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From Thursday through Saturday last week, 775,000 fans crowded into downtown Detroit for the 2024 NFL draft, setting a new attendance record for the event in the process. Football took center stage, but music was very much along for the ride, as Detroit’s rock and hip-hop royalty rubbed elbows with its sports legends, in some cases literally. Detroit Lions superfan Eminem, who’s also been known to rap a bit, joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell onstage to open the draft on Thursday night, while Lions legend Barry Sanders hung out with Bob Seger and Big Sean, who performed earlier in the evening. From there, music and sports continued to intermingle all weekend. 

The NFL draft arrived in Detroit at a perfect time for the city and its football team. Detroit is going through a revitalization after decades of decline, and the once-hapless Lions came up just short of the team’s first-ever Super Bowl appearance last season and look to be a favorite heading into next season. Detroit is a place where people want to be, as those 775,000 fans can attest. The city felt alive, and it was focused not so much on being cool (as when Eminem chided Goodell for calling the city “The D” in a draft promo, offering, “You can just say Detroit”) and more on being itself: rich in history and culture, confident, vibrant, and relevant.

Over three days, the NFL’s 32 teams drafted 257 players in all, and events stretched from the massive main stage in Cadillac Square and Campus Martius Park to stages and clubs along downtown Detroit’s streets and alleys, and into the the Belt, a once-empty downtown alley that’s been reimagined to host multiple music venues and art spaces. (Rolling Stone co-sponsored several Belt events throughout the weekend, in collaboration with Library Street Collective, Deluxx Fluxx, the Skip, and Rock, Dan Gilbert’s family office.)

Here’s the best of what we saw.

Big Sean’s Homecoming
Before the picks got underway, Big Sean came out rocking a #97 jersey — Aidan Hutchinson of the Lions. Alternating between old hits and newer raps, the Detroit native reminded the crowd that dreams were set to be made that evening. The vibe of the performance was celebratory and motivational: Big Sean encouraged fans that even if it wasn’t your year, you could always “bounce back,” before performing his six-times platinum hit (hear that, Jets fans?) of the same name. Unfortunately, Big Sean didn’t get around to playing Dark Sky Paradise cut “One Man Can Change the World” — which would have been fitting, given the expectations placed on the shoulders of USC’s Caleb Williams, drafted just minutes later by the Chicago Bears. —W.A. 

Da Bears Get Their QB
Did the Chicago Bears get their franchise quarterback? Only time will tell. One thing that’s certain: Williams, who broke an absurd amount of records during his Heisman-winning season at USC, is walking into the best supporting cast a rookie QB has perhaps ever had. One of those pieces is Rome Odunze, out of the University of Washington, who also got drafted by the Bears in front of a massive crowd in downtown Detroit. Williams’ emotional reaction to landing Odunze is warranted: The quarterback will now have a star rookie, a six-time Pro Bowl honoree in Keenan Allen, and tight end Cole Kmet, who was in the top 10 in receiving yards last season, to throw to in his freshman campaign. —W.A. 

Rome Odunze celebrates with fans after being picked ninth overall by the Chicago Bears.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Andre Power Soundtracks an NFL Retirement
Outside of the actual NFL draft, the hottest party in the D might have been at the Belt. It started early on Friday, with the DJ Andre Power and a slew of special guests soundtracking Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara’s retirement fete. A few hundred people (mostly rocking Honolulu blue) spilled into the alleyway from the Skip, an open-air cocktail bar where the party was taking place. Power spun Afrobeats and R&B blends like Davido’s “If,” as well as house music classics like a remix of Robin S.’s “Show Me Love.” Posted up behind Power in the DJ booth was Houston producer Chase B, bopping his head and sipping on some wine, having shown up nearly four hours before his own set at the Belt. —W.A.

A-Trak Keeps the Party Going
The Belt didn’t need to wait for the draft to end to kick off a block party that started mid-afternoon Saturday and went well into the wee hours. A-Trak, the veteran DJ and producer from just to the north — that’d be Canada — headlined a lineup of DJs that also featured ATM and Loading…. Performing at the Skip, A-Trak stirred up a dance party of jersey-clad draft-goers that filled the alley nearly end-to-end. He was in top form, touching on the hip-hop, electronic, and house beats that have defined his nearly 30-year career. Following A-Trak’s set, the party moved inside to Deluxx Fluxx, where Sango, Ro Spit, and Kid McFly performed. —J.H.

A-Trak

Stefan Oprea/ROCK

Chase B Soaks Up the Vibes — Then Creates Some
Chase B wasn’t posted up at The Belt just for good vibes and Andre Power’s mixes — he also had his own set that resulted in a line down the block and dozens clamoring to get in to the Deluxx Fluxx nightclub to see the producer/DJ, who’s signed to Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Records. Chase’s set included a ton of rap hits, many by the producer’s own affiliates and label mates. The DJ took the set as an opportunity to test out his new remix of Travis Scott’s “FE!N” that dropped on Friday at midnight, which turns La Flame’s rage track into a dance record. Chase B’s party went on long into the night, but you wouldn’t know it if you caught him the next morning — chatting away on the phone at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport hopping on an early morning flight back to New York City (same). —W.A. 

Bazzi closes out Day Three

Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Bazzi Gets Drafted 
Twenty minutes after the Jets made the final pick in the draft, a voice came over the PA to announce that there would be one more (not real, obviously) pick: the Detroit Lions selected, at 180 pounds, Canton, Michigan, native Bazzi. Against a beautiful sunset over downtown Detroit, the singer-songwriter-producer closed the main stage of the draft with a playful hourlong set that featured R&B hits that count streams in the billions and lots of love for his hometown Lions. Between breezy renditions of “Mine” and “Beautiful,” Bazzi frequently celebrated the Lions, and even improvised a song about Lions quarterback Jared Goff. —J.H.

Sneaker Heaven
Detroit-based online sneaker marketplace StockX hosted the First Round Grails pop-up, which celebrated sneaker culture with a display of some of its rarest pairs. Recently retired Lions quarterback Teddy Bridgewater stopped in to try his hand at a claw machine that gave attendees a chance to win one-of-a-kind sneakers, before signing autographs for young fans. StockX president, COO, and co-founder Greg Schwartz paid tribute to the company’s Detroit roots: “You don’t need to have a Silicon Valley or East Coast zip code to build a tech company or build a global business.” —J.H. 

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The Detroit Youth Choir Knows Its History
The draft’s second day started with the Detroit Youth Choir on the main stage paying tribute to their Motown forebears. Comprised of students from across the Detroit area, the choir appeared at the draft fresh off a runner-up turn on America’s Got Talent and a Disney+ docuseries. Their love for their hometown was on display as they sang and danced through a Motown medley that included “Get Ready,” “Dancing in the Street,” “Back in My Arms Again,” “What’s Going On,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” To close the set, the school kids were joined by former Super Bowl champions, as the NFL Players Choir led the ensemble through a pair of gospel numbers. —J.H. 

“Mr. Irrelevant,” the Artist
Detroit-based artist Tyrrell Winston posted up in the Belt throughout the weekend with his In My Wheelhouse experience. Winston’s artwork draws on reclaimed and discarded objects, often with references to contemporary sports. His exhibition at the nearby Louis Buhl Gallery is titled “Mr. Irrelevant,” the cheeky name given to the final pick in the draft each year. At the Belt he displayed a series of exclusive NFL team hats he produced for sports fashion brand ’47, the designs he based on “satin Starter jackets that I always wanted as a little kid.… I wanted something simple and clean but also flashy.” Winston didn’t hide his love for his adopted hometown of Detroit, saying, “There’s so much to celebrate about this city. People are looking at this place as somewhere they want to be. It’s back!” —J.H.





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