Where to even begin. There’s no way for me to write this review without my unwavering bias opinion, so I’m going to keep it a buck and just say it: JAY-Z is the greatest and I will meet you in the parking lot about it. How ’bout dah?
With that said, I could go on to tell you the countless reasons why; lyrical assassin, visionary, multi-platinum selling artist, author, business mogul, philanthropist, socially concious, Beyoncé’s baby daddy, etc. but that’s light work for him on a good day. Since there aren’t enough words or time that’s worthy of proper review, I will do my best to recap HOV’s Edmonton stop of his 4:44 Tour.
It’s been nearly a decade since Brooklyn’s finest graced YEG with his presence. Edmonton was one of only four Canadian stops of the North American tour and hip-hop heads from far and wide flocked to Rogers Place for this little piece of history.
Vic Mensa opened the night a tad behind schedule (because hip-hop). The Roc Nation artist performed a short set as fans trickled to their seats. Vic deserved better if you ask me, but a true artist will perform like it’s their last time whether there’s 100 people in the room or 20,000. And that’s exactly what the young MC did. While I personally am not familiar with Vic’s music, you can’t deny raw talent when you see it. There’s so much ahead for his career.
With the arena near capacity, JAY-Z in all his glory floated from underneath the octagon-shaped stage and effortlessly entered the first bars of 4:44’s “Kill JAY-Z.” I made it a point to avoid reading the official 4:44 Tour set list, which has been circulating online since the tour began, so his choice for the first song threw me off for a moment. I could feel I wasn’t the only one but that lasted for all of 30 seconds. Cut to his second song, “No Church In The Wild,” the night was on and poppin for the next 75 minutes.
Hov can command a crowd like no other. At 48 years old and 13 albums in, this man can still bring tens of thousands together no matter their gender, race, or religion. You look into that crowd – not a single person was sitting in their seat. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) was either dancing, drinking, smoking, crying, losing their shit or all of the above. For the entire night. Only a handful of MCs can make you feel their music that way and JAY-Z is at the top of the list. Keep in mind, this is blue collar Alberta we’re talking about. I haven’t seen unity like this since McDavid was drafted.
Jay continued to read us our rights with “Lucifer,” “D’Evils,” “Heart of The City,” “F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” and “Run This Town” leading up to his most vulnerable moment of night with “4:44.” “This is the hardest song I’ve ever written,” he addressed the crowd before baring his soul about his infidelities.
While I can appreciate a man baring his entire truth in front of 20,000 people, we came here for a party, and that’s exactly what Hov delivered for the rest of the night. “Bam,” “PSA,” “99 Problems,” “U Don’t Know,” “Big Pimpin” and so much more rang off so hard it was unbelievable.
He paused and expressed his support for Colin Kaepernick and the Take A Knee movement, “It’s no disrespect to the flag, it’s about injustice.” His words were received with loud cheers and raised fists. It’s comforting to see that Edmonton is on the right side of history, but I’ll save my political tangent for another day.
“Empire State of Mind” was another sure highlight of the night. The Top 40 friendly hit can never go wrong, even for the hardest of hip-hop purists. Jay, then adorably bopped to Blue Ivy’s Freestyle. Sadly his daughter did not make an appearance, but I personally had no problems rapping vicariously through her, “I ain’t never seen a ceiling in my whole life!”
“Give it up for the God, Blue!” Jay echoed. I could have melted right then and there.
I would love to dissect his immaculate set list, but again, there’s not enough time to do it justice. If you thought “4:44” was an emotional moment, then get your tissues out for this one: Jay closed the night with a tribute to the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), with the iconic “Numb/Encore” collaboration.
“There’s no such thing as darkness, only absence of light. So if you find yourself in a dark place, surround yourself around positive people who uplift you.”
It was a phenomenal way to end a seamlessly perfect night. JAY-Z is the truth and that light to so many of us and you could feel it with every fibre in that arena. What more can I say? So this is where I’ll leave it.
Written by Rosa Jason for HipHopCanada
Photography by Tyler Johnstone for HipHopCanada