Wednesday, September 26
Better Than: Schlepping up to Inwood for a random Jay-Z sighting.
Jay-Z is hip-hop’s reigning master of synergy. Just days before he christens the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with a string of sold-out concerts, the rapper hosted the release of basketball video game NBA 2K13 at his 40/40 Club last night. As the game’s executive producer–a nebulous title at best–Jay was billed as the host, which translated into him holding court with former frenemy-turned-colleague Nas and DJ Clue in the sports club’s V.I.P. section while sipping D’USSE Cognac (a brand he just so happens to be the new spokesperson of). For no apparent reason other than because he can, Jay also plugged his Roc Nation signee/ Maybach Music Group affiliate Meek Mill as the event’s entertainment.
Gleaming bottles of Jay’s other favorite spirit, Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) Champagne, and gigantic televisions piping in NBA 2K13 served as the backdrop for a small, ad hoc stage. 30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan, Malcolm in the Middle‘s Frankie Muniz, rapper Talib Kweli and a gaggle of self-important industry types, corporate suits and reality show gadflies like The Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s Teresa and Joe Giudice and Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta‘s K. Michelle watched as the ascendant Meek laboriously tried to work his narrow space. In a two-tone sweater and multiple gold chains, Meek burst out with the high-energy “Young & Gettin’ It” followed by several cuts from his mixtapes like “Flexing” and “Burn,” as well as buzzy numbers he had little to do with like Rick Ross’ raucous “BMF” and “9 Piece.”
The earnest attempt at performing in a space that isn’t meant for performance didn’t go unnoticed, but Meek was plagued by his own too long set as well as extraneous sound malaises (Note to rappers: A tower of champagne bottles and sports club architecture facilitate exactly the horrendous sound quality you would expect.) Low audience engagement also dampened the set’s vigor. Brand partnerships and hip-hop usually make for strange bedfellows, and it was clear that many of the attendees were there for reasons other than Meek Mill (e.g. an open bar, Jay-Z gawking). At one point, I was even asked by someone in V.I.P. who the performer was and how to correctly pronounce his name.
Meek himself looked like he could care less. Following his 13 songs, the youngster made a beeline for Jay and excitedly chatted him up for several minutes. “Look how far we came!!!!” Meek giddily Tweeted with a photograph to mark the moment [see above]. Even rappers turn fanboys in front of Jay-Z. As he had all night, the quiet man of the hour just stood there, with a cool, knowing smirk on his face.
Critical Bias: I once called Meek Mill the “sex symbol of Maybach Music Group” as an interview icebreaker.
Overheard I: “Why is it easier to get into a Beyonce concert than this shit?” – Partygoer grousing about the door policy.
Overheard II: “Meek gave a hood performance”–One guest’s succinct recap.
Random Notebook Dump: Unlike Meek, all of my photos were of the back of Jay-Z’s head.