NEW YORK — A year ago, Jay-Z showed why he's music's Emperor of the Empire State with a historic charity concert at Madison Square Garden, which Jay called "the house that Hovie built." On Monday night, "the God MC" took his mastery of performance to the front stoop of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Yankee Stadium. And because that's no setting in which to go small, he brought out special guests like Kanye West, Drake, Chris Martin, Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj and, of course, Beyoncé.
After kicking off in Detroit two weeks ago, Jay and Eminem's Home and Home concerts landed on the Jiggaman's soil for shows on Monday and Tuesday (September 14). This time, after J. Cole opened, Slim Shady shook the stadium in the second slot, with special guests the G-Unit and Dr. Dre. Then Jay took over with a bevy of surprises and a catalog of hard-line hits.
"Before I start this piece, let me say, rest in peace to the boss, George [Steinbrenner]," Hov began, freestyling a reference to the late Yankees owner after commencing his program with the "Dynasty Intro."
"By the time we sliding home/ I hope we playing in the dome," he continued rapping.
During "Run This Town," Jay asked, "Where you at, boy?" And out came 2010 VMA closer Kanye West in a red suit. The roar was thunderous for the Louis Vuitton Don, who also rocked a huge gold link chain.
They followed up with the first live performance of the "Power" remix — where all 50,000-plus people did the soulful "power clap" — and "Monster." There was no Rick Ross on the latter, but 'Ye and Hov brought out Nicki Minaj, who was showered with love from her hometown.
Hov said that since they were in New York, he couldn't let Kanye off the hook that easy. West told the audience he was going to "take them back." The Chicago-born icon then crushed the concert with "Can't Tell Me Nothing" and a follow-up haymaker of the stadium-friendly "Good Life."
"It's one of the most unbelievable feelings in the world, being from New York and being in Yankee stadium," Jay said about the night.
"That's how you feel, New York City?" Hov continued, in response to the crowd's overwhelming cheers. "New York City, is that how you feel tonight? I can't believe this sh--!"
Jay's next guest was Bronx native Swizz Beatz, who was also celebrating his birthday. What a present!
Further along in his set list, Jay rolled out his jaw-dropping verse from "Free Mason." Like in most of his shows, the Jiggaman constantly spoke to the crowd. "Just because you question religion doesn't mean you don't believe in God," he said after his rumor-admonishing verse. "Don't let anybody scare you into having their beliefs. Be a muthaf---in' renegade."
Out came Eminem for their classic colossal meeting of the minds. No matter how many times they perform "Renegade," it's still surreal to see the two biggest names in rap stand unified, side by side.
Memphis Bleek then came out for a parade of familiar Jay knockers, including "U Don't Know," "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin'."
There was a tribute to hip-hop's gone-but-not-forgotten greats that included B.I.G., D12's Proof, Pimp C and Tupac Shakur. Monday was the 14th anniversary of Pac's tragic death.
Chris Martin from Coldplay came out to sing the hook on "Heart of the City." Martin was crisp and soulful on the mic. Jay kicked the graceful lines to "Most Kingz," and then Martin took the energy up a few levels with "Viva la Vida."
"I used to rule the world," the crowd sang. "Seas would rise/ When I gave the word/ Now in the morning I sleep alone/ Sweep the streets I used to own/ I used to roll the dice/ Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes."
Hov then told his DJ to throw on any song, and out came Drake for "Miss Me."
"Tellllllll me/ What's really going / Drizzy back up in this bitch/ What's happenin!!!" Drake came on rapping. The approval for the 23-year-old was vibrant.
"Say, 'Free Weezy!' " Drake commanded during Lil Wayne's verse. Jay and Drizzy then let the mics explode with "Light Up."
Not letting the audience catch their breath, Beyoncé came out for "Forever Young."
"One word, Beyoncé, make some noise," Jay said about his wife. "That girl baaad! That girl tough!"
After "Already Home" came "Empire State of Mind." No Alicia Keys, but Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly was on her A-game with the vocals. Not that it mattered, because the NYC crowd drowned the song out.
"This is better than any Grammy. Better than any MTV award," Jay said about being able to rock his city.
He then went into overtime with a barrage of classics such as "Jigga My N---a" and "Izzo."
He told the fans he wasn't going anywhere and continued to keep the energy high with "Where I'm From" and "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." Most of the sold-out crowd stayed until the very end, which featured Jay doing the Linkin Park mash-up version of "Encore."
"This night was like a gift for me," said the man who seemingly has everything. "I hope I returned it tenfold."