone is white, middle-class, conservative, religious, honest, and full of common sense, if a little naive; one generic small Southern town where everyone is gossipy, racist, insular and even more conservative and religious than the folks in the Midwest town; and one small generic Western town where everyone is a taciturn, weatherbeaten cowboy. On rare occasions, spies will allude to the CIA headquarters in Langley, but are unlikely to mention that it is an actual town in Virginia.
In Detroit, entire skyscrapers stand abandoned. One of those, the David Whitney Building, looms like a ghost a few blocks away from downtown’s Comerica Park, visible from almost anywhere within the stadium. But onstage, luminary Jay-Z sounds a rare note of optimism: “I know you’ve been through a lot, but Detroit has heart, and it will be back.”
It’s anyone’s guess how much of the vast, whiter-than-I-expected crowd Thursday night actually lives around here. Outside the park, a guy in line tries to convince anyone who will listen that Grand Rapids is the city of the future, that it’ll be bigger than Detroit in 10 years. Before the show starts, the highway traffic into the city is at a complete standstill, as guys selling bootleg T-shirts wander between the cars. Once you get out of the stadium/casino sector, downtown is a grisly, apocalyptic sight. But Detroit does have at least one thing going for it: The most popular rapper in the world calls the city home.
Detroit’s streets are grand, sweeping boulevards lined by liquor stores, outlets of the iconic local hot dog stand Coney Island, and decaying abandoned buildings. An automotive Venice, its concrete canals are mostly deserted — the vehicles lost in the vast thoroughfares. Even the city’s centerpiece, General Motors’ gleaming Renaissance Center, seems to hulk defensively over the river, bunkered down awaiting better times. This is the city Obie Trice claims to reign over, though even he acknowledges it is more by default than design: “The white boy stepped down / So I will accept the crown,” he explains on “Cry Now.”
That’s what I said about Detroit when I reviewed
Obie Trice’s Second Round’s On Me