Tonight, he’s at the New York Public Library, talking with Cornel West about his excellent new book, Decoded, but Jay-Z held a different sort of event on Friday night at the Box. Invitations sent out less than 24 hours in advance asked guests to something called “The Turn”; the email said something about “magic,” and in no place did it say that Jay-Z was actually performing. But after Kanye’s surprise turn at this same downtown burlesque club back in August, we figured that when an A-list rapper calls you to this particular venue, you come. (If only for the entertaining spectacle of watching a bunch of rap fans sitting through hours worth of the Box’s trademark contortionists, human slinkies, and archery duos.) As it turned out, the event was merely a glorified press conference to announce that rapper Jay Electronica had signed to Jay-Z’s label, Roc Nation. But at least we all got to watch Jay-Z talk about magic and shout out Pitchfork first.
Seriously though. After a two or three hour warm up involving free Ace of Spades, a Russian hula-hooper, and a woman whose strategically placed balloons were shot off her one by one by a leather-clad man holding a crossbow, the velvet curtain parted, revealing Jay-Z himself, in a black suit, clutching a glass of champagne. After thanking club proprietor Simon Hammerstein, Jay-Z began to discuss…wizards. (Maybe he’s been reading this Tumblr?) His brief speech:
Our whole goal with this is to reintroduce magic back in hip-hop, the love and the wizardry and all the incredible vocalists, and just the love for it. I want to thank everyone for coming out–Pitchfork, and MTV, and BET, Rap Radar, All Hip Hop, Nah Right…
I think pretty much you know this–it’s not really a surprise. This next wizard that we about to introduce is very exciting, we’ve been watching this wizard do his thing, you guys have been supporting him in a major way, and he goes by the name of Jay Electronica. And he’s an official Roc Nation signee.
For those counting, that was like three uses of the word “wizard” in about thirty seconds. Then Jay Electronica came out and rapped, and Jay retired to the balcony with Beyonce, throwing the Roc up at his newest, most incongruously backpacking label addition. It was a weird night.