Review of Jay Z Gig at London’s O2 Arena
“He had the infectious chest-beating certainty of a street poet and on the ever-wondrous Empire State Of Mind and Young Forever, moments of pure pop magic.”
World famous megastar rapper , Check, 15 thousand sold out crowd, Check, State of the art arena and light show, Check, Feeling of satisfaction and elation after the show….ermmm.. no.. not really…
A quick glance at Jay-Z’s Wikipedia page provides a quick glimpse into the world of success this artist has achieved, $500 million dollars, 50 million album sales, 17 Grammy awards and numerous failed retirements.. Obviously this isn’t needed, his level of success is common knowledge to everyone, in the last 10 years he has rebranded himself as the most mainstream and easily accessible rapper in the world of music. Striking a balance between entertaining the masses and keeping his die hard fans loyal, Jay-Z is genuinely a trend setter in the world of hiphop. I say world of hiphop rather than the world of music on purpose, Jay-Z learnt a considerable amount about the production of big arena and festival shows from touring with Coldplay in 2008. Jay-Z readily admits he has dumbed down his music to appeal to more people, therefore increase his revenues in ticket sales, record sales, advertising income, endorsements etc etc. This is easy to see, the 4 dates in London are all sold out..
Back to Thursday 10th of October, the O2 Arena in Docklands, London, it was a lot busier than the last show I caught there, the Nas gig was 5k lighter on attendance, but I enjoyed it a lot more. Jay-Z has a huge back catalogue of tracks, over 12 albums and collab projects with a huge array of artists crossing different genres and decades, but I can’t help but feel there has been a lot of ‘filler’ in these albums, and the first part of the concert was filled with these tracks. The crowd’s natural initial excitement petered out after the first couple of songs, fans go to these gigs to hear their favourite tracks, I’ll be honest, I don’t even think the majority of the crowd recognised U don’t know and Crown, it livened up when the great On to the next one was dropped. There was no continuity to his track selection, it didn’t build in momentum and tempo, it went up then down, and then a 20 minute interlude in the middle of his hour and a bit set (maybe a requirement at the tender age of 43?), granted it was filled with the legendary producer Timbaland playing around with his sampler and keys showcasing a snippet of the game changing tracks he’s produced in the past, huge respect for dropping a minute or so of Missy Elliot’s Get your Freak on..
But.. It could have been so much more.. I thought while the light show worked, and did look impressive for some of the songs, I thought the stage set was generic and budget, recycled from some non descript pop act that has toured the UK recently. The stripped back version of my favourite track Dead Presidents was slightly disappointing, although I was surprised it got a play.. The biggest roars of approval from the crowd came just after the interlude when the Jizza man dropped 99 Problems followed by Big Pimpin’.. then it died off again until Dirt off your shoulder came on.. I probably sound negative on everything but when he has some many big tunes to chose from I think he could of A, chose more of them, and B put them in an order conducive to building up and maintaining an unforgettable atmosphere.
The Encore…. Started unsurprisingly with Encore, easy straight forward choice, and it’s a good track, I thought, “Yes, finally, this is gonna have a crazy run in of tracks to finish the night off in style..” Then bang, straight into Empire State of mind, he’s flying now, Izzo had the crowd singing along, jumping and swaying in perfect rhythm after that.. This is what we’d come for.. Then into.. Hard Knock life.. Possibly one of his slowest tempo’d songs.. hmmm.. It’s not a bad track, but it should have replaced Tom Ford or Somewhere in America earlier on in his set.. It killed the buzz, slowed it right down… and if the chilled the crowd right out, then him finishing the night on Forever Young put them to sleep.. Even the whole ‘turn the lights out, get the lighters and phones out’ trick didn’t help, shit, it is the most boring song he’s ever done.. drony, aimless, generic and the furthest song away from hip hop he’s done, If I wanted to see a pop gig I would have gone to see his lovely wife instead..
But you know, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I need to adjust my expectations of Jay-Z now, and realise he isn’t the same artist I grew up with.. Gone are the days where tracks like Big Pimpin’, I just wanna love U, D’ Evils, Dead Presidents and Fallin are his standard, they’re shoved to the back and hidden away like embarrassing school photos.. Now it’s all about marketability, exposure, mass appeal, and monotonous music. Make sure you don’t offend anybody, they could be potential customers!! It pains me to say, but today’s Jay-Z, I class him in the same bracket as Drake and Bieber, he sells out massive shows.. because he’s a massive sell out. Jay-Z is not hip hop, and hip hop is weaker without him. Take a leaf outta your own book Shawn Carter, you’re rich enough, you’re lost in a fog of monotonous, meaningless music, let me finish this blog with a Moment of Clarity, yours in fact.
Thank God for grantin’ me this moment of clarity
This moment of honesty, the world’ll feel my truths
Through my hard knock life time, my gift and the curse
I gave you volume after volume of my work so you can feel my truths
I built the dynasty by being one of the realest niggas out
Way beyond a reasonable doubt, you all can’t fill my shoes
Review by Michael Wilkins
Read more stuff about Jay Z on Music Eyz