“Make some noise for everyone who lost their lives so we could live ours.”- Jay-Z
Last Friday night, I got to witness one of the greatest moments in New York—and hip hop—history. Everything about Jay-Z’s benefit concert dedicated to the lives lost on 9/11 was epic. A week later, I’m still processing that I got to see it first hand.
Rewind to last Wednesday: I was perfectly content on watching “Jay-Z: Answer The Call” on FUSE with a friend and some takeout. Tickets sold out in ten minutes, and I didn’t have thousands of dollars to buy some on Stubhub. But thanks to my job (and awesome boss) I was able to snag tickets. I’ve attended tons of shows at MSG, ever since my *NSYNC days when my parents would let me camp out for tickets. But a ton of screaming teen girls had nothing on the crowd so electrified when Jay-Z took the stage. From the very first row to the nosebleed section, everyone was screaming, rapping, rocking out, or some variation of all three, unified in a love for New York and Jay-Z, two of the world’s greatest wonders.
As soon as we rose for the Jimi Hendrix style version of the “National Anthem,” we were pretty much at mach speed until the house lights came on. Jay-Z was both the King returning to his home, and the son paying homage to his hometown. The sets were visually stunning masterpieces of New York City. A full night skyline lit up the stage during “Empire State of Mind.” A replica of stereo, keyboards, and studio equipment that makes up the cover of the Blueprint 3 album served as stellar backdrop for the Santigold and Kid Cudi collaborations, “Brooklyn We Go Hard” and “Already Home.”
The amount of musical guests that took the stage only excited the crowd further. Rihanna and Kanye West (pre-VMA tantrum) threw up star studded diamonds on “Run This Town.” John Mayer’s guitar medley created a rock- hip hop hybrid that made the crowd’s screaming deafening. The audience was even treated to an all-too-brief Beyonce performance. Accompanied by two dancers and a diva fan, Jay-Z stepped aside as Mrs. Carter shook and shimmied on a million inches heels.
My favorite moment was when Mary J. Blige joined Jay-Z for a rendition of “Can’t Knock the Hustle.” There’s something about seeing two people that you grew up listening to, now legends in their own right, perform a song that inspired not only you, but everyone around you. Two native New Yorkers, who grew up in the city’s toughest neighborhoods and overcame some of life’s hardest struggles, are now legends who sold MSG in honor of their hometown. And as a girl from Queens, to sit and watch it all from the suite was both inspiring and humbling.
A moment of silence amidst all the excitement reminded us of the events that changed our world 8 years ago. As Jay-Z performed “Young Forever,” a stream of images reminded us of every wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son, and friend we lost on 9/11. Most importantly, it reminded us why to continue to live and celebrate their lives. They make up of a patch quilt that we’ll always carry with us.
Yesterday, Jay-Z became the best-selling solo artist in history, dethroning Elvis. The title is well deserved. I’ll never forget the magic Jay-Z created on the eighth anniversary.
September 11, 2001 was a day that aimed to break us. On September 11, 2008, hip hop showed its ability to heal.