Gig review: Jay-Z @ Manchester Phones4U Arena… he’s got 99 problems but stage presence isn’t one

By Marios Papaloizou

There is little doubting that a new era of hip-hop has dawned over the past few years.

The emergence of a new crop of bright young talents that have brought fresh beats and flows to the genre means that if the megastars who inspired them want to keep up then they really have to bring something amazing to the table.

As Jay-Z took to Manchester’s Phones 4U arena stage last night the Brooklyn rapper had to deliver something extraordinary in order to show that the ‘old dogs’ still have a few new tricks.

Accompanied by renowned producer Timbaland, the rapper wove his way through old and new material for two breathless hours and showed that the new-school can still learn a thing or two from seasoned vets.

While the first half stuttered slightly as the 43-year-old paused for breath on multiple occasions a brief Timbaland interlude allowed ‘Jigga’ to depart and re-emerge invigorated.

The barrage of hits that followed was an embarrassment of riches and, while the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and A$AP Rocky might be the artists on the forefront of hip-hop’s development this was a reminder that there is a long way to go before legendary status can be achieved.

There was a great atmosphere all night but as soon Big Pimpin’s infamous beat dropped the party really started.

‘Niggas in Paris’ and ’99 Problems’ had the arena bouncing and the veteran rapper let everyone know that his talent has not diminished with time as the beats faded and he launched into a-capella MC’ing that showed the type of flow that was so prevalent in his earliest work.

With the giant screens that adorned each side of the stage fluttering between the rapper’s performance in CCTV style and images of surveillance there was a clear contemporary feel to proceedings.

Jay-Z didn’t exactly show any new tricks last night as opposed to highlighting that his old style can still throw a crowd into frenzy.

And, while his performance was mezmerizing, whether his music can challenge the ingenuity of the new breed of rough, ready, and hungry stars is a different question entirely. 

With performances like last night Jay-Z can be sure that his legacy will continue to be cemented however, what is becoming increasibly apparent is that the current kings of the game are under a serious threat to stay relevant in the midst of a revolution. 

Image courtesy of Jay-Z’s Life and Times via YouTube, with thanks.

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