Jay-Z’s has made 2017 his comeback year and, for those who have been fortunate enough to score tickets to one of his recent live shows, the experience hasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
Coming off the release of 4:44, Hov’s intensely personal and very highly-regarded thirteenth studio effort, the world has been immersed in Jay mania since the late spring. Featuring some strong statements on the album, from his mother’s coming out as a lesbian to addressing his supposed infidelity issues with his wife Beyonce, it’s a collection of tracks that showcase Mr. Carter’s excellent writing skills as well as a penchant for pushing the envelope and voicing his rhymes with more raw detail than most. The result, for the large majority of fans, was the ability to hear Jay-Z at the top of his lyrical game once again and, potentially, providing himself with an ideal career swan song. However, before any rumors of retirement can be quantified or not, the rapper is embarking on an expansive North American tour that die-hards can now get a taste of in a new concert video.
Jay’s streaming service, Tidal, has uploaded the full-length version of his much-talked about Made In America set, where he ran the gamut through his large collection of hits while playing a significant portion of his new tracks from 4:44. Songs like “Bam” and “The Story of O.J.” take center stage, where the veteran emcee delivers them with panache to an adoring sea of supporters. However, as is normally the case in situations like this, the classics dominate the positive fan reaction, with tracks like “Public Service Announcement” and “N****s in Paris” eliciting enthusiastic singalong sessions from those who were in attendance. Whether it’s a preview for a show of his that you’re going to or simply a jaw-dropping spectacle to be enjoyed via your laptop or streaming TV app, this concert video is definitely worth the watch.
Speaking of Hov’s live shows, he’s also showed his support for Colin Kaepernick, whom he dedicated his Meadow’s Music and Arts Festival performance of “The Story of O.J.” to.
One of the sharpest moments of cross-catalog whiplash came when the rapper decelerated from the brassy barrage of “U Don’t Know” to the 4:44 cut “Moonlight,” the night’s most subdued song. Then he ratcheted the energy back up in jagged steps: During “The Story of O.J.”, he burrowed into the spaces between the crackling piano and vocals sampled from Nina Simone, settling into a joyful groove; moments later he killed the beat to rap a capella; then he morphed again, cueing the buffeting instrumental from “Niggas in Paris.”
This song served as a turning point in the set: After “Niggas in Paris,” Jay-Z stuck to the arsenal of hits in his back catalog. Leaving the new stuff behind meant fewer surprises – notably he did not perform 4:44’s title track, a forthright apology to Beyoncé for marital infidelity that’s currently a hit at radio – and fewer changes in dynamics, but world-beating numbers like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” sound as crushing now as they did when they came out. His band reimagined “Hard Knock Life” as clipped, fantastically lax funk; pairings like “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” and “Big Pimpin'” sent the crowd into frenzied rap-alongs.
“Big Pimpin'” is an homage to Houston hip-hop, and Jay-Z finished the song by offering a quick prayer for the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This was one of several tributes he squeezed into the final portion of his set: he also asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” – both the old-fashioned version and the vastly more energetic Stevie Wonder variant – for Beyoncé, who turns 36 Monday. (Though she was spotted watching her husband on Sunday, Beyoncé did not join him onstage.) Jay-Z finished his performance with “Numb/Encore” in honor of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, who died by suicide in July. “Let’s go full rock star on ’em tonight,” the rapper declared.
Jay-Z was absent for several minutes before reappearing on a different stage to perform a brisk encore that included “Show You How,” “Money Ain’t a Thing,” “Can I Get A…” and “Allure.” But excitement peaked when Philadelphia native Meek Mill joined Jay-Z onstage to careen through his breathless, surging “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro).” This time, no traffic direction from Jay-Z was needed – the crowd knew exactly what to do: shout, heave and rush towards the stage.