so what was oh so special then?

Post-the greatest night of my life so far, I thought to write a dedication of sorts to the most important rapper of our time, similar to the dedicace to hip hop that was the narrative frame in Brown Sugar [incidentally, also significant in its quotability.] Unfortunately, there is lacking of a handsome male counterpart with whom I have a frustrating relationship to facilitate the thinly veiled analogy. So, so much for that one.

Still, there is a bunch of sentimentality in my regard for Jay. Not for him, rather, as his coming to fame coincided with my adolescence and being impressionable, many of his songs/verses would often recall a certain time or person from my past. (Indulge me, it’s been an emo couple of days.)

But I will say that my fanaticism for the man is more encompassing than an admiration for his uber quotable lyrics. Are there rappers more able than he? I suppose. Are there artists more creative in their vision and creativity? Yea. Are there business men with more acumen and guile? Of course. But he’s not a “businessman”. And his status is not a matter of being superlative in a single category. But in the level of concurrent respect, fame and skill endeavored and achieved in music, branding, tastemaking, charity, and even tact, he is singular. [Mispronouciation of Maison notwithstanding, we’ll pretend that was a fluke or for the sake of rhyming.] The name, a brand; the man, an enterprise and something like a phenomenon.

Rhetoric is as much content and word play as it is delivery, whether it is in a song or in everyday conversation. I’m not learned in MC techniques, like the art of breathing, for example. But there is a finesse in tweaking the tone of voice according to subject that he does with great ease. Always nuanced, his tones run the gamut from humored, earnest, sarcastic, with a dash of smugness. Part of the persona and charisma that convey with a poignancy that many others fail to do. How many rappers deliver with the same dreaded subversive anger no matter the song? A slight strain on the vocal cord carries not the necessary sincerity for a listener.

As someone who wavers from one extreme front of stoicism to the other extreme internal turmoil of too much feeling, I also love songs like, song cry, soon you’ll understand, heart of the city, and in particular, where have you been. Extremely raw on every count without inducing that inevitable bile that is so often a reaction to a song about feelings. Oy.

Men hate mentions of the superficial when discussing rappers but this has to be said: The camel has done for “ugly” swagger what Angelina has done for former trashy hoe transitions, which is to say, much class and credibility. Money helps, but it is what he does with the money. Bling-y timepieces vs bigass chains, maybachs vs pimped out escalades. (boxed benzes!!) Personally, I think he is one of the classiest and smartest contemporary artists. His character enhances his image as an artist rather than detract. Obviously, he has progressed a lot to come to this point. For this, I have a personal respect. For he is constantly working, changing and progressing even when it seems like all he does is cruise and grub. In his [earned] arrogance, there is still a push for him, to go farther, go further, go harder; it almost seems humbled. (Formula: confidence + perpetual drive to get even better = irrefutable swexy.)

With this extreme partiality already in place, it’s obvious that my take on his show would be biased. On top of all that, the fortuitous timing – on a day where my alternative instinct would take me to another dramatic hair chopping – follows another rather fortuitous discovery that was just a little more traumatic. I will let you know when I learn to cope with emotional distress in less destructive ways. So even with the gloomy forecast and disgusting mud and feces cocktail, my ecstatic state at the concert was preempted.

I was disappointed by the tardiness – 30 minutes? It’s a bad reflection on his image as a professional, I don’t care what level of divatude he’s earned. I’m going to hope that it was some AV issue. The concert does redeem though. Just the pure energy of seeing the man at work in real life is sensational. Concerts absolutely rejuvenate appreciation and even take it to another level. After the show, I was pretty much listening to straight Jay-z trying to chase the heroin high. After Sunday night, besides plotting on going half on a baby with Chris Martin, I’ve loaded a bunch of Coldplay on “hovi” [my ipod has a name, its name is hovi.] I commend festivals like APW for being more inclusive of genres and exposing the audience to a bevy of other genres. Expanding horizons is a beautiful thing. But for a Hov concert, the vibe was off. I’ve never been to another Jay-z concert, but from a number of experiences at other concerts, the feedback/vibe of the crowd is definitely a contributing factor to its success. I was a little peeved to be standing in mud, but even more so to find myself behind three clueless girls who were just there and not even trying, all the while throwing passive aggressive looks my way.

Aside from the requisite tributes, graciously performed/executed, Jay-z took us through his most popular singles – you know, the ones that get play on z100 now, and a sprinkling of “Reasonable Doubt”. The selection of songs were probably tailored to cater to this crowd. But I guess even watered down Dom P would be better than fauxpagne, right? “Encore” was a good catalyst to bring it home, per usu. The latter half of the concert gave a good sampling of snippets for singalongs. Some of his attempts at engaging the audience with his humor were lost. Even the feedback to a semi-leak was a bit fuzzy. Though his chemistry with Bleek does bring warm fuzzy feelings. His nodd to fans at the end was definitely appreciated by all, especially in acknowledging the sneakerheads and their sacrifice.

But most importantly, 2009 can now be dubbed the year I saw Jay-z in concert instead of the year of the zoloft cloud epidemic.

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