Jay-Z often speaks about the importance of creating major events in hip-hop. In order to move the culture forward, he contends, there have to be moments that will galvanize hip-hop fans and spark the interest of those outside of the community.
Mr. Carter’s collaboration with Kanye West is the biggest moment in hip-hop in 2011.
The Watch The Throne tour kicked off at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Oct. 28. In spite of a steady downpour of rain that caused chaotic traffic, thousands of fans filled the arena wearing their best outfits and having high expectations.
The show started around 9 p.m. Jay-Z and Kanye West were elevated on two separated stages that featured large plasma screens that displayed various images, including barking rottweilers and tigers. Kanye West began rapping the opening verse of “H.A.M.” as the capacity crowd went into a frenzy. However, due to a problem with his earpiece, Jay-Z could not hear the music and began rapping his verse off-key. His timing remained off during “Who Gon Stop Me.” He finally told the sound engineers to cut the music off so that he could finished his verse a cappella.
Both stages retracted and Jay-Z joined Kanye West on the main stage to perform “Otis” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Jay-Z continued to appear uneasy until he went into his solo hits, “Where I’m From” and “The Originator.” Kanye West did a better job of keeping the crowd’s energy high during the first half of the show. When it comes to performing, Kanye West doesn’t mind losing his inhibitions. After performing “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” West danced across the stage as if he had caught the Holy Ghost during “Jesus Walks.”
He also pushed urban fashion boundaries by wearing a leather kilt over tight pants and Air Yeezys.
Jay-Z finally found his comfort zone as he performed “You Don’t Know,” “Monster” and “Run This Town.” After a lethargic response from the crowd during “Murder Excellence,” Jay-Z signaled for sound engineers to cut the music again. The show resumed after Jay-Z and Kanye West sat down at the edge of the stage to do “New Day” and “Hard Knock Life.”
West ushered a return to the party vibe with “Good Life” and Jay-Z brought the big city down south with “Empire State of Mind.” The women in the crowd took the opportunity to fill in for Alicia Keys’ engaging hook.
West returned to the alternate stage located in the center of the crowd and performed “Runaway.” He also deviated from the script and took the time to speak passionately about love and stressed the importance of making a relationship work. It was a signature “Kanye” moment.
Afterward, the two joined at the main stage and ran through a slew of hits, including “Big Pimpin,’” “Gold Diggers,” and “99 Problems.”
However, the crowd’s most anticipated song was “N—s In Paris.” The production on that track is so addictive that Jay-Z and Kanye West could have allowed the instrumental to play and the fans would have still lost control.
The two left the stage briefly only to return and do “Encore.”
Jay-Z brought perspective to the show by speaking about the humble beginnings that he and West experienced as youth in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Chicago, respectively. A video montage of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. played on the gigantic plasma screens as the two performed “Made it in America.”
With this being the opening night of the 24-city tour, a few mistakes were bound to happen. But overall, Jay-Z and Kanye West gave fans an amazing show that lasted well over two hours.
It’s a work in progress that will be perfected in the upcoming weeks.–amir shaw
Photos by: Joi Pearson