November 6, 2007
The Denzel Washington-starring film American Gangster was one of the year’s highest-anticipated, and its release on November 2, 2007, was quickly followed by the release of Jay’s album of the same name. Although not a soundtrack, it was a concept album based on the film’s story of heroin dealer and drug lord Frank Lucas, with each track reflecting a different scene in the film. Washington had asked movie producer Brian Grazer to enlist Jay for the official score for the movie, but Grazer wanted the film to reflect the music of its period (the 1970s), which led to Jay’s album. With a second full-length in under a year, Jay was officially back out on the musical forefront, and his resignation from the executive suite at Def Jam two months later would confirm his reinstated status as the best rapper around.
June 28, 2008
When Europe’s premier rock and roll music festival Glastonbury announced that February that Jay Z would be one of the three headliners for the three-day event, it was met with sneers, mockery and a whole lot of questions from Britain’s highbrow rock world. Notably, Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher—who has rarely found himself at a loss for words—went on the offensive, saying the festival was wrong to highlight hip-hop artists, saying, “I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury.” Sorry, Noel. Despite slow ticket sales—which were blamed on Jay, of course, though the fest did eventually sell out—the festival turned in another strong display. And Jay might have made the biggest mark of all; kicking off his headlining slot on Saturday night, Jay donned a guitar and opened with a cover of Oasis’ karaoke favorite, “Wonderwall.” Maybe Jay was the one to save Glastonbury after all.
The Blueprint 3
September 8, 2009
Of all the projects released since The Blackout, none made bigger waves than the Blueprint 3 album in 2009. Recorded mostly in Hawaii, the album was supported by massive singles such as “Run This Town” and “Empire State Of Mind,” both of which would quickly become arena staples. The album shifted nearly 500,000 copies its first week and broke Jay’s tie with Elvis Presley for most No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, Hov’s 11th. Though unusually guest-heavy, the album was a mega-success, with the likes of Kanye, Rihanna, Jeezy, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, Kid Cudi and J. Cole all swinging by for appearances.
Maybe the biggest legacy of the album was its first single, “D.O.A. (Death Of AutoTune),” which dropped June 5 of that year. Though he singled out artists like T-Pain as using the technology correctly (and slammed others who used it too liberally), the song caused a lot of friction for Pain, with many considering it a dig at him; Lil Wayne, among others, slammed the song in support of Pain. Nonetheless, the song earned Jay another Grammy, and the album—as Jay albums tend to do—went platinum.
The Home And Home Tour With Eminem
By the summer of 2010, Jay was basking in the glow of another huge album and an exalted position in the hip-hop and business worlds, while Eminem was finally back on his road to Recovery. Em’s album—which dropped that June—was a massive commercial success and returned him to a position at the top of the musical food chain. So when the two joined up for a mini-tour with two dates in each of their hometowns, the venues had to be as big as the artists they were supposed to house.
“We wanted to do something that would have maximum impact and allow them to get in front of their fans,” Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg said to GQ in 2010. ”We came up with this idea: Boom, something in Detroit and something in New York. The challenge was finding a time when the Tigers were traveling and the Yankees were traveling so that we could build a stage and take the stadiums over.”
The result was two shows in both Detroit’s Comerica Park and New York’s Yankees Stadium, with each rapper enjoying the top headlining slot in their own city and employing a number of guests, from 50 Cent to Drake to Jeezy and Dr. Dre, and a coming together of two of the best rappers to ever do it.