If you follow me on Twitter or read my daily newsletter, Media ReDEFined, then you know I quote his lyrics all the time. He's one of just a few artists I call my favorites. I've been listening for close to 20 years. Even before his now classic "Reasonable Doubt" came out, If you were a hip-hop fan in New York City, you heard about Jay-Z. He was guesting on tracks like "Can I Get Open" with Original Flavor and showing up in clubs.
While I was building my first company in the late 90s and pulling all-nighters, it was Jay-Z tracks on Hot97 that pulled me through the night. When you went out, you heard his songs bumpin' from cars. No artist has epitomized the sound and feel of New York City in the last decade or so more than Jay-Z (and Biggie of course).
And now, all this time later, Jay-Z is an international star with a deep catalog and more recognizable songs than just about any modern day artist. He's a pop culture icon that has broken down every wall critics, media and commerce try to surround him and hip-hop with.
Tonight, close to two decades after his start, he played Carnegie Hall in A Benefit for United Way of New York City and The Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation. A great moment for him at the continuing heights of his career. The crowd was pure New York and one only Jay-Z could pull together: Hipsters, young kids, sneakers, 70 year-old couples, tuxedos, yarmulkes, baseball hats, chains, hedge funders, hoodies, mommies, daughters, Liza Minelli, CC Sabathia and more. Every age, race, color and creed. It was like Ali at Madison Square Garden. An event.
In recent years, his live show has reached another level. Jay-Z has learned how to master the stage and rock the house with live musicians. This time decked out in a tuxedo, a bottle of champagne in hand (he swore it was tea) and a full band and orchestra behind him. Carnegie Hall was on fire with what sounded like 50,000 fans. Alicia Keys joined him. So did Nas.
At the end of the show he came back out for an "Encore" that turned Carnegie Hall into a NYC club from the 90s. It could have been The Tunnel or Red Zone. But now he was clad in a black baseball hat, black t-shirt, jeans and one big diamond chain. He ascended into the balcony with the DJ backing him from the stage and swept through tons of old school hits with every single fan singing every lyric.
A night that could only happen in New York. Yes, Jay-Z is the "Brooklyn Boy". He's a lot of things to a lot of people: Rapper, artist, entrepreneur, author, son, husband, father, friend, star. Jigga. HOVA, Jay-Z. He's also a symbol of New York around the world and tonight he showed us again why he's the undisupted King of the City.