There was a unique hubbub looming through the streets of New York City last night. Fashion Week A-and-B-listers were in search of the next new designer, Kanye West’s bust-it-baby turned official girl Amber Rose was downtown celebrating her cover story for Persona Magazine, and in Madison Square Garden, Jay-Z [click to read] was throwing the concert of his life. FUSE TV offered a live televised platform to showcase Hov’s 9/11 benefit concert – one that people were paying small fortunes to attend. It’s amazing to think that a one-man army could be held in the same regard as something like Live Aid, but this is Jay-Z we’re talking about. Despite what anyone might think about his latest endeavor Blueprint 3 [click to read], not a single member of the audience shunned the opportunity to sing the album’s lyrics word-for-word just three days after its release. Those who weren’t in attendance had a similar (though not quite as intensifying) experience watching from their homes, but those who were knew this was a night to remember.
Biz Markie [click to read] was the warm-up deejay for the evening, offering the random factoid that on September 11, 2001 he and Jay-Z were filming the video for “Girls Girls Girls.” The focus of his whole-hearted attempt to choose songs with a youthful relevance was thwarted by sightings of celebrities shuffling in. Katy Perry walked the invisible red carpet, along with The Wire-turned-90210 star Tristan Wilds. New York City Governor Paterson marched through the crowd, followed by Andre Harrell, Kevin Liles, Fabolous [click to read], comedian Andy Samberg and many others. Sightings of Pharrell Williams [click to read] and Diddy started the rumor mill that they would eventually hit the stage. A woman strongly resembling Amil [click to read] was also in attendance and became the bain of Twitter’s trending topics for a good hour.
At nearly 9PM on the dot, Hov took the stage with a live band and Memphis Bleek [click to read] to open with “Empire State of Mind” [click to listen], with a woman who looked like a cross between Alicia Keys and Keri Hilson. She was neither, but new Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly. Jay followed with “Where I’m From (Marcy Son)” which led to “Brooklyn Go Hard” as Santigold joined for the hook. Jay-Z walked the crowd through pieces of his audible history, including “Public Service Announcement,” “Heart of the City,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Jigga My Nigga,” “Jigga What Jigga Who,” “Can I Get A…,” and a slew of others. Intertwined throughout were Kid CuDi on “Already Home,” John Mayer on “You Don’t Know” and “D.O.A.,” Pharrell on “I Just Wanna Love You,” “I Know,” and a sprinkle of “So Ambitious,” and Swizz Beatz [click to read] on “On To the Next One”. The obvious highlights of the evening were Beyoncé emerging from the stage holding the up Roc symbol performing “Diva,” plus Rihanna and Kanye West on “Run This Town.” West, who was spotted earlier supporting his girlfriend at her cover launch party, stayed for the remainder of the show, hitting the crowd with “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Good Life.” The only lull followed the biggest high – Mary J. Blige arrived to assist on “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” but chose “The One” to perform out of her entire legendary catalog. As predicted, Diddy jumped on stage a few times, including the finale with West on “Encore.” The evening did its fair share of honoring the lives lost on 9/11, with the stage backdrop being the New York City skyline that later morphed into a mosaic of the faces of those who died to the tune of “Forever Young.”
Jay-Z has certainly transcended from the Rap breeding grounds from which he came into a global icon. Eight years after the Twin Towers collapsed, he’s the man who was chosen to represent all of New York properly. God save the King.