NEW YORK — From Marcy to Madison Square and now from Crooklyn to Carnegie. [artist id="1269"]Jay-Z[/artist] has come a long way since releasing his 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt, and the magnitude of his travels wasn't lost on the God MC when he performed at Carnegie Hall on Monday evening (February 6).
The swanky crowd filled the Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall for the first of two benefit concerts, which joined Jay's Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation with the United Way of NYC to raise money for gifted high school students who aren't financially positioned to attend college. The premium-priced charity tickets brought out the likes of Liza Minnelli and New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia.
With a full orchestra that included ?uestlove and Young Guru playing DJ, Hov took the stage at 8:45 p.m. ET after a dramatic string build. Emerging from the stage's side door in a white tux jacket toting a gold bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, Jigga began his evening shouting, "Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Hov," the iconic opening line from 2003's "Public Service Announcement."
Those who thought Jigga would conform to the stuffy artistic standard typically associated with the famed concert hall were mistaken. Jay strutted across the stage drinking from his gold bottle promising the crowd, "It's just tea."
On this night, Hov pledged to eradicate the divide that separates musical genres, only differentiating between good and bad music. "All those lines that divide us, we gonna step on 'em," he announced to the electric crowd.
As he's done most of his career, Jay continued to stomp out the misconceptions that rap can't be considered highbrow art as he tore through radio hits and street favorites like "U Don't Know" and "Where I'm From." Jay did balance things out when he invited [artist id="503203"]Alicia Keys[/artist] onstage for "Empire State of Mind" but got extra-gritty on the very next song, making way for [artist id="503203"]Nas[/artist] to perform his own "N.Y. State of Mind" from the Queensbridge MC's 1994 classic Illmatic. There was a perfect juxtaposition throughout. The biggest musical clash came when Jay performed the "Annie"-sampling "Hard Knock Life." Jigga rapped the song's verses, while the wealthy crowd song the downtrodden chorus. By the time Hova rolled into the set's next song "Izzo," a marijuana smell filled the air. That must be a first for Carnegie.
Ever the master of ceremonies, the Brooklyn rap juggernaut slowed things down properly easing into "Girls, Girls, Girls," then "Song Cry" and then "Glory," the song he released days after the birth of his and Beyoncé's first daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. "One hand in the air for Blue," he screamed before delivering his heartfelt daddy raps.
"I didn't think I was gonna make it through that one, that was tough," Jay said at the close of the number.
The veteran MC launched into the set-closing "Encore," but fans know by now that despite his exit at the end of the Kanye West-produced track, he would be back for more. During Jay's overtime session, he re-emerged onto the stage with a Yankee snapback, diamond chain and black tee. Ever the showman, Jay climbed into the balcony and performed an array of hits from his early catalog like "So Ghetto," "Ain't No N---a" and "Can't Knock the Hustle."
By the night's close, Jay-Z had kicked in another door. He wasn't the first rapper to play Carnegie Hall, but lord help the MC who has to come after him.
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