NEW YORK - There were close to 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, and it's pretty much a given that none of them believe what they saw. Just imagine how much they've been calling, texting and MySpacing since the show. Heck, you might not even believe this when you read it, but as wrestling legend Kurt Angle would say, "It's true. It's damn true."
T.I. orchestrated a mammoth hip-hop moment, a piece of history in the form of an onstage party featuring the cream of the crop in hip-hop: T.I., Jay-Z, Diddy, Swizz Beatz, Ciara, Kanye West and 50 Cent. They were all onstage performing and partying together ... as in, everybody was onstage at the same time.
The show started like just another Screamfest '07 tour stop (see "T.I., Ciara To Headline Latest Scream Tour"). Headliners Ciara and T.I. intermingled their sets much like Jay-Z and R. Kelly did on the Best of Both Worlds tour a few years back (see "Jay-Z, R. Kelly Part Ways as Best Of Both Worlds Tour Collapses"). Ciara came out first, did half her show and left. Then it was T.I.'s turn to do half his show, which led into both ATL natives performing their respective part twos. Those second halves would bring the crowd into the stratosphere and give MSG one of its memorable spectacles ever.
During the second half of Ciara's set, 50 Cent slowly rose up and onto the stage, where he and his rumored girlfriend performed "Can't Leave Him Alone." Although Fif isn't on the Scream bill, he might as well be: He's popped up with "surprise" appearances on the tour several times, including earlier this week in Hampton, Virginia. 50 was immediately greeted, well, like the man who runs New York. The crowd got stupid. After their duet, Ciara asked 50 if he would perform one of his songs, and if you think there was any way he wasn't going to rock in his hometown, you're just plain foolish.
"I Get Money" was ... well, remember the first episode of "Lost," when the plane was ripped apart and just about everyone and everything went flying? It was that. 50 brought out some of his wolves: Lloyd Banks, Mobb Deep, Tony Yayo, you get the picture. But it was big, it was loud, the energy level was as high as a satellite. It was that big MSG moment that a superstar who claims he runs the city — in that very song no less — was supposed to bring. It was almost a show-stealer.
But T.I.'s round two was utterly remarkable — and is one for the history books. The crowd had already showered him with love as he shot from the throne hits like "Top Back," "24's," "Why You Wanna," "Rubber Band Man" and "Bring Em Out" — a great show in its own right. But what he did to end his set was one of the few things missing from his career: a coronation at one the most famous venues in the world. He'd done shows at Madison Square Garden before, but never his show.
Wyclef Jean broke T.I..'s halftime silence by playing the national anthem on guitar. 'Clef later ran into the crowd during "My Swag." Then Tip started another cut from his album, "Watch What You Say." After the first verse, a banner of Jay-Z's hands throwing up the dynasty sign rolled down the back of the stage.
Jay-Z then began to stroll down a long runway, to the main stage, in the middle of the Garden. The crowd must not have believed its eyes, because there was no reaction at first. Once Jay started to rap his lines — "Rap music is something ain't it? The way these pictures is painted/ You swear these n----s is dangerous, the gangsta sh-- they be saying" — the audience went wild.
After "Watch What You Say," Jay let everyone know the Roc was in the building — and when Tip's DJ for the show, Drama, dropped the beat, the point was driven home. As Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing" started to play, 'Ye himself walked slowly from the runway to the main stage. main stage. Moments earlier though, 50 ran to the stage from another part of the venue — seemingly unplanned, because Jay and T.I. both looked a little surprised. According to a source close to the event, 50 and Diddy had been seen joking with T.I. in his dressing room earlier in the night, but Fif coming onstage with Tip and company was not part of the program. It turned out to be some welcomed improvising, though.
There were no incidents and no signs of rivalries — as Kanye rapped, 50 ran around the stage like he was doing a victory lap, stopping along the way to bump shoulders and say what's up to Tip, 'Ye and Jay. Before Kanye could even make it to the main stage though, Diddy sprinted from the back, running past West and onto the runway to the big stage. Although the audience was rocking to West, the spectacle of seeing everybody together onstage — especially the two guys who have been hyping their September 11 in-store showdown (see "Kanye West Thanks 50 Cent For Much-Hyped Rivalry: 'We Push Each Other' " and "50 Cent Explains Last Week's Blowup, Says 'I Will Be #1 On September 11' ") — on one stage at the same time took precedence. They were all smiling and dancing and genuinely enjoying the camaraderie. 50 even threw up the Roc-A-Fella diamond sign with his hands for a couple of seconds.
"Laaaaa, la, la, la, wait till I get my money right," Kanye continued, as he stood next to 50, Diddy and Jay-Z.
Jay-Z then did one of his classics, "Encore," and the show ended with everyone in the Garden unanimously cheering and making the Roc sign. Some fans were saying that the cheers in the Garden sounded louder than when close to 60,000 at Giants Stadium did the same thing a few years ago during Summer Jam.
With everyone still hanging out onstage, Swizz Beatz and Ciara eventually made it to the stage as well, with Swizz doing one of the biggest records in rap right now, "Money in the Bank."
T.I. and Ciara ended their triumphant New York visit with renditions of his "What You Know?" and "Big Things Poppin'." CiCi proclaimed herself "Queen of the South," and rightly so.
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