American Gangster Tour: Jay-Z

The Roc Boys take their celebration to NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom.Two hours on the line outside with the temperature in the 40’s. Two hours standing still in Timbs on a hard floor.  It’s already ten o’clock and still no sign of Jay-Z. Brooklyn has stated their borough supremacy by being “in the house” for probably the fifth time tonight (Nov. 11).  The crowd of the standing room Hammerstein Ballroom is getting restless; white folks, gangstas, and thugs alike.  Some drunk guy’s girl friend is getting out of pocket and almost starts a melee on three separate occasions.  This is getting old.  Then the room goes dark, the curtain comes up, and all is right with the world as Jay-z finally takes the stage for the American Gangster show.Think you’ve seen all Hov had to offer?  Think again. Opening with “Pray” from the latest album, Jay-Z finds himself performing in front of a movie screen with rotating images which change as he rhymed. “Mindstate of a gangsta from the 40’s” is accompanied by photos of famed mobsters Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. The experience goes from song to cinema as you get a clear view of the story behind the song. Even after the long wait, the crowd is hyped.  Roc signs are everywhere like a DST homecoming jam.  From there Hov segued into “No Hook,” which ironically had the crowd chanting the lack of hook.  Despite the album only being released less than a week ago, most of the people know the music word for word. His rendition of “Party Life” lets you know who had the bootleg and who bought the album.After a short break, Jigga lets the crowd know it’s a special occasion.  It’s refreshing to see a Hip-Hop show without 10 people on the stage who serve no purpose.  No soundman threatening. It’s definitely rehearsed and put together well. Jay-Z wastes very little energy and because of his catalogue, he can defer to the crowd for just about every song he has.  Fortunately he only used that device once during the show as a demonstration of his popularity (during the song “Hovi Baby”).The obligatory off the cuff freestyle is a Jay-Z show mainstay and he was half way finished with it before the crowd realized he wasn’t just talking.  Slickness personified.  By now you probably have also seen Jay-Z perform with a live band; whether it be the acoustic gem Jay-Z Unplugged album or The Reasonable Doubt Ten Year Tour with the orchestra.  Jay bought the funk, including electric guitars, the funky drummer, the horn, the whole nine yards. A raucous drum solo and a Jimmy Hendrix-like national anthem which followed “PSA” were the highlights of that band experience, leading into the guitar-driven “99 Problems.” In all the band did live renditions of “Money Ain’t A Thang,” “Can’t Knock The Hustle,” “What You Know About That,” “One More Chance,” “Ain’t No N***a,” “Can I Get A,” and “Song Cry.” They certainly earned that check.It’s New York, so you know you have to have guests and there was no slacking on that. Upon returning to songs from the new album, the bouncing beat of “Hello Brooklyn” could only mean one thing, Lil’ Wayne was in the house.  He performed the song with Hov and did the chorus to “Duffle Bag Boy” and drove the youngsters crazy.  Anointed by Jay as “next,” he left the stage to cheers, which is not easy for an out of towner in this city. Diddy came out and got mad love as they performed 2/3 of the “I Get Money Remix” sans 50 cent. Jay needed a little help as he forgot the words, but picked it up about a bar into it.For those of you that miss “The Dynasty,” consider yourselves blessed.  The Roc boys were in the building looking like it was 1999/2000, minus Dame.  Bleek, Beans, Freeway, and Young Chris took the stage and went through their entire bag of hits.  It was a Roc reunion to the fullest and the crowd loved it. Everyone announced upcoming albums and returned to the stage later with newest Roc Boy Jadakiss.  Admittedly, it was awkward as Jada just didn’t look right up there.  The people enjoyed it, but Green Lantern didn’t have any of his music, as Jada didn’t want to perform to the “All About the Benjamins,” (“that’s Puff’s record,” mumbled Jadakiss, nor “The Champ is Here” (“I don’t know that one,” said Jadakiss). The show closed with basically the entire Roc roster including Tru Life and ‘Kiss showing love and camaraderie during a performance of “Roc Boys.” In closing, if you’ve seen Jay-Z before, there were enough surprises and new wrinkles in the show to keep you entertained.  If you haven’t seen him before, prepare to see one of the best stage performers we presently have in Hip-Hop be engaging, execute on stage, get the crowd involved, and generally give you your money’s worth. If you’re over thirty, wear sneakers, leave your Timbs at home. The Dynasty continues.

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