With a new album on the way, Jay-Z knew what the people wanted when he performed Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut: a taste of the new songs. In one of only five U.S. performances this summer, and his sole appearance in the northeast (save for a cameo at wife Beyoncé’s Madison Square Garden tour opener), rap’s biggest superstar gave them just enough to whet their appetites for The Blueprint 3, which is due in September.
Fabolous started off the show and surprise guest Lupe Fiasco stepped up for a sick Ciara with a half-hour of smart, vivid rhymes, then Jay-Z opened with the new single “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” his rhymes falling with the force of the hand grenade in the “D.O.A.” logo on his black T-shirt. After that, Jay focused on the hits, and there was no shortage. Memphis Bleek and a 10-piece band helped flesh out the songs, which ran all the way back to “Can I Live” from Jay’s 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt.
He celebrated Obama’s election with “My President’s Black,” a sly, proud grin playing at the corners of his mouth, and described his own entrepreneurial streak on “Blue Magic.” He paid tribute to Michael Jackson by rapping “Izzo (H.O.V.A)” over the Jackson 5 song “I Want You Back,” and then called for a moment of silence. “All this outpouring of love for Michael Jackson he didn’t see when he was here,” Jay-Z said. “So let’s not mourn death, let’s celebrate life.”
Along with his own hits, Jay-Z performed snippets of his contributions to other people’s songs, throwing down lyrics from his Lil Wayne/T.I. collaboration “Swagga Like Us” over a sample of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” and issuing precise rhymes from his verses on the remix of Kanye West’s “Diamonds from Sierra Leone.”
“This is my favorite joint to perform,” he declared.
He finished his 50-minute main set with “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” then sauntered offstage, but not for long. Jay-Z quickly returned for another 20 minutes of music, starting with the introduction to The Blueprint 3. He performed a cappella, speeding up and slowing down his delivery with the cadence of a sermon as he asked, “We talking about fiction, or we talking about fact?” He stumbled for a moment on the lyrics, but recovered and finished the song to thunderous applause.
At the end of his last number, “Encore,” Jay-Z called for the house lights and spent a few minutes pointing out, and thanking, people in the crowd for their enthusiasm.
“D.O.A (Death of Auto-Tune)”
“Show Me What You Got”
“U Don’t Know”
“My President’s Black”
“Public Service Announcement” (Interlude)
“Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (Remix)
“Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)”
“Can I Live”
“Swagga Like Us”
“Jigga My Nigga”
“Can I Get A…”
“Dirt Off Your Shoulder”
“Blueprint 3 Freestyle”
“La, La, La (Excuse Me Again)”
“Where I’m From”
“You, Me, Him & Her”
“I Just Wanna Love You (Give It to Me)”
“Hard Knock Life”