As the lights went off and darkness engulfed the Madison Square Garden crowd, the chant of “Hova” roared through the stadium, as the crowd ushered the Michael Jordan of the rap game on stage. His introduction was monumental as expected. Legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer recited his trademark saying “let’s get ready to rumble”, which rang through the stadium and shook the rafters. Right then and there you knew this was no ordinary concert; that this was going to be a night to remember, forever.
As Jay’s jersey hung from the rafters during the introduction, the sounds of Russell Crow immediately rang out, as the beginning of “What More Can I Say” exploded onto the scene. The thousands in attendance went crazy as the king of New York entered on stage to a riveting opening performance, as the entire crowd spit Hov’s words line for line. It was a feeling not many could be prepared for, as the culmination of two months hype finally landed and Jay delivered flawlessly.
For those that have never seen Jay in concert, he is indeed one of the industries finest. His breath control is impeccable, his stage presence is enormous and he commands the crowd flawlessly, almost with ease as he runs through his library of hits that could go on for days. On this night Jay did a spectacular job of mixing up his songs, as he ran through everything from his commercial hits, to hardcore/street anthems to his soulful melodies. The show opened up with a large amount of material from “The Black Album” as Jay performed “What More Can I Say”, “Public Service Announcement” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulders”, which is even better live. Thanks to Hov’s amazing doubled timed flow, his live performances for songs such as “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” and “Hovi Baby” make them even better. Jay cuts the music off and just spits. He spits like there is no tomorrow, just leaving the crowd in awe of his fast flow and amazing breath control. While “Hovi Baby” was never one of my favorite Jay joints to begin with, in person the song takes on a new meaning, trust me. For a majority of the night, the legendary Roots band reunited with Jay and brought back that vintage vibe from Jay’s “Unplugged” performance. The Roots provided their own flavor to every song, as the move paid off perfectly for Jay.
A good amount of Jay’s best performances came from the vast amount of commercial hits he included in his set, which had the crowd bouncing every time. “I Just Wanna Love You”, “Hard Knock Life”, “Izzo”, “Jigga My Nigga” and “Can I Get A” were all performed masterfully. His hardcore hits such as “Dead Presidents” and “Where I’m From” were a pleasant surprise that certainly made my night feel complete. And those vintage soulful efforts from Jay even made an appearance, as seen through classics such as “Song Cry” and “Can I Live”, which was phenomenal in every sense of the word. Jay constantly kept the crowd entertained throughout the concert’s entirety, as he provided a nice variety of songs that should have left every individual feeling satisfied.
The show’s guest appearances were a nice addition at times, as the entire Roc put forth a good effort when given the chance. M.O.P. and Jay once again delivered with the remix of “U Don’t’ Know”. Memphis Bleek, Missy and Twista came through for “Is That Yo Chick” and Beanie Sigel & Freeway did a lukewarm performance of “What We Do”. Probably the biggest surprise was seeing Foxy Brown and Jay reunite for “Ain’t No Nigga”, as it seems the two have finally put aside their differences, as least for the time being.
However, the night did hit a low point during certain guest appearances. Jay allowed Beyonce, Mary J. Blige & R.Kelly to do there own 4 song set, which had the woman going crazy but the fellas sitting down for the most part. Beyonce and Jay predictably did “Crazy In Love”, which lead into B’s own set of songs, which was solid but nothing amazing. The queen of Hip Hop soul Mary J. once again hooked up with Jay for “Can’t Knock The Hustle” and even sang the hook for “Song Cry”, but her own 4 to 5 song set was easily the concerts low point. Mary ran through her usual assortment of classic and new found hits which deaded the crowds energy but at least gave people a chance to sit down after standing the whole night. Her set was easily 3 songs too long and by the time Jay got back on stage the whole crowd was relieved. The final guest appearance of the night belonged to R.Kelly, as the due ran through their respective work off of “The Best Of Both Worlds”. Which then lead to Kelly’s own songs, which thankfully didn’t take up a lot of time.
After Kelly’s performance, Jay performed a couple more songs before his final ending, which surprisingly was “December 4th”. Jay asked the crowd if he can “vibe with them” as he spit each verse off the standout track towards a different direction of the stage. It was a fitting end to a phenomenal concert, as Jay stood front and center while the track ended to the words of “maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black” multiple times as the pyrotechnics went off in the back.
As the concert ended you couldn’t think of anything else but what an amazing event you just witnessed. You were tired beyond belief, as Jay drained every ounce of strength from your body, as you mimicked every word and line spoken. It was a fitting way to say goodbye to a legendary career, in a legendary arena. If there was still any question left of who was the king of New York, that answer got solved on November 25th. That night Jay wore the crown like a true king is supposed to and showed the entire tri state why there will never be another emcee like Jay-z. “I'm supposed to be number one on everybody list. We'll see what happens when I no longer exist”.