We all know that Jay-Z retired late last year prior to the release of his finale “The Black Album.” A few drops on mixtapes, a visit on Lenny Kravitz “Storm” single and hope from diehard fanatics has Jay-Z in awkward position – to come out of retirement which has been mentioned in rumors recently or stay retired and assume the role of music mogul with his reported S. Carter Records.
R. Kelly is under scrutiny but yet basks in the limelight of success and acceptance since his indictment of child pornography two years ago. With the release of three top selling CD’s, the majestic “Chocolate Factory,” “The R in R&B Collection Vol 1,” and the mid-tempo/spiritual double disc – “Happy People/U Saved Me.,” R continues to prepare and deliver the best work of his career – in spite of a trial where he faces 18 years behind bars.
Welcome to the Best of Both Worlds jump-off concert 2004 - Part II. Call them Superman and Batman - Jay-Z and R. Kelly respectively flexed their artistic musical muscles for a packed crowd. With over 70 million discs sold worldwide between them, not even Usher’s Truth tour or The Ladies First tour (Beyonce, Alicia Keys & Missy Elliott) has so much anticipation, controversy and power compacted into one dynamic concept. As opponents who can hold it down in the world of hip-hop and R&B easily, the true test is to fulfill the history, hype and most importantly give the fans a damn good show! Of course, competition brings out the best in every performer. Who knew that history would be delayed again exactly by 2 hours? According to many sources, the previous night had only a half-hour delay but for Thursday’s show, other problems occurred. A busted speaker which should have been fixed attributed to technical difficulties. In addition a source involved in the concert’s production who remains anonymous cited R. Kelly’s 2/12 delay to a show that was scheduled for 8PM to finally get off the ground at 1030PM.
While Wednesday’s night performance went rocky during the actual show, Thursday’s delay made it up with minor details corrected - sort of. An average wait can make a hungry fan barbaric but a longer one can make a fan explosive.
At 945PM radio personalities Chris Michaels and Big Poppa of WGCI tried to tame the crowd with branded endorsements of their station and corny jokes. “This is The Real show tonight,” Chris Michael shouts. “Who are coming to see R or Jigga,” he continues. The anxious crowd expresses its displeasure with boos, cheers, votes for R and Jay-Z blended.
Finally, the wait was over and a video screen illustrated the music giants in their tour buses Jay-Z’s sporting New York license plates and R’s sporting Illinois. As they raced feverishly through the urban jungle depicted on film and the media in the form of reporters following their every move, you felt as you were watching an action flick of renegade superstars propelling themselves to get to the stage by all means necessary. High-risks speeds and a police squadron chase on the heels of Kelly made the heat get hotter and all of sudden a crash that sounded like a gunshot stunned the crowd. The wait was over and enter two of the biggest heavyweights in music history had busted through the stage. Confident, cool and collected dressed in white, the superstars began the set with “The Best OF Both Worlds,” “Take You Home With Me a.k.a Body,” and “Get Money.”
In true playa fashion, the tag team duo - swifted and swerved through costume changes while skits promoting their branded names reinforced fans what Kells and Hov have contributed over the past 10 years.
If wasn’t Jay spitting wit and vivid imagery through some of biggest bangers “Big Pimpin,”” “I Just Wanna Love You” (Give It To Me) and the Annie sampled “Hard Knock Life,”it was the raw and uninhibited R pouring his heart out on “I’ll Never Leave the suggestive ‘Strip For You” and the subliminal “Ignition” (Remix). However, during most his sets he opted to lip-synch instead of belting his vocals live.
Going back and forth seeing R & J and hearing their impressive catalog you lose track of time. Then you realize through a little rust from performing a kickoff and not performing, as a duo wasn’t as easy as everyone had thought. But the competitive professionals they just stepped up their game.
Speaking of stepping, R Kelly delivered his personal tribute to the Chicago art form stepping with his anthems - “Step in The Name Of Love,” “Happy People,” and the newest smash – “Red Carpet” (Pause Flash) with much applause and constant sing-along and feet moving side to side. While the tempo slowed down spiritual cuts from U Saved Me remained extinct from the show in the midst of all his blockbuster racy jams that made him the superstar he is.
The night couldn’t get anymore electrifying but sentimental as Jay-Z gave a tribute to all the fallen soldiers 2Pac, Biggie, Aaliyah, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Big Pun and Jam Master Jay. A video montage of their images while the DJ did a medley of instrumentals from 2Pac’s “Ambition As A Ridah,” to his heartfelt rap on “Miss You,” by the late R&B princess - Aaliyah. Later, Jay was joined by Roc-a-fella soldiers - Memphis Bleek, Freeway and The Young Gunz for a flurry of their moderate jams. Twista made an appearance for his forgotten verse on the original “Is That Your Chick?” But where was Twista when R. Kelly did “So Sexy?” Of course, Twista’s popularity in 2004 has surged tremendously and he performed “ Overnight Celebrity” to a hysterical crowd.
Jay even in a fumble of forgotten words of “Jigga What, Jigga Who” still maintained his composure as ripped bars and gave the multitude reason to not only hear “Encore” but bounce to “Can I get A … (What, What).
While the hits kept coming from R and Jay-Z you could tell the tension or maybe lack of strong collaborative chemistry lacks. It could have been Kells reported 2 1/2-hour delay to the venue. Or it could have been anxiety of finally pulling off history. In the finale of the evening “Fiesta” (Remix) Kells record he went backstage while Jay-Z rapped on stage. Talk about a weird ending to an interesting night of two mammoth talents who defined and defied a lot of obstacles to still show you why they are at the top of their game. On October 26th, you will see The Best Of Both Worlds: Unfinished Business fit its Title as Kings Of Hip-hop and R&B add on to the 1.6 million grossed in the two Chicago shows alone. If there was a winner the crowd was split during different times at the night. While Jay-Z smooth class combined with R. Kelly soulful flash made for show worth the admission.
1 The Return
2 Big Chips
3 We Got Em Goin' (ft. Memphis Bleek)
4 She's Coming Home With Me
5 Feelin' You In Stereo
6 Stop (ft. Foxy Brown)
7 Mo' Money (ft. Twista)
8 Pretty Girls