NEW YORK — A few weeks ago, the film "American Gangster" had its premiere at Harlem's Apollo Theater. On Tuesday night, Jay-Z closed out his American Gangster there.
His mini-tour made its last stop in front of a sold-out audience that included Chamillionaire, Beyoncé and LeBron James. While waiting for Jay, a house DJ spun tunes, and later DJ Clue came on to play some records.
You could see James in the balcony sitting by Jay-Z's family, dancing in his chair to "Crank That." "Soulja Boy up in this, ohhhh!/ Watch me crank it, watch me roll." Number 23 bounced to the beat and even tried the famous "Superman" dance.
Just before the real music came on, various music-biz pals, such as Diddy, Ed Lover, L.A. Reid and Warner Music Group President Kevin Liles, filed into their seats.
The Apollo's crimson curtain opened, and out strolled Jay, background singers and band behind him, showering the theater with the rock-hard opening of his latest LP, "Pray."
"This is the genesis of a nemesis/ Mother America's not witnessed since/ The Harlem renaissance birthed black businesses/ This is the tale of lost innocence/ As the incense burns and the turntables turn, and that Al Green plays."
Jay delivered his rhymes with his usual swagger-drenched poise, while his fans rhymed in their seats with vigorous approval.
Hov moved his play list to "No Hook," and when he asked where everybody was from, chants of "Broooook-lynnnnn, Broooook-lynnnnn" started filling the Apollo. He also warned those who weren't giving off enough energy to "cut that cool sh-- out. ... If you ain't here to see Hov, you might wanna leave."
Jigga then hand-delivered the crowd some never-before-heard lyrics: "N---a, this sh-- right herrre/ Make you wanna go throw on your fly gearrr," he rapped a cappella. "Put fly girls in the mirror/ Double-checking their rear/ N---a, this sh-- right herrre/ Make you wear your sunnies at night, no glare/ Nowhere in site, you act like I don't care/ I'm so fly, y'all have no idearrr."
"Blue Magic" and "99 Problems" preceded one of his time-tested concert show-stoppers, "You Don't Know." As always, the song ended with the audience putting up their Roc signs.
"Don't f--- around, that's what I'm talking about," Hov said to the theater when the enthusiasm went up a couple of levels.
Jay fluctuated between his various albums, performing American Gangster's "I Know," Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life's "N---a What, N---a Who (Originator 99)," Kingdom Come's title track, The Black Album's "Public Service Announcement" and The Blueprint's "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)."
Hov then circled back to his current LP. "Can I play something off there real quick?" he asked before the intro for the song "Success" started.
"I got watches I ain't seen in months/ Apartment at the Trump I only slept in once," he rapped. "N---as said Hova was over, such dummies/ Even if I fell, I'll land on a bunch of money/ Y'all ain't got nothing for me."
Jay then signaled for Nas and started looking to his right for him to come out. But Nas came up behind him, holding a huge cigar and a bottle of champagne. It was a huge moment, but the giddiness of seeing the two New York giants together lasted only momentarily, because Nas could not remember the lines to his verse.
Hov did his best to cover him with ad-libs, but it wasn't quite the same impact as it would have been if Nas had remembered his chilling rhymes. God's Son did quickly recover on "Black Republican," another show-stopper.
The old regime of Roc-A-Fella records — Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel (who wore a State Property T-shirt), Freeway and the Young Gunz — came out minutes later for a flurry of the teams' classics, including "Change the Game," "You, Me, Him, Her," "What We Do" and "Can't Stop, Won't Stop."
Some guys in the front started chanting "Ignorant Sh--," pleading for Jay and Sig to do their collaboration from American Gangster.
The lights went out, and you could see shadows of Jay and Beans conferring in front of the drummer. They were obviously throwing a hip-hop audible. The two then walked to the front of the stage, and the song started. The duo even did a unified two-step before the verses started.
"I got you," Sigel said, letting Jay know he knew the lyrics, even though they may not have practiced. Hov knew his rhymes as well.
"Party Life," "Give It to Me" and "Show Me What You Got" followed the collabo.
"I got a lot of records," Jay smiled. "I got a lot of f---in' records."
Later, Diddy came out and acted as Jay's hypeman for "Encore."
"Now can I get an encore, do you want more?/ Cookin' raw with the Brooklyn boy/ So for one last time I need y'all to roar," Jay and the crowd chanted while Diddy spun in circles.
"They love you Jigga," Puff said when the song ended.
Jay confirmed the crowd's cheers by telling everyone that American Gangster opened at #1, tying him with Elvis for most career #1 albums of any artist except the Beatles.
"Without a #1 record, I'm the number-one man," he began rapping. " ... I'm so cool, I'm my number-one fan/ ... Now I'm standing on Elvis' blue suede shoes, 'cause I'm #1 again."
The celebration ended with a song Jay described as being the height of revelry: "Roc Boys (And The Winner Is ...)."
Jay's whole team, including LeBron, who was wearing a Roc-A-Fella chain, came onstage as the record played. Diddy even gave James the mic, and he began rapping some of the words along with Jay.
"Rich n---as, black bar mitzvahs/ Mazel tov, it's a celebration, bitches/ La chaim/ I wish for you a hundred years of success, but it's my time."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.