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Jiggaman to rock R.O.C.

Rapper Jay-Z brings Global Express World Tour to Taipei Dome

Jiggaman to rock R.O.C.
Rapper Jay-Z acknowledges the crowd 
during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, Pennsyvania in July 2005.

Rapper Jay-Z acknowledges the crowd during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, Pennsyvania in July 2005.

Rappers, much like boxers are not very good at retiring. Heavyweights, who have always best captured the public's imagination, are perhaps the least wont to accept when their time has come.
Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, who will play Taipei Dome tomorrow night is no punch-drunk pugilist in danger of doing himself permanent harm. However, having assured his legions of fans that 2003's "The Black Album" would mark the denouement of an incredible rags-to-riches tale, the Jiggaman couldn't resist another bid to show he is still the undisputed champ or, at the very least, that he owns a version of the belt; much like returning fighters, he probably looked at the current 'competition' and reflected: "I can still deal with these mugs."
Realistically, the only way the reception to his comeback album "Kingdom Come" - his ninth solo studio recording, which is slated for release next month - can affect him now is by wounding his pride. Even then it wouldn't be much of a blow. And if the response to the lead single "Show Me What You Got," which was controversially leaked on the Internet earlier this month, is anything to go by, well then, as the man himself puts it, you really can't knock the hustle.
With an estimated worth of about US$350 million, the five-time Grammy winner certainly doesn't have any pecuniary problems. A great deal of the massive respect he has got from peers and fans comes from how he approached his career from the start. Aspiring rappers look at him as a paradigm for what can be achieved with talent, determination and a lot of hard work.
Born in Brooklyn - a fact which he trumpeted on "Brooklyn's finest," a brilliant tag-team effort with the late great Notorious B.I.G. on his critically acclaimed debut "Reasonable Doubt" - a young Shawn Carter was initially known around his way as "Jazzy," a name he took from an early mentor Jaz-O, (also known as Big Jaz or The Jaz). A competent but relatively unsuccessful rapper, what Jaz did have was a record deal, so he was able to give his younger charge an idea of the basic industry ins and outs as well as a couple of starts on recordings in the late '80s and '90s. The fledgling emcee also contributed to an album by a group called Original Flavor, having been drafted by its producer Damon Dash who was well aware that the outfit needed some bolstering in the vocals department.
Dash - himself now also something of an industry mogul - and Jay Z's relationship was to become crucial to the rapper's development and, with another neighborhood pal, they took the bold step of founding their own indie label Roc-A-Fella records, securing a distribution deal with Priority (and later Def Jam). Jay-Z was ambitious, entrepreneurial and a leader from the get go, and this, more than anything is what has led to him being seen as a "Rap President" (Rakim's case for Eric B notwithstanding) with him once referring to himself as "The U.N. of this shit."
Still, Jay Z told Taiwan's Patty Hou in a recent interview on local TV that he leaves the compartmentalizing to "you guys," that his music had always been beyond hip-hop and that he was just as likely to stick on a CD by pop-rockers like Coldplay or Linkin Park, as some Biggie or Tupac. OK, most rappers do say that kind of stuff these days (It's funny how the exponents of what was a 'subculture' music, itself once the recipient of such patronizing seals of approval, are in such a position now) but his collaboration with the latter artists on the mash ups album "Collision Course" in 2004 showed he could be successful and make above average pop music in a fusion of genres. The album hit the top of the charts in the U.S. and went double platinum. Coldplay's Chris Martin has also reportedly produced a single on "Kingdom Come."
Jay Z's success has been built on an ability to straddle the underground/pop divide and despite cries of "sellout" as early as his second album "In My Lifetime: Vol. 1 (well it was produced by Diddy, as he's now calling himself) in 1997, he has never really lost the respect of hardcore fans: it's pretty hard to find any hip-hop fan who would dismiss the Jiggaman. "Hard Knock Life" (basically the guttersnipe's lament from Annie with some rap verses thrown in) from his third album of the same name established his credentials with a catchy pop hook. The album, which was released in 1998, proved his most successful to date, selling eight million worldwide, with a large portion of the production representing Kanye West's first major work. The following year, despite its obviously adult themes, "Big Pimpin'," from "Vol. 3 ... Life and Times of Shawn Carter," was a top ten hit in the U.S. on the back of a distinctive Hype Williams video.
By the turn of the millennium, Jay Z and Dash were developing other artists such as Memphis Bleek and, while it was released as Jay Z's fifth album, "The Dynasty: Roc La Familia," was primarily a showcase for the talent in his stable. Then, in 2001, having got his fair share of stick for his forays into pop, he really left his critics gobsmacked with "The Blueprint" which tellingly featured only one guest appearance, suitably from one of the few rappers worthy of being called a peer: Eminem.
Along with "Reasonable Doubt," the album is usually cited as his best work. It came with the requisite pop hit "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" (his nickname Jayhova is said to come from an almost 'divine' ability to compose and store all his lyrics in his head, rather than on a pad - the mortal emcee's best friend), and a bitter diss of his fellow New Yorker Nas, who many saw as his only credible challenger at the time, on "Takeover." Arguments remained over who was top dog, especially after Nas' response on "Ether," with many supporting the Illmatic one's poetic wordplay over Jigga's flow, but few could dispute who was the more successful. At any rate, the two eventually buried their feud publicly and Jay-Z even signed Nas to Def Jam in 2005.
"The Blueprint" was followed by an excellent live set for the "MTV Unplugged" series on which Jay Z was backed by the Roots, while "The Best of Both Worlds," an album with R. Kelly arrived the following year. In 2003 he released "The Blueprint: The Gift & The Curse," an ambitious double album, which, though it suffered from too much deadwood, delivered hits like "03 Bonnie and Clyde," featuring his partner of four years Beyonce Knowles (a favor he returned later in the year on "Crazy In Love," the lead single from her album "Dangerously In Love," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart for a whopping eight weeks).
Then came the supposed last hurrah in 2004. The "Black Album" was supported by a 'retirement' concert but, more interestingly than the hullabaloo surrounding all that, was DJ Dangermouse's quirky internet bootleg mashup "The Gray Album," which employed the instrumentals from the eponymous Beatles album (commonly called "The White Album") as backing tracks for Jigga's verses. Meanwhile, that same year Jay Z achieved what pretty much no other rapper has when he was made the CEO of Def Jam, the defining hip-hop label set up by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin twenty years earlier. As part of the deal Roc-A-Fella was sold to Def Jam, which reportedly involved some ill-feeling with Dash, though he is still responsible for some of Roc-A-Fella's old roster under a joint deal with Def Jam.
Jay Z's Rocawear label has also been very successful and there are plenty of nightmarket specials (Diddy's Sean John label and Wu Tang's Wu Wear have also been remarkably popular with counterfeiters and it's amusing to see the types of people you can spot sporting these garments) as well as genuine articles to be seen around Taiwan. Roc-A-Fella also distributes a vodka from Scotland (of all places) in the U.S. and Jay-Z is the first non-athlete to have his own sneaker models with Rebook: "The S. Carter Collection," which has proved the company's fastest-selling line.
An avid sports fan, Jigga has opened the elite-clientele 40/40 Club chain, which he plans to extend, perhaps even to Asia. In the interview with Patty Ho we got a view of the sumptuous barroom of the original New York branch, which is adorned with the shirts of sports stars, from David Beckham to A.I . Jay Z has more than a passing interest in basketball as part owner of the New Jersey Nets (unsurprisingly he's behind principal owner Bruce Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Nets Arena, the plan to bring major league sports back to his hometown) and, according to the British tabloid the Daily Mirror (which tactfully noted that the rapper was after "a piece of Arse") he was even interested in investing in the English Premier League club Arsenal having had similar advances rebuffed by Roman Abramovich the boss of EPL champion Chelsea. Apparently he has met the Gunners' French striker Thierry Henry and thought he was "really cool."
Tomorrow's performance is part of the seven-week Global Express World Tour, which has seen Jay Z promoting "Water For Life," a joint initiative between MTV and the U.N., to highlight water crises across the world. Interestingly, he was to perform in Shanghai on Monday but China's Culture Ministry canceled earlier this month with the promoter saying, "Some of Jay Z's songs contain too much vulgar language." You're not kidding; the party officials were particularly slow on the uptake there. Perhaps they were not best pleased with some of the tracks on which Jigga refers to the Roc-A-Fella Dynasty by one his many pet names for it: The R.O.C.
It's great that we will finally have a major hip hop artist playing a decent venue in Taipei, though the ticket prices are inevitably a little steep. Unfortunately, once again there will be no media contact and this, and the fact that he will be flying in and out at break-neck speed, does not bode well. Still, fingers crossed that there aren't swaths of empty stadium and that Jay Z gives the city the performance it has been waiting for.
Jay-Z will perform at the Taipei Dome on October 21. Tickets range from NT$800 to NT$3,500 and are available through the ERA ticketing system, www.ticket.com.tw.


Updated : 2021-10-19 05:27 GMT+08:00