Projected onto a screen behind a mid-rhyme Jay-Z, the image of an utterly confused George W. Bush stared at the Kennedy Center crowd in the nation’s capital Friday night. The audience booed, then quieted, as Jay spit his verse from “Minority Report” a capella: “People was poor before the hurricane came/But the downpour poured like when Mary J. sang every day it rains.”
Last month in Nigeria, Jay and Mary J. Blige performed at the first leg of ThisDay’s Africa Rising music and fashion festival, which concludes in London October 14th. Jay opened for crowd favorite Usher in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, and Blige opened for Chris Brown two nights later in Lagos. Worlds away in the grandeur of the Kennedy Center, after a stirring performance by Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and John Legend, who jumped down to join the audience while covering Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” Brooklyn’s shining superstar finally took the stage. He had already zoomed through 10 tracks including “Say Hello,” “Roc Boys,” “99 Problems,” “Is That Yo Chick?” and his verse from Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” remix, and didn’t show any signs of slowing down. “Wouldn’t you loot, if you didn’t have the loot? Baby needed food and you stuck on the roof,” Jay inquired, ending “Minority Report” pointing towards the screen where Barack Obama was beaming triumphantly. The crowd cheered louder than they had all night.
Jay then launched into “Public Service Announcement” and asked everyone to put their diamonds up. All three tiers complied. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” followed and later, a medley of verses heâ€™s lent the ladies — Estelle’s “American Boy,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” After more than an hour and some 27 songs, Jay thanked the crowd. “I don’t know if you missed one word in the whole concert,” he pointed to a group of guys down front before shouting out the fans up top. “I see you all the way in the back waving your hands and all thatâ€¦. I had a beautiful time with y’allâ€¦ do me one more favor — make some nooooise!” Jay demanded, leaning his head back like a champion declaring victory.