Jay Z - Honda Center - December 6, 2013
Even at this stage in his career, Jay Z still wants us to remember that he isn't too rich to empathize with your regular-ass problems. Standing triumphantly after his third sweaty shirt swap of the night (this time, he was wearing a hoodie with the name of Jean Michele Basquiat on it), he thanked the packed arena for showing up and pointed out several of the 99 problems you could've encountered on Friday just getting ready for his show--filling up the gas tank, hiring a baby sitter, shelling out for a brand new outfit, etc.
It was a welcomed gesture, even for a guy who'd literally just been nominated for nine Grammys for his latest effort, Magna Carta...Holy Grail, arguably his most opulent album to date, with lyrics that flaunt enough celebrity-level problems, highbrow art, and pomposity to outshine Watch the Throne. Though it got generally mixed reviews from critics, Magna Carta went double platinum and definitely left its signature on hip-hop this year. People still want to hear what Hov has to say, even if they can't always relate--whether it's a song about selling crack or being able to afford a Picasso hanging over their fireplace. When it comes down to it, we just wanna see him be great.
He obliged us from the opening lines of his "F.U.T.W." intro to kick off the set that bled into classic Blueprint banger "U Don't Know."
"I have a feeling it's gonna be a special night in California," he shouted, rocking a backwards Brooklyn cap, Magna Carta shirt, black boots and gold chains. You could say he was already having a special night thanks to all those Grammy nods, but it must've felt even sweeter as he basked in the crowd's a capella howling of the Justin Timberlake hook to the summer hit "Holy Grail" that rained over the house speakers.
The set up on stage was relatively stripped down compared to early shows from his homies Drake and JT, who've both been though the Honda Center recently, not to mention Kanye West's rescheduled Yeezus monstrosity coming through Anaheim on Friday. Even without pyro, levitating stages or back up dancers, the trap claps of "Fuckwitmeuknowigotit" or the scorching guitar and bombastic "99 Problems" hit hard all on their own as columns of grimy TV static and epileptic flashes illuminated the audience from behind Hov's band.
The rich man's fantasy he paints so vividly on "Picasso Baby" incited waves of hands in the air from the first note of the soggy synth line dripping with swag. A couple times the momentum of Magna Carta's bluster was slowed down by the contemplative street tales of "Dead President's II" (finally, something from Reasonable Doubt!) and the Frank Ocean-assisted Watch the Throne track "No Church in the Wild."