“Don’t be late, guys”, a stern request from Lenny S given to Kam (@KoolestKidout) and I as we exited a Roc Nation conference room Monday afternoon (more on that meeting later this month). I hadn’t planned on hitting the 444 Tour at the Barclays Center but the last minute hail mary came through in the clutch. We can blame Lenny S for that. Corny, I know. Anywho, people watching in the lobby before a JAY Z concert always presents you with some interesting characters. Between corporate tools, the common 9 to 5’er, your local dope boys, the IG Thot Trot Squad, your “industry insider” or the Mom/Dad and son/daughter duo, it’s always eventful.
Kam, Rory (@ThisIsRory) Sam and I posted up in front of our section while Vic Mensa’s select tunes blared through the arena. Our section wasn’t near Sam and Rory’s so we sipped some D’USSE to in the meantime. A plan was created to get Rory and Sam to the VIP deck but the Ticket Nazi foiled that plan with ease so we parted ways. After a couple more ticket check points, Kam and I made it to the VIP riser, which at the time was empty. We had reached the tail end of Vic’s set which was well received by the vibrant Brooklyn crowd. As we waited, more D’USSE was consumed to the point it was being handed to us without request.
Lights go black, camera phones shoot up crowds loses its shit because now it’s HOV time. A collage of images and video light up the Barclays showing the death of JAY Z which pretty much is the theme of the album. “Kill Jay Z” started the show as it does the album but it wasn’t until “No Church In The Wild” took position directly after, that got people’s attention. Sort of like when Lebron touches the ball for the first time at a home game, you hear the cheers, but it’s not until he throws down his first dunk is when folks let you know they’re ready for the game. Get it? Whatever.
Hov ran through these records effortlessly as did the crowd. Obviously with Brooklyn as your backdrop, it’s hard not to have the battery charged in your back. “Lucifer” hit next and a verse from “D’Evils” follows and then “Heart Of The City” jumped directly in our chest. With a live band also backing Hov every step of the way, it was this particular tune that got me more involved in the show. Oh, remember when I told you the riser was empty? Oh, it’s full now.
About 4 and a half D’USSE’s in, the riser has somewhat 40 people on it lol. Between “Heart Of The City” and “Run This Town” sans Ye and Rihanna obviously, Kevin Liles, Casanova and the rest of Brooklyn, Young Sav (President of MMG), Memphis Bleek, Pecas, who made it a sport to blow his Cigar smoke in my face, Lenny S and others camped out rocking to Hov’s flawless verses. While there was a complete open bar below us, one of Cas’ homies clutched a bottle of D’USSE passing out red cups to the squad within. He observed I was low on product and poured me up without hesitation. Spreading love the Brooklyn way. I respect it.
The crowd didn’t weaken throughout the night at all. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone remained on their feet the entire show. But it was at this moment, some of us if not all, had to sit back and reflect with Hov before this next record dropped. “Next song i wanna do is one of the most uncomfortable songs I’ve ever written. Every time i perform it, it’s more difficult.” Yep, “4:44” rang off. Leaning on a microphone stand and gazing into the blacked out arena, you feel like he’s rapping the record directly to wherever Beyonce is positioned in said arena. He didn’t waver off, he kept his positioning on that stage as if his life depended on it. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable to listen to. It pits Hov at one of his lowest points as a man. But it’s needed. And being uncomfortable will always be needed for progression.
I sipped slow and reflected myself. How could you not in that moment. Shortly after, one of my industry heroes crept up next to me. And she even greeted me which is always still a shock. The Voice of NYC, Angie Martinez arrived. She, just like me, was startled by the number of bodies filling up the riser especially when she told me last night this area was completely empty. We shared a couple laughs and even rapped the words to “Bam” together which brought the energy back to ignorant levels. The area became too much for her to bare so she dipped and left me to fend for myself lol. And that’s what I did. I lost Kam to the D’USSE bar and Sam and Rory didn’t have a chance of getting on the riser since they were kicking people out who didnt have a wristband. So, I rapped along to “Jigga My Nigga”, “H To The Izzo”, “Dirt On My Shoulder”, “Give It To Me” and of course “PSA” in which Hov boastfully yelled during mid song “I didn’t come to fuck around tonight, Brooklyn.”
Ebro from HOT 97 and Beats 1 made his way past me and asked “Yo, what they got at the bar?” I felt like he was trolling me since we were on the D’USSE Friends & Family VIP riser. So I bit and went to go see as if I hadn’t been at that bar 7 times before he arrived lol. I found Kam and some of my other friends who didn’t wanna brave the riser. Mack Wilds & Mouse Jones traded bars together as “Family Feud” crept in which was accompanied by the original record the song samples. I’m still mad there isn’t an actual choir singing onstage, but whatever Hov. After politicking with my guy Shaffer, who also holds court over at Roc Nation, he introduced me to Jerrod Carmichael. I kept it brief but I had to tell him I’m a huge fan and he politely nodded in my direction holding his drink up. In those settings, you don’t sit there and tell him why you love when he said “JAY Z means more to me than Martin Luther King” while at a JAY Z show or that NBC are morons for cancelling The Carmichael Show. You just toast to the good night and keep that shit pushing.
I could go on and tell you how thoroughly excited I was to hear Hov perform “I Love The Dough” or how Rory called “Marcy Me” a gentrified “Where I’m From” or how Hov and his band beautifully meshed “Dead Presidents” and “Allure” together. Or the fact that every tough Brooklyn goon I saw mouthed every word to “Hard Knock Life”, including the chorus because I’m assuming the record touches a nerve in a good way.
As the final notes of “Smile” began, Kam, Ebro and I were led through the backstage by our good friend Sean B. to the D’USSE lounge. Ebro and Kam exchanged quips about his Kam’s drug dealer chic and my boy Willis gave my non-existent hairline a one two combo that shut me up for the remainder of the night. Even Elliot Wilson and I shared a laugh together. Crazy right lol? Sup Yellow Nigga. But it wasn’t until Julius (Beyonce’s bodyguard) popped out from behind a grey curtain to our far left in which a beautiful but ice grilling Blue Ivy slowly strutted out.
The Princess of the Carters studied every unfamiliar face, checking to see if shit was spooky before The Queen walked out. She zeroed in on me and my beard and delivered her Father’s screw face to me as if I asked for it lol. However, Beyonce was very pleased to see me. White teeth and all. A glittery top with white pants and bouncy curly hair. It’s like she smacked all the D’USSE out of me with one stare. Whatever, this isn’t a gossip column, I just thought yall would like to know lol.
There are three things I learned last night in Brooklyn: 1.) JAY Z still has it. 2.) Men make their girlfriends take IG pictures (saw it 6 times before the show started). 3.) White folks in Brooklyn don’t say the “N” word. At least the ones I saw lol. Also, If you’re interested in Hov’s set list (I might be missing a song or two), peep game below!
Kill jay z
No church in the wild (verse)
Heart of the city
Run This Town (verse)
Jigga My Nigga
H To The Izzo
Dirt On Your Shoulder
On To The Next One
Give It To Me
U Don’t Know
I Love The Dough
Dead presidents II (under Allure)
Story of OJ
Where I’m from
Marcy me (gentrified where I’m from)
Hard Knock Life