Posted by John Hendrickson on 10/14 at 03:13 PM
Jay-Z came to Happy Valley, and everyone took notice.
Just over one month after a milestone performance at Madison Square Garden to mark the nine year anniversary of September 11th, Jay-Z rose from a trap door in the floor of the same custom stage—a massive, multi-leveled construction with a sprawling live band to match. This time, however, the rapper—whom many consider to be the greatest of all time—was conscious of his State College surroundings. He made the inevitable pandering joke about Eastern Illinois (who the Nittany Lions would obliterate the following afternoon), he called his audience simply “Penn State” and he played at least a portion of every one of his litany of hits over the last 13 years.
On Friday night, Jay-Z ran this town; such was proclaimed as early as his first song of the same name off of the newly-released “Blueprint 3.” The night weighed heavily on fresh material while giving fans a healthy dose of greatest hits including “I Just Wanna Love You,” “Can I Get A…” and a fiery, Arena Rock version of the electric guitar-based “99 Problems.”
“Empire State of Mind,” the current single off of “Blueprint 3,” was marked by soul and raw emotions. The towering video screens behind the frontman (designed in loose resemblance to the Manhattan skyline) beamed with aerial images of the world’s most powerful city while its unofficial mayor sang its ode below.
Through it all, Jay, Jigga, HOVA (and whatever additional nicknames he has gained over the years), never fell off the beat. He was in control of both his vocal flow and backing band - at one point bringing a bumping rendition of “Big Pimpin’” to a grinding halt just so the audience could stop and find an article of clothing to swing over their heads like a helicopter in succession with the Middle Eastern-flavored beat.
Opening acts J. Cole and Wale showed immense promise as budding MCs, though unfortunately played to a nearly empty venue and did not receive a fraction of the crowd support that they deserved. The third opener, fusion hip hop group N.E.R.D. led by veteran producer Pharrell Williams, came off as tangled and aggressive in a stark contrast to the undeniable swagger that drenched the BJC throughout the remainder of the evening.
Author: John Hendrickson
Bio: John Hendrickson is a Penn State senior majoring in English. He has written for such publications as The Denver Post, Get Real Denver, MAGNET Magazine, Philadelphia Weekly and Penn State's own Alt. Magazine. In 2009, he was named one of the Top 100 Collegiate Journalists by UWIRE. When he's not writing, John DJs under the moniker of Backyard Thicket and plays drums in The Kalob Griffin Band.
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