Westwood welcomes Jay-Z
Jay-Z performing in Westwood at Pauley Pavilion (November 8, 2009)
By Michell Graham
Sentinel Contributing Writer
This past Sunday (November 8, 2009) Pauley Pavilion played host to arguably this generation’s most popular musical solo act. That’s right Jay-Z came to town and played to a sold out crowd in the heart of Westwood.
N.E.R.D. led by super-producer Pharrel Williams captivated the diverse audience and set the Pauley Pavilion crowd into frenzy. The group’s magnetic presence could only get the crowd amped up for what was to come as the audience was highly anticipating Jay-Z and company.
To my surprise, N.E.R.D.’s performance was dominated with a strong rock & roll sound that I have yet to appreciate only because I am a fan of street vernacular, symbolisms and metaphors. Regardless of my personal feelings, I have to give credit where credit is due because N.E.R.D. had the Pauley Pavilion audience jumping out of their seats on a Sunday evening.
Jay Z started his set promptly at 9:15 p.m. as scheduled. He brought along cohort Memphis Bleek who first signed with Rocafella Records and Jay-Z over 10 years ago.
What was unusual for me was the 10-piece orchestra that no one would initially associate with rap music. The sterling silver instruments shined off the lights and the orchestra gave Jay-Z’s performance a grand presence.
Seeing Jay-Z on stage with a 10-piece orchestra made me feel proud for the genre of rap music. Rap has come a long way in the last 20 years and Jay-Z on stage at Pauley Pavilion proved that rap music continues to evolve to a better state.
Jay-Z played to a young college audience but surprisingly there were only about 10 percent African Americans in attendance. Those who jumped, bounced, waved and threw up the Roc symbol were mainly middle of America suburban kids.
Regardless of who was there, Jay Z carried himself with a unique professionalism and presence. 20 foot video monitors on the stage occasionally changed the background scenery to reflect the New York skyline and to video montages of his past performances.
Then came Rihanna! Her voice silenced the crowd right after they went ecstatic from her presence. There she was in all black just days after we witnessed an unapologetic interview with Diane Sawyer.
Rihanna commanded respect on stage, not only for her beauty, but with black boots she stood over 6 feet tall. The audience was in awe and fell silent as no one wanted to interrupt the beautiful song bird’s performance.
I have always felt the emergence of Jay-Z the gentleman who has taken the high road.
With a catalog of hits, I almost forgot how much of an influence he has been on the radio, hip hop music and this subculture.
What I have always respected about Jay-Z artist is that he has handled his career as a business and not a hustle. He speaks with authority almost with an uncle’s reverence.
During his set on Sunday night, Jay-Z made the announcement that he hit number one on his eleventh album, which surpasses Elvis Presley.
A part of me would like to see Jay-Z put the microphone down and move into the business world for good. I would like Jay-Z to allow some of the younger artist today a chance to evolve but in actuality I can’t say that is what is best for the craft right now. The reality is we still need Jay-Z because we still need orators who speak with a gentleman’s tone and carry a professional swagger.
The encore of the Pauley Pavilion concert was a 20 minute mix of all of Jay-Z’s contributions to music. Jay-Z didn’t shout and he didn’t need to. His performance wasn’t even laced with much profanity. What Jay-Z did was give the Westwood audience the same orator he was on the album “Reasonable Doubt.” His style is more conversational than gimmick. No bark, all bite.
Being a child of hip-hop, you have to take notice of the metaphors and the symbolism.
Who can or will take over the reign of which may very well be the undisputed King of Hip-Hop?
What we do know is that the Roc-A-Fella empire has stretched from a clothing line to the distribution of Armadale Vodka and now Roc-A-Fella films.
Jay-Z singed an unprecedented $150 million dollar Live Nation deal and he is also part owner of the New Jersey Nets professional basketball team. It’s become in his very own words “the browning of America.”
What I appreciate is that Jay-Z represents hip-hop in a positive light. He speaks with resolution and closure.
Too many times, artist’s embarrass themselves publicly only to claim that they are keeping it “real”. Whether it’s on Oprah Winfrey or Monday Night Football, Jay-Z is the consummate professional.