There is an old adage suggesting that hip-hop is a young person's game and that the pioneers and forefathers who paved the way for the new generation of upstarts should quietly make their way to the land of retirement — Jay- Z never got that memo.
The soon-to-be 48 year-old rapper and businessman recently released his 13th solo album, 4:44
, to nearly universal praise from critics and fans alike for the album's abundant peek into the personal life of Jay-Z. The 31-date North American tour pulled into the Q last night with support from Chicago rapper Vic Mensa.
The crowd was still filing into Quicken Loans Arena as Mensa went through a suite of about six or seven songs including "Didn't I (Say I Didn't)." Toward the end of his set, Mensa brought out renowned Chicago poet Malik Yusef and implored fans in the audience to put their lights up for the victims of mass incarceration.
See more photos from the concert right here.
After a short break for set change, the orange-ish hue of lights on the stage went dark, and cell phones began to light up in anticipation as the eight strategically placed screens began to project a video depicting Jay-Z's face burning into flames with the Alan Parsons Project's "Don't Let It Show" playing in the background. The song led into "Kill Jay Z," a track which samples Parsons and is 4:44's opening track.
Jay-Z emerged, greatly pleasing the crowd that now appeared to be at full capacity and ready to have a good night, putting to rest the notion that the concert wasn't selling well.
The stage for the show was quite unique. While not exactly a circle, the stage offered a 360-degree view of the artist with the band below. That combined with the aforementioned screens ensured that there really wasn't a bad seat in the house. With a catalog of hits that spans from 1996 up until current day, it became apparent that the show would be a combination of fan favorites along with the newer material released earlier this year. Four of the first five songs Jay-Z performed were all from different albums. Watch the Throne
's "No Church in the Wild" was followed by The Black Album
's "Lucifer" (which also transitioned midway though the song to Reasonable Doubt
's "D'evils") and so forth.
The empty stage was an instrument in itself, and Jay-Z played it well. During his most solemn and vulnerable moments, he stood still in the center with his head down, as he did when performing his heartfelt apology to his wife Beyonce on "4:44." At other times, that same stage was his playground as he darted from side to side engaging with the audience singing along with the rapper word for word.
In addition to entertaining, Jay-Z also strove to motivate and empower. He dedicated his diatribe on race relations, "The Story of OJ," to Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory and others before him that made it possible for him to talk his shit. He called a young girl closer to the stage, and while reminding her that America is more sexist than racist, he still told her that she could one day be President of the United States.
As the show began to wind down, Jay-Z talked about the importance of mental health awareness and dedicated "Encore/Numb" to Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, who killed himself earlier this year.
In one of the lighter moments of the two-hour long show, just before Jay-Z exited through the crowd, he invited some people onto the stage to help him poke fun at his friend Lebron James who recently crowned himself the King of New York. "I'm the King of Cleveland now," Jay-Z said. It was an excellent show, but not so fast.