Timbaland joins the rapper onstage in St Paul
In the nearly two decades since Jay Z . first appeared on the hip-hop scene, a good ex-coke-dealing Brooklynite with a sweet cadence and tragic wit, the man created Shawn Carter has worn numerous hats: record label head, clothier, restaurateur and most recently, sports agent. Still, as the rap icon clarified to the St . Paul crowd within the opening night of his Magna Carter World Tour – standing front-and-center, smiling as he adjusted his black leather Brooklyn Nets hat and sparkling gold chains after a nearly two-hour, unceasingly energetic performance – performing live still gives him the biggest thrill. “I’ll never get used to this shit, ” he informed the Xcel Energy Center group, after ripping through a synth-drenched interpretation of “Encore” at the start of a triumphal five-song farewell to a momentous career-spanning set.
The writer Z hasn’t exactly been faraway from the stage in recent years – from his Watch The Throne tour with Kanye West in order to his Made in America performance, not to mention a string of Barclays Center shows last fall and his Legends of Summer tour with Justin Timberlake earlier this year. Amazingly though, Saturday night’s performance marked the rapper’s 1st Stateside show as part of a proper The writer Z tour in over 4 years.
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With the stage mostly to himself, he didn’t draw any punches: There was no back-and-forth vocal volley as he did with JT; no double-digit renditions of any hit singles as with Western. Even the stage setup was relatively stripped-down, with its standard set of transparent neon-lit risers and massive video screens flooded all evening with recurring images of government monitoring video, drone strikes and explosions. (Jay and Barack: talk it out, dudes! ) More than something, the show was an exercise within Jay’s ability to deftly maneuver in between hits – while incorporating new material off this past summer’s middling Magna Carta, Holy Grail (“Holy Grail, ” “Tom Ford”) directly into his time-tested bounty of setlist favorites.
The writer dutifully ripped through his substantial arsenal of hits, including crowd-participatory renditions of Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life classics “N***a What, N***a Exactly who (Originator 99)” and “Hard Hit Life, ” and an almost industrial-rock spin on The Black Album gem “99 Problems. ” He also littered his set with a wealth of more recent smashes including “Empire Condition of Mind” and “On To another One. ”
What proved more exciting, although, was the unexpected adrenaline he brought to his new material. On wax, Magna Carta usually failed to deliver the emotional items. In concert however , the new songs – particularly a swaggering interpretation of the funk-laden “Picasso Baby, ” during which Jay flashed a massive grin as he rapped “Oh, what a feeling! ” and “Crown” – proved highly engaging. A lot of compliments are due to his good four-piece backing band, which on Saturday included legendary beatsmith and Magna Carta producer Timbaland on the products. (An additional unexpected highlight from the night came midway through the show, when Jay ceded the limelight to Timbaland for a five-minute run-through of the producer’s signature skuzzy is better than and loops).
In the live arena, Jay’s ability to vary his signature stutter-step expressive cadence from one track to the next nevertheless remains his bread and butter. It was on more sparse old material then, like “Dead Presidents II” off his groundbreaking mil novecentos e noventa e seis debut album, Reasonable Doubt, that Jay Z . shined the most on Saturday with his airtight vocals – ” Who wanna bet us that we don’t touch leathers/Stack cheddars forever, live treacherous all of the etceteras” – and an excellent representation of what collaborator Rick Rubin was referring to when he recently likened the rapper’s ever-evolving technique to “a solo by a jazz designer where… each version of it will be phrased differently with different accents and high points. ”
It was in such moments of simplicity on Saturday – with nothing more than a glistening keyboard melody, a simple beat and Jay Z’s voice – that the rapper reminded us of an important fact: Despite their many offshoot business ventures, paparazzi-level popularity and arena-scale shows, he remains first and foremost one of the game’s most talented, enduring MCs.
“U Don’t Know”
“On to the Next One”
“Beach Is usually Better”
“Dead Presidents II”
“No Church in the Wild”
“Somewhere in America”
“Jigga Exactly what, Jigga Who””Dirt Off Your Shoulder””I Just Wanna Love U (Give This 2 Me)”
“N***s in Paris”
“Run This Town”
“Empire State of Mind”
“Izzo (H. O. V. A. )”
“Hard Knock Life”