It seemed as though every seat from the top of Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center to the very floor was filled. Fans from all over Michigan flocked to the EMU campus to see the self-professed “best rapper alive” Wednesday night.
The crowd welcomed Jay-Z with a sea of diamond’s made out of their hands as he hit the stage rapping his first single, “Run this Town,” off of his new album “The Blueprint 3.” The crowd sang in harmony as he boasted, “We are/Yeah I said it/We are/This is Roc Nation/Pledge your allegiance.”
He stood tall, dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, sans his famous blue New York Yankee baseball cap. Behind him was a full band, complete with two drum sets, a guitarist, two keyboard players and a DJ, as well as saxophone, trumpet and trombone players. The stage was large, and so was the video screen that stood behind them that was in the image of the New York skyline, shaped in four skyscrapers.
As the first song ended the crowd died down in anticipation to hear him speak.
“Yo, so where are we, Grand Rapids?” Jay-Z said in a state of confusion. The crowd responded with boos. He quickly responded with the obvious “Detroit?” While some were happy with his second guess, others were not. He finally got a girl from the crowd to tell him the correct answer by stooping down to give her the mic, but after he heard it, he continued to say Detroit.
Hova, as he also calls himself, sang a handful of songs from his new album, including “Venus vs. Mars” and his first single “D.O.A.,” but decided to reminisce with the crowd, performing tracks from his earlier work “The Dynasty,” “The Black Album” and “Hard Knock Life.”
As he dropped the beat of “Big Pimpin” off his fourth album “Vol. 3 … Life and Times of S. Carter,” he immediately stopped, telling the crowd: “No, you can’t treat this like a regular record. This is a cultural phenomenon.”
He instructed the crowd to wave towels or shirts in the air as if they were at a carnival before the record went on.
After a wardrobe change, Jay-Z came back out to the crowd singing his current single, “Empire State of Mind,” while wearing another black shirt and donning his famous NY baseball cap and black shades.
After playing omore then 15 songs, Jay-Z interacted with the crowd. In appreciation of coming out to the show, he decided to wear a fan’s Detroit baseball hat that she bought for him, swapping his NY cap for the Detroit hat for the rest of the night.
“Ya’ll better take a lot of pictures of this because this is never going to happen again,” he laughed.
Before Jay-Z came to the stage, he had a handful of well-known artists come out to get the crowd ready for him. One notable exception was rapper J. Cole, a new artist signed to Jay-Z’s new label, Roc Nation, who came onto the stage first. He rapped his soon-to-be-released single and did some free styling for the crowd.
Next on the scene was Wale, a rapper from Washington D.C., who’s recognized for his current hit, “Chillin’ ” featuring Lady Gaga. He sang a number of songs from his upcoming album, “Attention Deficit” before N.E.R.D. hit the stage to infuse the crowd with rock beats and hits from their older albums.
N.E.R.D., minus keyboard and saxophone player Chad Hugo, sang their hits “Rock Star” and “Lap Dance” before letting at least 30 girls come to the stage and dance to Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like it’s Hot,” both of which group member Pharell made guest appearances on.
Noni Ama, a senior studying public relations, brought along her God-sister to the show. She said the hat swap was the highlight of the show.
“This was the best concert I’ve ever been to,” she said in excitement. “Jay-Z knows how to put on a show, and he will never disappoint his fans.”
EMU got a visit from quite few of Detroiters. One was Jasmine Germany, a senior at Wayne Sate University who studies fashion design. Germany, a faithful Jay-Z fan, said of the show: “Jay-Z made it official. He truly is the best rapper alive. I had a blast at the concert!”
Before the crowd got a chance to enter the show, angry churchgoers from a local Ypsilanti church protested the thousands of fans who were going to see Jay-Z.
“Choose J.C., not Jay-Z!” one of the protesters shouted to the fans.
The protesters, who were wearing red shirts, told the crowd that Jay-Z was a devil worshipper who promoted evil through his songs.
Concertgoers didn’t seem fazed by it, as most yelled at the church members telling them to either shut up or go home.