ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — Jay-Z broke out the ever-reliable two-step Tuesday night as he danced next to Beyoncé and some of his business partners. A few feet away Diddy sang Guy's "I Like" as he danced with Kelly Rowland and had Michelle Williams within arm's reach. The party was getting so good that even Barry Bonds had to get on the dance floor and participate. If this was any indication of what Jay-Z's Atlantic City 40/40 Club is going to be like, Hova is sitting on a goldmine.
We've heard the story about a million times over the past 10 years: A kid from Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, New York, gives up selling drugs to pursue rap. Record labels don't think he's as hot as he proclaims himself to be in his songs, so the kid starts his own label and goes on to be a cultural icon/ "best rapper alive"/ bulletproof business mogul. Jay-Z is an MC who has lived out not just his dreams, but the American dream. As he danced with his girlfriend and his friends partied with no worries, it seemed to epitomize the ultimate success story.
Jay showed his clout by not just inviting some of his friends like Magic Johnson, Serena Williams, Terrell Owens, Eddie George, T.I. and Timbaland to partake in the grand opening of his second 40/40 Club — he sent jets and limos around the country to accommodate them.
"A.C. was just the next step," Jay said about choosing the second most popular gambling town in the U.S. to birth his new nightspot a few hours before its opening. "New York and New Jersey are neighbors, and there's just a whole development going on out here."
A new House of Blues as well as a strip of outlet stores have opened in Atlantic City in recent months. Jay says he sees the potential and wanted to get in early — not to mention the fact that he's been coming down the NJ turnpike for years just to play cards at the casinos.
"I spoke with the mayor and governor and everybody was just so happy to have me here," he added. "It means that Atlantic City is not just a gambling town; it's a place where you can come club and shop."
Not only are A.C.'s politicians embracing Hov, so are the natives.
"Atlantic City hasn't been hot since Mike Tyson vs. [Michael] Spinks in 1986," hometown hitmaker Rodney Jerkins said during the red-carpet arrivals. "We haven't had a red carpet like this in over 20 years. I want to talk to Jay about doing a hotel together. This man's got a vision. He understands ultra-sexy. He understands hip-hop. He understands what's now and what's tomorrow. When you know all those things, you can't lose."
"It feels so good to be out here," said Kelly Rowland, standing next to Michelle Williams. "I heard somebody say Atlantic City is officially sexy, and it is. When you walk in the 40/40, it's just a sexy vibe. The ambience is great, the food is good. Everybody feels comfortable, and it's good to finally have that in Atlantic City."
"I'm inspired by [Jay-Z]," said Serena Williams, who wore so much ice that Cash Money's Baby would nominate her the #2 Stunna. "He's an entrepreneur. He started from so from very little and has so much. I'm inspired by him because I'm on that same road. I started from very little, and I'm aspiring to be like him."
For 40/40 2, Jay took the basic design of the original 40/40 and added some new dimensions. The A.C. facility has way more space and an expanded staircase with several couches and pillows. There's an "A-Rod Room" dedicated to Alex Rodriguez (Jay is hoping to get Rodriguez's little-league and minor-league jerseys), a "Caesars Room" (inspired by one of the club's affiliates, Caesars Entertainment), and an ESPN VIP room.
Jay is already planning to open a third 40/40 club in downtown L.A., not too far from the Kodak Theatre. Hova's partner is going to be one-third of the collective he refers to as basketball's "holy trinity": Magic Johnson (Michael Jordan and Larry Bird are the other two; Johnson's jersey is hung up in the A.C. club alongside theirs).
"I think we both saw that we're both doing some big things," Magic said about why he wanted to partner with his friend Jay. "When two people are doing big things and grew up the same way, just in different arenas, it's time for us to do things together. We have the same mindset; he dominated in his field, I dominated in my field. It's positive that the hip-hop arena and basketball arena cross over. It's all about entertainment."
Businessman Jay is stepping back into the role as entertainer Jay on Thursday. He'll be in Jersey, just a little further up north in East Rutherford at the Continental Airlines Arena. He's starring in another Jay-Z and Friends concert, where he's promising to have a great show and call out some rappers who have gotten on his bad side (see " 'I Declare War!' Jay-Z Says He's Going To Air Some Rappers Out Onstage").
"Nah, hip-hop is a very prideful thing," Hov said about whether or not rappers have taken heed of his warning and made up with him.
But he did say his list of friends is ready.
"The list is in," he said. "It's not set in stone, but it's pretty much 80 percent done. Y'all know every time I come out, it's going to be something special. ... It's going to be a moment. Everybody is going to have a good time."
He heads to Philadelphia for yet another Jay and Friends show — indeed, the good times are rolling for Hova.