Jay Z's Magna Carter World Tour
BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida
Thursday, January 2, 2014
Better Than: Another night of solo ass-shaking to The Hits Collection.
"Broward County! West Palm Beach County! Dade County!
"I fuck with y'all so much," Jay Z told the 20,000-strong crowd at last night's South Florida stop of his Magna Carter World Tour, "I'm gonna overdeliver tonight!"
And he did two full hours, 20 songs, and a five-track encore while dropping a few motivational mini-speeches.
He even brought out the big homie, Rick Ross, to let SoFla know that beyond any shadow of a doubt, "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt."
Now, the Jiggaman might've slightly overpromised when he said "overdeliver," because he followed the exact same script as every other night of the Magna Carter trek so far.
But it was still, as he might say, a motherfuckin' legendary show. The pacing was steady, though not slapdash. The art direction was flawless. His flow was impeccable.
And that's because Jay Z is a legend.
It's been almost 20 years since his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. And he's still running the rap game. That kind of longevity is impressive.
Undoubtedly, Jay Z is one of the only true shotcallers left from hip-hop's mid- to late-'90s gangsta heyday. Because Biggie and 'Pac are dead. And the rest have mostly fallen off. (Except maybe Dr. Dre and Snoop, who respectively match his money-making acumen and knack for tapping into the current cultural moment. Then yes, we've got Sean "Puffy Daddy" Combs.)
But there are also drawbacks to being a rap superstar (and off the streets) for nearly a quarter of a century.
During the early part of his career, from '96 through the 2000s, Jay expertly and innovatively mined gangsta narratives and that era's whole from-the-corner-to-the-corner-office story arc, and he tied it all back into his own self-chronicled crack-dealing days in Brooklyn's Marcy Houses projects.
But then in late 2003, the rapper decided to retire. And he probably retired because he realized that it was no longer honest to keep documenting a life that he'd left about ten years earlier. So he became CEO of Def Jam. It was what they call an identity crisis.
And last night (even though he unretired and returned to rap almost a decade ago), it still seemed like the Jiggaman is trying to sort that shit out.
For sure, the Magna Carter World Tour is monumental.
It's an imposing all-black, stripped-down, supermodern production. The stage is constructed from huge, lit-up, interlocking Sol LeWitt-like minimalist prisms that occasionally explode into apocalyptic stroboscopics. And the costumes are paramilitary thug athletic gear straight off the New York Fashion Week runways.
Meanwhile, Jay Z's setlist is equally enormous, stacked with classics like "99 Problems," "Big Pimpin'," "Nigga What, Nigga Who," "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," and "I Just Wanna Love U," as well as approximately half of last year's Magna Carta Holy Grail.
The tour's roster is stacked too.
Every night, Jay shouts to the crowd, "Y'all gotta welcome the legendary Timbaland, in the building tonight," just before superproducer Timbo holds down an interlude of his old-school hits (Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?," Missy Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On," Ginuwine's "Pony) along with some new shit, like "Know Bout Me."
And last night, as mentioned, the Bawse made a surprise cameo, dressed in a fully unbuttoned purple patterned silk shirt and drawers drooping beneath his ass, for "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" and some off-the-cuff parting words.
"It's a new year! We made it! Unggghhh!"
But despite all the polish and flash and iconic hits and guest appearances and genuine dedication to showmanship, there's a hollow sound to nearly everything that Jay Z does on the stage these days.
Post-retirement, he's tried to reinvent himself by adopting the rap persona of a nouveau-riche, made-in-America, drugs-to-music-to-big-business mogul who wears Tom Ford and not Yankees jerseys, collects high art, and hobnobs with world leaders. But even he doesn't seem all that interested.
His aesthetic judgement is still laser precise. His tracks are still supremely well produced. And he still wants to "overdeliver."
But the urgency is gone. Maybe forever.
Personal Bias: The Black Album would've been a fine goodbye.
Jay Z's Setlist
-"U Don't Know"
-On to the Next One"
-"Beach Is Better"
-"Dead Presidents II"
-"Can I Live"
-"No Church in the Wild"
-"Nigga What, Nigga Who"
-"Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
-"I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)"
-"Niggas in Paris"
-"Public Service Announcement"
-"Run This Town"
-"Empire State of Mind"
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-"Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"