See Photos From Night One: Hello Brooklyn: Jay-Z’s First Night at the Barclays Center
Better Than: Seeing Jay-Z on the third night at Barclays Center.
Brooklyn has quickly become New York City’s most popular borough, amassing a cult-like following (and real estate exodus) from celebrities, out-of-town transplants and the twentysomething set. Natives might balk at the concept of a borough du jour, but it’s undeniably cooler to live in Brooklyn versus even comparable neighborhoods elsewhere in the city. At a cursory level, the cache is essentially just a marketing ploy that in many regards can be traced back to Jay-Z; the borough’s most famous brand ambassador has steadily name-checked his hood in every pop culture permutation possible since the inception of his career.
– Hello Brooklyn: Jay-Z’s First Night At Barclays Center
– Jay-Z After Party with Talib Kweli and Young Guru
– Meek Mill – 40/40 Club – 9/26/2012
This borough revivalism reached its apex on Saturday night when Jay-Z performed the second of eight sold-out shows at the newly opened Barclays Center. Jay, the consummate walking billboard, came suited in full Brooklyn Nets regalia including a custom “Carter #4” basketball jersey and baseball cap. Interestingly, the rapper only owns some one-fifteenth of 1% of the team. With a thumping live band behind him, featuring longtime DJ/engineer Young Guru at the helm, Jay-Z jumped into the gritty, autobiographical “Where I’m From” (“Brooklyn” was remixed into the hook, “Cough up a lung/ Where I’m from/ Brooklyn, son”) followed by the fittingly titled, “Brooklyn We Go Hard.”
He then paused and paid homage to Brooklyn’s other famous son, the late Notorious B.I.G., by adding “One More Chance remix” and the classic “Juicy” to the set. Since B.I.G.’s untimely murder in 1997, fans have oft speculated how the two former friends from ’round the way would have coexisted had Biggie lived and as thousands–many too young to physically remember B.I.G.–chanted along the first verse of “Juicy” acapella with Jay, it was clear that they would have shared this historic moment.
Longtime crony Memphis Bleek served as the night’s only special guest, performing “Do My” and “You, Me, Him and Her.” Jay-Z had touted the string of Barclays shows as solo feats, but following the rap legend Big Daddy Kane’s cameo on opening night, many expected a bigger name the second time around. “I came to do these eight shows by myself!” Jay announced, maybe sensing the audience’s disappointment. Such is the paradox of a great Jay-Z concert: Even amid back-to-back crowd pleasers like “Public Service Announcement,” “Hard Knock Life,” and “Big Pimpin’,” fans always ponder who else from the rapper’s famous Rolodex might show up.
“Let’s not act like this is no regular shit tonight,” Jay-Z defiantly announced at one point. He was right. This was not a run-of-the-mill Jay-Z concert, but rather, an inspirational homecoming. The concert wasn’t meant to be about how many famous faces could be paraded through Barclays Center so much as it was the one-man celebration about a local boy done good. Jay-Z prefaced several songs like “99 Problems” and “On To the Next One” with uplifting jargon about following ones dreams; the master of words, “Motivational Speaker” would not be a career stretch. “Anybody out that that has a dream, don’t let nobody hold you back. You follow your dream,” Jay-Z preached towards the end after the resplendent closer, “Encore.” “Today is a beautiful day and a dream realized…I’m living proof that dreams come true.”
Critical Bias: Jay-Z is the greatest rapper alive.
Overheard: “Memphis Bleek; THAT’S who we get?” – Complaint about the special guest
Random Notebook Dump: It took two (delayed) subways and one very begrudging cab driver to get to the venue. Can Jay-Z take over the MTA?