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Jay-Z Concert: Madison Square Garden, Nov. 26

It happened so suddenly. I got a call about 2pm from AllHipHop’s Jigsaw who obtained tickets to the highly publicized Jay-Z concert at Madison Square Garden. Even though it was a weekday, it was a no-brainer. Jay-Z’s first concert to begin his trek into retirement was definitely gonna be a good look this Tuesday night. Jig and AHH’s Raze, already in NY, were going to meet me there. As I stepped on the New Jersey transit train, I noticed something that was unusual to me. I had been on this train, at the same time, many times before. It seems Jigga Man’s influence has boosted ticket sales for the train to 34th street. Everyone on the car I was in was heading to the concert. When I arrived, the scene was unbelievable. Women were dressed in their finest as if Jay himself would catch a glimpse. Fellas rocked their dopest throwbacks, furs, coats, expensive jeans and crispy white sneakers.

We entered the lobby at Madison Square Garden to an overwhelming crowd of people waiting in eager anticipation. The pack soon divided into legitimate ticket holders trying to enter and desperate fans scheming to create a way into the arena. The ticket-less fans kept trying to bumrush the doors until we were all met by New York’s finest and the National Guard. The whole spot was shut down and everyone was forced out of the lobby to re-enter the venue. We all grew angrier when Hova’s most famous joints seeped through the walls and into our ears. Finally after a 45-minute wait, we entered the performance area. (Some of those people were later arrested and Jay’s number was “retired” in the Garden.)

I sprinted through the hallways like OJ in the airport looking for my seating section. I walked in to see Jay and his Roc La Familia on stage doing some of their most famous crew classics. The show then yielded to a Philly thing as Free and Beans performed “Roc the Mic” and Freeway , Jay, and Beans spit “What We Do.” Pictures of Phillytown and Iverson flashed on the monitors above the stage.

I felt like I missed most of the show until Jigga said, “ We only a quarter of the way done….they gonna have to get the cops to get me outta here.” He spun right into Memphis Bleek’s hit “ Is That Your Chick” and a slimmed down sexy Missy Elliot came out, getting folks hype with her chorus to the song. Twista wrapped up the set with a mind-boggling verse that only an ear trained in hip-hop could understand.

Hov showed love to his loyalists by pointing them out specifically by the clothes they were wearing. He even humorously commented on one outfit saying “ I see you in the turquoise, but I don’t know if I would have worn that sh*t.”

Then Jay said, “You ready B?” The stage curtain lifted to a 7-piece band (The Roots’ Questlove & Illadephonic) with Beyonce and five dancers in sleek, shiny, short black skirts. The pair blazed “Crazy in love” and Beyonce went on to enthrall the crowd by performing “Baby Boy” and “Summer time.” Ghostface Killah shocked all of Madison Square when he appeared in a long, terrycloth robe with ‘Theodore’ in sequins written on the back and performed the once-thought bootlegged rap version of the song.

Jay returned on some grown man stuff. He glided in a snazzy black business suit and a white derby hat. I’m thinking, “This is why Jigga has the U.S. open.” Eventually, he tossed the derby in the crowd and minutes later a fight ensued. He then appealed to his “fans from day one” performing hits from Reasonable Doubt. I just knew he was gonna cut “Ain’t No Nigga” when Foxy’s part came up, but sho’ nuff she came out hype like a kid off punishment to do her verse. They shared a brief hug and Fox commented that she loved Jay. Um-Hmmmmmm! Jigga then performed ‘Cant Knock The Hustle’ with Mary J draped in a mink shawl and a low fitting Gucci hat. Mary assisted Jay on ‘Song Cry’ and Jay added a verse that solidified his position with Beyonce saying, “ I know the difference between a b*tch and a B ni**a.” As if we didn’t already know, Hov! Mary J proclaimed Jigga to be the greatest rapper of all time and, the way the show was going, I was becoming a believer. Mary blessed the audience with a short set of her own.

Jay returned with Pharell of the Neptunes to execute their most famous duets even though the sound went out on them. Didn’t matter to the crowd. They were singing with just the monitors as Hov barked at the soundman to get the sound back on. The Illadefonics band put the petal to the metal on ‘Give It To Me’ as the audience recited the lyrics word for word. When the sound abruptly burst back, it added incentive for the masses to turn the level of intensity up a notch.

I thought the show was winding down as Jay fired up the Kanye West-produced “Encore.” The crowd lived out the theme of the song to life chanting, “HOVA HOVA HOVA,” as Jay again exited the stage. They chanted Hova for about 5 minutes and then the noise ceased. Jay came on the mic and threatened to end the show if the noise didn’t step up. The fans immediately responded as a voice from the back belted out “Welcome to the best of both worlds.” Could it be? I thought Jay had cut him off after all the allegations. Damn, the stage lights blared in the back like an old Puff and Mase Video and Jay and R-Kelly walked out in all white velour sweats and snorkel jackets. They got it crunk doing songs to an album once considered a flop! (Gangsta!) The arena exploded. Girl went nuts screaming, “I don’t care, R! I love you!” R. Kelly went on to do some songs ending with “Step.” Kelly made the show overflow with too much rhythm and blues. Never fear, Jay returned with a different mindset.

He wanted to “vibe” with the audience now. With his Kenyon Martin Nets Jersey Jay Z made his intentions to buy the New Jersey Nets and bring them to Brooklyn known. “I’m in heavy negotiations to bring the Nets to Brooklyn. Real talk,” he boasted. After Jay handed his Jersey and hat to the front row attendees, his last song ended with “December 4th.”

“If you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is wack, maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black.” The words sounded strange to me, as I figured this might truly be Jay’s “victory lap” into retirement as on of the illest rap has ever seen. Judging by the sound volumes in Madison Square Garden, the fans of Shawn Carter don’t want him to fade into anything but another LP.

As the night ended, discussions began about who now is the greatest rapper of all time. Well, that’s a tough call. But, Jay-Z , on November 25, 2003 made history. I have never seen a show, or heard of a show that incorporated as many aspects of hip-hop music as he did this night. I have never seen a standing room arena focused on one individual awaiting his next to command. Jay split wigs with his crew, wooed the crowd with his charisma, and soothed the women with his charm. All things considered, in such a consistent career, Shawn Carter can now begin to lobby for the throne.

And, after the show, the streets of New York City became the after party celebrating the lyrical legacy of Jay-Z.

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