Almost two-and-a-half years ago this scribe penned: “If this is to prove to be his last UK performance then Jay-Z left on a high,” following his performance at the inaugural Urban Music Festival.
Yet like a helium balloon his status hasn’t really stopped rising as Sean Carter has kept himself in the public eye, grooming new talent, continuing his relationship with Beyoncé and handling his duties as CEO and President of Def Jam records. By my reckoning that’s the worst attempt at retirement known to man.
The rowdy Glaswegian crowd certainly wasn’t complaining as DJ Green Lantern, who made his name with Eminem and the Shady Record family, hyped up the crowd prior to the first strains of What More Can I Say. Complete with a purple/pink jacket, sunglasses and frankly the most ridiculous necklace I’ve ever seen, the Jigga man launched through his well rehearsed greatest hits repertoire
U Don’t Know was inexplicably accompanied by the famous footage of Nirvana‘s Video Music Awards performance focusing on Kurt Cobain’s set destruction. It was a total juxtaposition of time and genre, but the live carnage was limited to an impressive pyrotechnic show. Memphis Bleek proved his worth to the tour as the foil for crowd interaction, including the tried and tested (splitting the arena in half) for the chorus of Jigga What, Jigga Who.
The fun and games continued with another game to see whether it was the “thugs” or ladies who were the loudest group in attendance; it was showmanship at its least original, but expertly executed. Surprisingly the track that seemed to lift the crowd the most was Beware of Boys, rapped over Punjabi MC’s Mundian To Bach Ke.
Following the emotionally charged Song Cry complete with sea of lighter flames engulfing the compact arena, Jay-Z launched into one of many a cappella freestyles with this particular one ending with the line: “I know difference between a bitch and a beach,” before proceeding to rattle through a compendium of his collaborations with Beyonce. The fact she wasn’t there didnt seem to bother anyone a jot as eyes and ears were focused and tuned onto the only man in the venue who mattered.
After the pounding bass of Hard Knock Life, the familiar tribute to raps fallen stars took place , with the Glasgow crowd embarrassing themselves with an attempt at singing Notorious B.I.G‘s Mo Money Mo Problems, but running out of words after “mad ’cause I’m flagrant.” There was a mixture of astonishment and amusement on-stage while a spontaneous burst of cheering came from the crowd. Despite a fairly comprehensive list of those taken prematurely from the rap game I was surprised to see that Proof, Eminem’s former shadow man didnt warrant a mention.
That added a dimension of irony to Where’s The Love, although that was probably in my head only. At that point H.O.V.A left the stage, but the night wasn’t over just yet as the encore commenced with a stunning performance of Big Pimpin’. That had added sentimental value to me, as it was the song that introduced me to this hip-hop great. Obviously the curtain closed with a flawless rendition of Encore, and the volume from the crowd was as unequivocal a statement of approval youre likely to witness.
Despite having seen essentially the same show, in two different countries over a period of two and half years, given the opportunity I’d do it all again. A virtually sold out world tour without an album to promote simply proves that within the rap game, class is permanent and is personified by the self-proclaimed best rapper alive. A moniker that few could argue with.