EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Jay-Z did not deliver what he promised Thursday night — he brought much more than anyone would dare expect. Jay-Z and Nas united onstage at the Continental Airlines Arena, embracing each other and performing together.
The show was labeled "I Declare War." Weeks ago Jay said he was going to get onstage as headliner of New York radio station Power 105.1's Power House concert and not just give a great show with surprise guest performances from many of his friends, but he was going to "air" a few people out (see " 'I Declare War!' Jay-Z Says He's Going To Air Some Rappers Out Onstage"). In 'hood speak, that means he planned to humiliate those who have angered him in front of 20,000 witnesses. And we all know that when Jay disses you, word gets out around the globe. It's not pretty.
He did it four years ago at a similar concert, for New York radio station Hot 97. During 2001's Summer Jam, Jay-Z debuted "The Takeover," and he and Nas' battle was born. Fast forward to Thursday night where the beef was killed and a new alliance took form.
It was another Jay-Z moment that you'll tell your grandkids about, a moment that you could not believe was happening though you've imagined it time and time again. It was a moment that you've waited for for so long that while it was going down it did not seem real. This is what Tupac and Biggie never had a chance to do.
The fans in East Rutherford roared like the spectators at the Roman Coliseum after a gladiator finished off an opponent. Although both Jay and Nas maintained their composure and avoided cheese smiles, you could tell that under the b-boy cool, they too were taken aback. Their statement was more than two of the greatest MCs making a musical and business allegiance. This was two black men showing that even though they may have had a keen dislike, blatant disrespect and obvious rivalry in their past, they cannot only sidestep violence while having differences, they can work things out and even be friends down the line.
Back to Jay-Z's war. There was none. Jay told the audience that he had been doing research, and while he did indeed plan to tear a few people up onstage, he thought better of it. Instead he wanted to convey unity, explaining that the night was bigger than declaring war.
"All that beef sh--is done, we had our fun," he said. "Let's get this money."
The unification theme was clear almost from the concert's onset. Jay started the show by himself and, of course, his ovation was eardrum-shattering.
The curtain opened to reveal a stage set of the Oval Office with three windows. A huge screen hung behind it, and on top of the office was a platform with a staircase leading to the stage. Jay was sitting in a chair at his desk with two Secret Service-like bodyguards standing in the background.
"PSA" — which is rapidly becoming Jay's most popular record at concerts — commenced the night, with "Jigga My N---a" following up.
"I don't know if y'all ready," Hov said. "Seriously, I don't think y'all understand. ... This is my house. I own the Nets."
Jay-Z And Nas Perform Together At Powerhouse 2005: Operation Takeover
After returning from quickly changing out of his suit, a flurry of records such as "Hola' Hovito," "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" and "U Don't Know" followed. After he brought a young fan that looked no more than 8 years old onstage while he performed "Dear Summer" ("Don't try to upstage me with none of that cute kid sh--," he playfully told the young buck.), Hov left the stage, making way for new singers Teairra Marí and Ne-Yo to perform their singles "Make Her Feel Good" and "Stay," respectively.
The streets came back when T.I. was introduced shortly after. Tip's energy was on point as always; unfortunately, his mic was shoddy. You could not really hear his words as he performed tracks including "Motivation," "Bring Em Out" and "You Don't Know Me."
His mic finally started working correctly when it was time to introduce Young Jeezy.
That was the night's first big moment, seeing the king of the South and the Snowman together ripping the arena down with "Bang" off of Jeezy's Let's Get it: Thug Motivation 101 LP. Minutes later, after Jeezy got raucous with "And Then What," he brought out Akon for one of the most appreciated records of the night, "Soul Survivor."
"Just keep on movin' now," the audience sang along with Akon.
Another huge moment came just seconds after, with Jay returning to the stage to perform "Go Crazy," with Jeezy. Sadly, Jay's mic was not loud and clear, but we all got the picture.
Onto what Jigga labeled Act 2. He brought out the Roc (Peedi Peedi, Freeway and Memphis Bleek, to be exact) for a bunch of favorites including "What We Do," "Flipside" and "Is That Your Chick."
Jay and company then told the crowd somebody was missing. Yes, the Young Gunz were absent, but the audience thought another artist should really be there. Chants of "Beanie" immediately flooded the venue. As the guitar line for "Let's Do It Again" played, Beanie Sigel strolled out wearing all black with a hood over his head, marking yet another monumental moment. (Keep counting, there are more to come).
There was resonating jubilation to see that Beans, at least for one night, had put aside his own differences with his State Property fam. Even bigger in the picture was the fact that he and Jay are clearly still cool. Everything felt right seeing the Roc together for records such as "Roc the Mic" and "You, Me, Him and Her." The only thing was missing was Dame Dash.
Next Jay brought out the LOX and Sauce Money for the classic "Reservoir Dogs," which fans haven't seen since the Hard Knock Life Tour. You had to look at the calendar on your cell phone just to make sure it was indeed 2005 and you were not caught in memory lane. Too good to be true? No, this was happening live.
When the stage was cleared for a short D-Block set, Jadakiss told the DJ to stop "All About the Benjamins" just two seconds into the song. Kiss said that they needed to perform it the right way. So, like they had been doing all night, one of the windows in the Oval Office opened like a door and out pranced Diddy. It was like cruising with Michael J. Fox in the DeLorean. For just a few minutes, we were transported back in time to a hip-hop heyday.
After that performance, the stage was once again cleared, and this time surprise performer Kanye West showed up for his own short set. Then Jay returned. Chants of "We want war," started to ring out, but the fans were given much more.
Jay told everyone that he was inspired by all the collaborations onstage Thursday night and introduced Nas with a "Let's go Esco."
Nas came out on a riser above the Oval Office. He quickly ran down the stage to join Jay, and you could see all the artists backstage looking through the windows to witness that moment. Jay and Nas performed "Dead Presidents" together for the first time (Nas' voice is sampled on the chorus) and anyone who did not get goosebumps or chills at that moment had to be either dead or not in their right mind.
Jay stepped aside to let Nas have his own set, and Esco went back in his stash for "New York State of Mind" and "It Ain't Hard to Tell."
Diddy returned in a fur coat and poured two bottles of champagne out on the stage right before "Hate Me Now."
As Nas performed "Made You Look," Diddy sat on a replica Oval Office desk while Jay stood with a smile and his arm around the shoulder of Kanye West, who was equally elated. It's hip-hop — anything can happen.
The final song was "Encore," and LeBron James and most of the artists who performed came out to finish off the show with Jay, Nas, Kanye and Diddy.
War. What is it really good for?
For a Q&A interview with Nas, check out "Nas: Major Figure." And for a feature on Kanye, see "Kanye West: Touch The Sky."