It’s appropriate that the last stop on the Jay-Z mini tour in support of his latest opus was in Harlem. The obvious reason, these were the very blocks that Frank Lucas, inspiration for the film and ultimately the CD American Gangster, rode to infamy and fortune. Deeper still, Harlem was and still is the yardstick for trends and swagger. The Apollo Theatre, where stars are born and legends are made, served as the backdrop for Jigga to solidify his stranglehold on the game.
Opening with “Pray,” Jay balanced newer material; “No Hook,” “I Know What You Like” with “99 Problems,” “You Don’t Know,” “Jigga What” and “Kingdome Come.” The first 45 minutes the crowd was either in awe or as he said, “Was on that cool shit.” The wealth of hits in his arsenal would soon change the climate however.
After DJ Green Lantern dropped the old reliable stage wrecker “Public Service Announcement,” it was off to the races. Going back to the new CD for “Success” on cue for verse number three comes Nas, who also guested for “Black Republicans.” Quite honestly, while the two pose a formidable pairing their chemistry is more A Rod/Derek Jeter than Pippen/Jordan. Given time to gel and feel each other out, they could possible win big. The point was driven further as Hov was joined by his Dynasty clique of Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, Freeway and the Young Guns, as the banter, ad libs and movements flowed naturally as they tore through “You, Me, Him, Her,” “Roc The Mic,” “Change The Game,” “What We Do,” “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” and “Ignorant Shit.”
Proving that Jay could hold it down solo, “Hovi Baby,” “Big Pimpin’,” and “What More Can I Say,” held court until the home stretch. Pausing briefly between songs to acknowledge that with the American Gangster album hitting the top of the Billboard Album Charts, he’s standing on the blue suede shoes of Elvis, Diddy (producer of five American Gangster tracks) led the “Hova, Hova, Hova” cheer for Encore and was made one of the official Roc Boys as he stayed with the aforementioned Roc-A-Fella crew which expanded to Tru Life and LeBron James.
“It was aiiiight,” stated a fan upon exit. “I saw him pull people on stage before and wasn’t impressed by who he pulled out next.” So the majestic 500 feet upper-deck home run fans were accustomed to seeing was replaced by a line drive that barely cleared the fence. It’s still a home run nonetheless.