The plug has been pulled on Jay-Z and R. Kelly’s Best of Both Worlds tour after a bizarre show at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday night that sent Kelly to the hospital and both artists to the media to tell very different stories.
A brief statement issued on Saturday (October 30) by tour organizers announced that Kelly would not perform that evening at Madison Square Garden, on Sunday at the Continental Airlines Arena or on Monday, again at Madison Square Garden. The statement indicated that the shows would now feature “Jay-Z and special guests.”
In his own statement, Kelly expressed his disappointment at the move and noted that he is ready and willing to perform as part of the tour. “The fans deserve better than this,” Kelly said. “I’d like the show to go on. It’s really disappointing that Jay-Z and the promoter don’t.”
The tour hit Madison Square Garden Friday night for the first of three shows (the duo performed without incident on Thursday at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum). However, thousands of fans were left disappointed as Kelly abruptly bolted from the show, claiming that his life was in jeopardy.
Kelly told the crowd that while he was trying to perform, “two people were waving guns at me,” and declined to perform further. Shortly after, Jay told the crowd, “I don’t need that n—a!” and, accompanied by Mary J. Blige, Usher and Ja Rule, delivered a hit-filled set.
In an interview on New York radio station Hot 97 early Saturday morning, Jay called Kelly’s actions “foolery” and said that the “insecure” Kelly was jealous of the crowds’ love for Jay. In a separate interview, Kelly admitted to Hot 97 that he panicked, but said in a statement that he tried to return to the stage, only to be pepper-sprayed by a member of Jay-Z’s entourage — an attack that sent him to New York’s St. Vincent’s Hospital. He said he had been ready and eager to perform on Friday night, but that he was not allowed to do so.
|Jay-Z brings out the stars at Madison Square Garden|
Friday’s show started normally, with the two headliners rocking the stage together during the first set. Shortly after, Jay-Z came back for his solo turn, followed by one from Kelly. The show then went back to Jay’s hand with another Jiggaman set.
The performers used distinct plans of attack. Jay rocked the crowd with street goliaths like “Give It to Me,” “U Don’t Know” and “Big Pimpin’,” while Kelly crooned his bedroom hymns like “Your Body’s Calling” and “Feelin’ on Yo Booty,” where he amused everyone by singing “Boooootieeeeeeee.”
Just before the R’s second solo set was to begin, Kelly, dressed in the same black-and-white vest he donned on the cover of his 12 Play LP, came out onstage and began talking somberly. It sounded like he was holding back tears. He told the audience that he was originally going to send security out to relay a message to the crowd. He thanked his fans for their support, then said he was about to do one of the hardest things he ever had to do.
He said that while he was trying to perform, “two people were waving guns at me.” As the bewildered Garden audience looked on, Kelly said, “I can’t do no show like that … This sh– is over.” Kelly then dropped his microphone and walked off the stage.
After several perplexing minutes, Jay yelled from backstage, “F— that! I got this sh– myself, New York. Give me my old-school sh–! I got hits.”
With fans yelling “Hova!” Jigga came out with Memphis Bleek and continued the concert. He rocked the crowd with verses from Mya’s “Best of Me” remix, then went into “Ain’t No N—a.” The song’s co-star, Foxy Brown, came out for a surprise guest spot that was met with a loud roar.
“New York City — y’all got me?” Jay then asked the crowd and started into “Where I’m From.” From there it was Jay-Z overdrive, as the King of Brooklyn kept the people on their feet with “Heart of the City” and “Encore.”
“Ho-va! Ho-va! Ho-va!” the fans kept yelling as the latter record was coming to a close.
“I got some good news and bad news,” Jigga told the crowd as it simmered down. “R. Kelly is not coming back. If y’all waiting to see him, go home. The good news is that I got a lot of records — and I got y’all.”
He then asked for a few minutes to put a set together.
“OK, I got it together,” Jay’s voice emerged after the break. “I promise you you’re gonna love it. I found a couple of people.”
The first of Jay’s 11th-hour guest performers joined him. Ja Rule came out in a gray hoodie for “Can I Get A …” It felt like 1998 again as Ja let loose that passionate roar, rapping to cheers.
After the next jam, “Excuse Me Miss,” Mary J. Blige came out with Hov for “Can’t Knock the Hustle.” MJB, who has a rep for astounding crowds with her soulful lung power, seemed to be putting a little extra stank on it, even making Jay-Z say “got-damn!” before hugging her.
The two superstars also paired up for “Song Cry,” like they did almost a year ago at Jay’s “farewell” Madison Square Garden concert.
“I don’t need that n—a!” Jay said about Kelly as Mary left the stage Friday night. “I got y’all. Y’all ain’t gonna miss him for one second. Y’all gonna go home thoroughly entertained.”
Then Usher, who some fans had been screaming for when Kelly made his startling announcement, came out for “Caught Up.” The singer had come to the show as a spectator.
“This is for the big homie,” Usher said while he was singing.
“I got something special for New York, and I got something special for you [Jay],” Usher said after an a cappella rendition of his “Confessions” remix. “You know we should have done this together.”
The chart-topper then sang “Throwback.”
There was an intermission — during what would have been another Kelly set — and then Jay came back on with a few more surprises. Memphis Bleek and T.I. performed “Round Here,” then Tip went into “Rubber Band Man.”
Freeway and the Young Gunz came out with Jay and Bleek toward the end of the show and did some of their Roc-A-Fella familia hits to close out.
“I did the best I could,” Jay told the crowd. “I love each and every one of y’all.”
As the fans filed out of Madison Square Garden, you could hear disgust in their voices. One woman said she was going to throw all of her Kelly CDs away.
Both Jay and Kelly talked to New York’s Hot 97 early Saturday morning, after the show. “Is that not absolutely bonkers?” an angry Jay said about Kelly’s gun theory, calling the story “foolery.”
“Ridiculous,” he scoffed. “That’s Madison Square Garden. You cannot get a gun in Madison Square Garden. Does he know where he’s at?”
Jay also admitted that he had been lying when he publicly denied that he and Kelly have been having problems on the tour. Jay portrayed the R. as an insecure egomaniac and said that the circle of yes-men surrounding the singer are “ruining him.”
“He has problems with the love people give me,” Jay told Hot 97’s Angie Martinez. “He’s insecure with himself.”
Hova then told listeners that shows in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis were extremely late in starting, not completed or cancelled altogether because of the R.
“It’s not the lights,” Jay said, shooting down a theory that Kelly was canceling shows due to technical difficulties with the lighting. “This is Madison Square Garden — come on, New York City. He don’t love New York? He can’t say that.”
Thursday afternoon, Jay expressed to MTV News the disappointment he’s felt over the cancellations.
“It’s very frustrating to cancel shows,” Hov lamented. “Because I wanna see every single person. I don’t want somebody to be holding their ticket for 29 days and on the 30th day it gets cancelled. But [the tour] is living up to my expectations when I get out there and I see people and connect with people. I’m like, ’This is the reason I’m here.’ When I first step off the bus and I turn that corner and they throwing up Roc signs, I’m like, ’This is why I’m here.’ ”
After Jay-Z had left Hot 97, R. Kelly made his way to the station to give his side of the story.
“I’m here for my fans, I’m not here for Jay,” he told Martinez. The Pied Piper denied Jay’s claim that he was skipping out on shows because of his ego, claiming that prior to the NYC show, he was having problems with his lighting crew.
“I love performing, I’m very secure [with] who I am,” Kelly calmly stated. “I have no motive, no reason to be jealous of Jay-Z. I’m a fan of Jay, I’m gonna always be a fan of Jay. Tonight had nothing to do with Jay getting the better response. I’m 15 years deep in this game, I know what Jay is at home. I expected Jay to rip down the Garden.”
The singer retold his account of what happened, saying he received a threatening phone call prior to arriving at the Garden, and said that during his first joint set with Jay, he saw a man a few rows from the stage give him a threatening gesture.
“Dude opened up his coat — I can’t say dude had a gun, I don’t know what I saw,” Kelly said. Whatever Kelly saw had him on guard. When he returned for his solo set, Kelly said, he saw another guy in the bleachers opening his coat, gesturing like he had pistol as well. Kelly admitted he couldn’t say for sure if the other man had a gun, but the events left him distraught.
The singer, who is traveling with his wife and children, said he went backstage and cried. Kelly admitted to panicking, but did not want risk himself. “I wasn’t going to take any chances when I saw what I saw. I’m not crazy,” he said.
Shortly after, however, the promoter of the show did convince the R. that he could safely finish the concert. According to the singer, extra police were sent into the crowd.
Kelly then claimed that when he was returning to the stage, he and members of his entourage were pepper-sprayed. During the interview, the singer would not say who sprayed him, but he later said in a statement that it was a member of Jay-Z’s entourage. Kelly said he was rushed to a hospital and received treatment.
As for Jay’s claims about delays and cancellations in previous shows, Kelly responded by saying that he had technical difficulties.
“When you are perfectionist and like to put 100 percent in the show and you put a million and a half [dollars] on the stage, you want your million and a half worth. I’m willing to finish the tour. I will be in New York at Madison Square Garden [on Saturday], ready to perform.”
This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. ET