So YN and the wife limped out the bat cave and hit the Nokia Theatre to check out Hovi's dress rehearsal. Tickets said 8:30. Internet 10. Jay finally hit the stage at 11:10. Actually Pain in Da Ass came out first backed by ?uestlove, his Ila-something band and a orchestra. He spits his Scarface shit and Jay launches right into "Can't Knock… Wait Jay's 'bout to pull a fast one on us. He promised he would perform his first album in its entirety. But I guess that was too easy so he decided to do it in reverse order. That's right, reverse order.
Draped in a white blazer and black Evisu jeans, Jay flawlessly flows through one of his most introspective songs. A cold-blooded opener and no Hov didn't miss one line. Guess dude really did go back and study his blueprint.
"Bring It On"
The booming voice of Fat Joe invades the venue as the true heads in the house wait to see if Jay is gonna bring out his former mentor. It's a no go. Jay calls out his fellow Marcy Representative but it's Sauce Money. Damn, Money was always a big boy but now he's Big Pun size—well at least it appeared that way from my vantage point in the cheap seats.
Jay shouts out the pimps in the house before diving into his player prose. He fiddles with the vivid wordplay ("From New York to Pari, the vocal styles vary…") but his heart doesn't seem in the misogynistic content. Guess B still has the boy sprung so he lets the crowd fill in the "love 'em is when your dick hard" and "bitch hop up on your good foot" parts. Growing up ain't hard to do.
"Coming of Age"
Hov and his favorite weed carrier display their enduring chemistry. Their back and forth in the last verse is actually moving. Song is a metaphor for their entire relationship. Still I'm distracted by Jay's crystal or diamond studded T-shirt that's bling-blinging all over the fuckin' place.
"Friend or Foe"
Short and sweet as the band brings Preemo's groove to life. Jay slows verse down slightly so you can truly appreciate the narrative.
"Ain't No Nigga"
An animated Hov dives into his first hit. You can tell he's not tired of performing this one. He even does the wop during his "From the Village to the telly" bars. No Foxy though. Replaced instead by a Biz Markie-inspired bridge that allows ?uestlove to get some.
"Can I Live"
Jay warns the crowd that this is "grown man" material and if you're lost he'll get back to you later. With potent precision, Hov delivers despite one slight disappointment. He lets the crowd fill in the "one eye open like CBS" line instead of the following "You see me stressed right." Let's do the switcheroo manana Hovito. Here is also first time Jay breaks vocal formula. He rides beat out with playful chant. "If Roc-a-fella's in the house say hell yeah. (Hell Yeah) Throw your diamonds in the air." Kinda catchy.
Jay gets his Tribe chant on and the crowd is eating it up which only sets them up lovely for the show's first knockout blow. Jay scraps the song's inferior second verse for a new freestyle called, you guessed it, exo, "44 Four's." "4 mics. He does it for you, for the hood. Forty acres like Spike Lee." You get the picture. Hov breaks it all down acappella and floors yours truly and the fortunate crowd. He exclaims at the end "I'm nice, niggas." Even though no one's questioning it. Guess there really is an album coming.
After getting his first swig of water, Jigga gets extra cinematic with this one. He even darkens the flow on the final verse but the results are underwhelming. A muffled mix of Snoop's "Murder Was The Case" at the end only makes things worse. Try again like Aaliyah.
The show's other pothole as never-a-name singer Yvette Michelle gets showcased. She's alright but she's not real. I went to the men's.
Back on course, Jay shouts out Nasir Jones in the house and spits that hustler talk. Seems to lose a little steam in the second and third verses but not sure if anyone else noticed.
Pain in Da Ass is back. "Here comes the pain" from Carlito's Way. Jay's got his second wind as he goes back and forth with DJ Just Blaze who scratches in the first lines from Big's parts for Jay to rhyme over. Although the mix is a little off at times the energy is crazy. And yes, Hov remixes Big's "Cristal forever" reference to "Moet forever" complete with a devilish smile. In the end comes the icing on the cake as Jay pays homage to Big Poppa by doing his "You can't touch my riches/Even if you had MC Hammer and his 357 bitches" verse. VH1 Honors would kill for that performance.
"Politics As Usual"
Jay performs with more potent precision. Bezo's gonna love this one.
"Can't Knock The Hustle"
I'm sure Mary will be there on game night but instead the aforementioned Ms. Michelle did the honors. You know she was actually on the original version of song. One of the many fun facts found in new issue of XXL. Shameless plug. Music was still goin' as we jetted for the exits. Hope I didn't miss anything.
As the missus says the Prez is gonna kill it at Radio City. Pity the fool without a ticket.