Jay-Z warned everybody that he was "getting the itch" for a good show in New York, and the rapper came out swinging with the first of a pair of concerts initially to air his grievances with rival rappers.
The highly publicized event, which was sponsored by New York's Power 105.1, eventually became somewhat of a peacefest. The biggest shock of the night at Jay-Z's "I Declare War" Concert was when the megastar announced, "It's bigger than 'I declare war.' It's like the muthaf**kin' president presenting the United Nations. Let's go, Esco!"
The stunned crowd of thousands inside the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ, screamed in approval as Jay and his former nemesis Nas appeared onstage together, signifying that two of rap's biggest names had finally deaded their once-bitter beef.
"A lot of ni***s is makin' money and still f***in' mad at the world!" Nas said. "We [are] savin' the East Coast with your help."
Nas performed the hook to Jay's "Dead Presidents," followed by his own classic, "The World Is Yours." Jay-Z exited briefly and gave his counterpart time to rock his classic songs like "It Ain't Hard to Tell" and "New York State of Mind."
Jay-Z rejoined Nas onstage and said, "Damn, this is some s**t right here!" Nas spun into "Made You Look'" with Jay-Z and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who also performed "Hate Me Now" with the Queens superstar.
"We all in this s**t together," Jay-Z said after the songs. "Y'all witnessed history. Everybody in this building is a part of history. All that beef s**t is wack." He then concluded the show, leaving some beef-seeking fans to grumble.
But, the show was far from a disappointment. The hip-hop icon's concert kicked off with a bang as throngs of eager concertgoers poured into Powerhouse, the annual mega concert by Power 105.1.
At the show's opening, Jay-Z emerged onstage seated in a presidential setting reminiscent of the Oval Office, with a voiceover of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech blaring in the background.
From the very beginning, the crowd threw their Roc signs in the air while chanting "Hova, Hova, Hova" signaling that the rap megastar has lost none of his shine during his semi-hiatus from the mic.
"I don't think y'all muthaf***as [are] ready tonight!" Jay-Z proclaimed above the screams of the crowd, as two staunch security guards manned the rear of his Oval Office. "'This is my house in this muthaf***a...y'all don't understand...I own the Nets!" (whose regular season home games are played in the Continental Arena). When the "god MC" performed songs like "You Don't Know," the audience held on to his every word. Eventually, Jay plucked a young boy out of the crowd, who played impromptu hype man. "Don't stage dive. Don't try to upstage me with none of that cute kid stuff...you like summer?" Jay-Z asked the boy. The rapper then spun into "Dear Summer," one of the biggest songs of 2004.
Aside from Jay-Z and Nas, solidarity was a common thread through the evening.
During the show's other surprises, Freeway burst from backstage to perform his verse from "What We Do." Looking at Freeway, "Jay-Z said, "We missing some sh*t (on this stage) to make this whole thing complete!" A hooded Beanie Sigel, who once played mentor to Freeway, came out to perform, throwing up the Roc diamond sign to the crowd's delight. "Roc for life, n***a. You already knew," Beanie said.
The Lox and Jay-Z's old friend Sauce Money also graced the stage to perform Jay's classic posse cut, "Reservoir Dogs" to everyone's surprise. They were followed by a quick impromptu appearance by Diddy, who was once the subject of The Lox's scorn, and a stirring rendition of "The Benjamins."
Jay-Z also paid homage to those that have passed.
"We also got to pay respect to the pioneers of the game, and that's Jam Master Jay and Run DMC," Jay-Z said as he rolled into a set paying tribute to JMJ, Big Pun, Big L, Aaliyah, Biggie, Tupac, and even Civil Right icon Rosa Parks.
Shortly after, Kanye West emerged from below the stage floor to perform for "President Hova," and was joined by Houston rapper Paul Wall on the track "Drive Slow."
Over the course of the night, he brought out special guests Teiarra Mari, Ne-Yo, Peedi Peedi, and Memphis Bleek, along with a four-song set by T.I. T.I. was joined by Young Jeezy, who was a fan favorite with the hook-heavy songs from his debut album Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101. Jay, with a fresh set of clothing, returned on the tail end of Young Jeezy's set to perform "Go Crazy."
Initially, fans and gossip mongers thought that Jay-Z was going to "go crazy" and wage a personal beef with a number of artists in the rap community.
At an earlier appearance at Power 105, the Def Jam president revealed that he would address some of whom he called "hard-headed" critics of his "Carter Administration" during the show, but never revealed those people he intended to disrespect. Many fans and gossip mongers speculated he would go after The Game, 50 Cent, Jim Jones, Cam'ron or others.
"I gotta put 'em in the choke hold, the Boston crab," the rapper told Ed Lover of Power 105.1. "I gotta smash a couple of people. Everybody better make up and be my friend."
A second show, set for October 28, is slated for Philadelphia's Wachovia Center in conjunction with Power 99, another Clear Channel radio station.
The last time Jay-Z declared war he jumpstarted a long-running feud with Nas and Prodigy of Mobb Deep, unleashing such hits as the mixtape-gone-mainstream "Takeover."
"As it was coming together, I seen Puff perform with The Lox, T.I. perform with Jeezy, the return of Beanie Sigel.so I said f**k it," Jay-Z said. "So you know what I did for y'all, what I did for Hip-Hop?"
And, one era ended as another began.