OK, that's a lie. I'm irrational about many things... but the Chicago Bulls and Justin Timberlake sit atop the list. Shamelessly, I'm a fanboy of both subjects.
So naturally, with the latter coming into town this past Monday night alongside the "Mike Jordan of recordin'" for the Legends of the Summer Tour, I entered Soldier Field almost as hyped as I'd be attending a 7th Bulls’ championship rally at Grant Park.
No, the nearly 3 hour set could never equal the euphoria I'd expect to experience from another NBA title in Chicago, but the concert did deliver the type of end-to-end entertainment like Derrick Rose on a fast break. The energetic, non-stop playlist served as a detriment only to concertgoers who hoped to relieve their bladders or rest their legs between 9PM and midnight.
Outside Soldier Field before the show
With no opening act, Jay Z and JT kicked off the show by sharing the stage on "Holy Grail" - the lead track and collaborative effort from the rapper's most recent album. With Timberlake on vocals, the song's minute plus intro generated a type of sing-a-long suspense and excitement that culminated in a massive uproar when the Timbaland-produced beat dropped and Hova spat his first bar. The opening number paved the way for the sellout crowd of over 50,000 to enjoy hit after hit, sometimes masterfully intertwined, from both artists backed by a 14 piece band.
Any concerns that the current faces of hip-hop and R&B couldn't coexist on stage without appearing contrived or disjointed were easily dismissed. Timberlake displayed the full repertoire just on Jay Z singles alone. When the Memphis singer wasn't delivering hooks on "I Just Wanna Luv U" or "Excuse Me Miss," he was playing the guitar on "99 Problems" and the piano on "Ain't No Love (Heart of the City)." Timberlake’s own collection of wide-ranging records not only affirmed his versatility as a musician, but also cemented his status as one of this generation’s most transcendent entertainers. Fans were treated to nearly every JT hit – from the relatively new & soulful “Pusher Love Girl” to the upbeat & funky “LoveStoned” to the scathing, but classic “Cry Me A River.” Expectedly, it was Timberlake’s current radio jam “Mirrors” that resonated strongest with the crowd.
Inside Soldier Field during the show
The show had the feel of a JT concert, but had the aesthetic of a Jay Z production – stripped of any theatrics and choreographed routines, save for the mesmerizing light fixtures and a brief dance-break during “My Love.” Timberlake had more of a presence throughout the night than his hip-hop counterpart, who seemed to ad-lib his way on only one song void of rap, but that's not to say the Brooklyn native didn't command the stage when he performed solo.
Despite minimal movement relative to JT's perpetual activity, Jay Z was just as engaging on the microphone with such fan favorites as "Public Service Announcement," "N***** In Paris," and "Clique." Strategically, Hova performed the most familiar pieces of his catalog to the predominantly mainstream audience. The only potentially awkward moment of the night came when Chicago fans weren't very receptive to Timberlake's acapella rendition of "New York New York," which was meant to segue into Jay Z's "Empire State of the Mind." Regardless, the song still went on without a hitch, ultimately drawing fans’ enthusiastic participation on the famous Alicia Keys-driven chorus.
Before & After (photo by: Teddy Waffles)
The dynamic duo was impressive not just for their respective charismas, but also in light of the balance and pace maintained throughout the evening.During a stretch where Jay Z and JT alternated acts, the transitions were natural and seamless, thanks in part to the aforementioned band. The pair of pop icons effectively avoided a vibe of “dueling banjos” and consistently complemented the other.While there is an obvious overlap in the 2013 versions of these self-proclaimed legends, it’s fascinating and even funny to remember that this was ultimately a partnership between a drug dealer turned mogul and alumni of the Mickey Mouse Club/*NSync.JT and Jay Z successfully suppressed this dichotomy between their backgrounds and genres with a live show that lived up to its legendary billing.
Now if only the Bulls could fullfill my (irrational) expectations this season…
Looks like Jay will be able to add another tally to his now 12 albums that have gone platinum very soon. Billboard announced today that after last week's sales performance in stores, "Magna Carta Holy Grail" will enter the charts at number 1 and be certified Gold, meaning 500,000 albums sold.
"Magna Carta" had been causing quite a stir since it was announced about a month ago, due to its unusual method of release, with Samsung buying 1 million copies of the album to be distributed to owner's of their Galaxy smartphones. The RIAA changed the way it tabulates record sales because of this revelation.
With this 12th number 1 debut, Hova holds onto his bragging rights as being the only artist to have 12 number 1 albums. And in case you doubted his power, all of his albums, except "Magna Carta" (for now) have gone platinum, meaning over 1 million copies shipped. Jay-Z has accomplished a rare feat in being an aging performer who is still a sales juggernaut.
This is clever. Illustrator Ali Graham has illustrated one of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" each day with a new post on his tumblr page linked above — all inspired by lyrics from Hov's whole career, through his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail.
I picked out 15 of my favorites above, with 42 total released so far. I hit the Follow button so I don't miss any future "problem", which I assume will keep going til #99 (and I assume a "b*tch" will not be a problem, ha). Love the characters and cameos from everyone from Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Rick Rubin to Superman and Ronald McDonald. More magnificent, minimalist design. Props, Ali Graham!
Head over to Pitchfork to read an interview with Ari Marcopoulos, the photographer who took the cover photo for Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail." He is an accomplished photographer of many hip-hop legends, having come from Britain to New York in 1979 as rap was beginning to be created in the streets of the Bronx and Queens. He befriended numerous artists simply through letting them know how much their music resonated with him, and just like that, he got exclusive access to take some stellar pictures.
Marcopoulos also discusses working with Jay-Z on the album's imagery. Apparently, Jay simply sat down with Marcopoulos one day and discussed what the album's lyrical content was about, as well as rapping the entire CD to him a capella. From that, the photographer went out into the city to shoot what he felt symbolized the album best.
"...this felt more like a commission, a true collaboration," says Marcopoulos. "He wasn’t overbearing. I wasn't just filling in the squares. It was one artist asking another artist to help him, to create something for him."
Check out Marcopoulos's Tumblr here for more cool photos of artists and seemingly random people on the street.
Earl Sweatshirt took to Twitter today to lambast Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail" and all those who like it, even.
"If you really fucked with magna carta then unfollow me," the Odd Future star tweeted earlier, the first of a string of tweets directed at the latest album by Jay-Z and anyone who claims to be a fan of it. He continued to poke fun at himself by saying "welp there goes the last of the black fans I had."
It's understandable to have strong opinions on "Magna Carta," given the fact that it was enormously hyped in a short period of time and proved to be unprecedented in terms of its release strategy, but I think it's safe to assume Earl is mostly joking. I mean, I don't think it was amazing either, but I'm not trying to alienate any of my friends who do like it. To each his own, I suppose.
Though he failed to beat out Kanye West in initial sales, J. Cole has finally claimed the top spot after 3 weeks on the Billboard charts. Cole's album Born Sinner secured the number one spot with 58,000 sold, edging out Yeezus at 40,000, a 39% drop for Mr. West.
In terms of total sales, Cole also beats out Kanye with 439,000 sold for Born Sinner to 431,000 for Yeezus. Cole is lucky to have taken over the charts when he did, as Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail will likely hold the top spot next week.
Welp, it's official. $1 million in sales as the campaign with Samsung is now deemed certifiable with the RIAA. Here's the photo proof.
Plus, Jay-Z sat down with Angie Martinez on Hot97 today. Here are some of the best quotes from the engaging interview, as curated by VIBE.
On the RIAA changing their rules for Magna Carta Holy Grail:
"If you did 500,000 digital, 200 thousand, whatever the metrics is, they should certify what's digital. It should've been happening. I was just the agent of change."
On unveiling his Magna Carta Holy Grail artwork at Salisbury Cathedral:
"That wasn't easy."
On whether he's surprised about moves he pulls off:
"It's a bit of business acumen and it's a bit of believing I can and not being afraid to fail. That holds a lot of people back, that fear of failure."
On whether he hates failing:
"I'm a person that loves winning. [But] I don't hate to lose. That's a different personality trait. Some people hate to lose and that drives them."
On being a father:
"[It's] just more reaffirming the things that's really important in life and editing your life in such a way that you don't have anything that's distracting you. Anything that's taking away from that time you should be with your child."
On growing up with both parents:
"They were together my early years, till I was 9 or something. That's what made it worse—'cause I knew. Some people don't even get to feel that sort of love at all so you can't miss what you don't have. It's still this empty feeling. There's more of an empty feeling having it then having it taken away from you."
The first week sales projections are in for Magna Carta Holy Grail. With the pre-orders and demands, industry sources are projecting 350-400K sold, according to HHNM. Plus, with the newly-altered RIAA rule, the 1 million that Samsung copped for the July 4th release may count. Whatever the case, it looks like Hov's walkin' away with his 13th #1 album, which would be second only to The Beatles. Wow.
Above, the booklet, liner notes, and production credits were all released too. Below is the latter, transcribed in full.
1. Holy Grail (feat. Justin Timberlake) [S. Carter, Justin Timberlake, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, T. Mosley, J. Harmon, E.] [Sample Credits:Contains elements of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (K. Cobain/D. Grohl/K.Novoselic), published by EMI Virgin Songs, Inc. (BMI)/Primary Wave Tunes (BMI)/The End of Music (BMI)/MJ Twelve Mu]
2. Picasso Baby [S. Carter, T. Mosley, J. Harmon, A. Younge] [Sample Credits: "Sirens" performed by Adrian Younge. used courtesy of Wax Poetics Records. Written by A. Younge, published by Linear Labs (ASCAP)
Produced by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc.]
3. F.U.T.W. [Produced by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc. and Jerome "Jroc" Harmon for Bronze and Brainz Productions/Timbaland Productions, Inc. Recorded by Chris Godbey for Side by Side/JVU Ent. and Dem]
4. SomewhereInAmerica [S. Carter, C. Hollis, C. Camper, M. Dean] [Sample Credits: Embodies portions of "Gangster of Love (Part 1)" written by Johnny Guitar Watson, published by Songs of Universal, Inc. o/b/o Virjon LLC d/b/a Booty Ooty Music (BMI) Sample recreation]
5. Crown [S. Carter, J. Webster, K. Bennett, M. Dean, M. Collins, B. Dixon] [Sample Credits: Use of "Solid As A Rock" performed by Sizzla, courtesy of VP Music Group, Inc. Embodies portions of "Solid As A Rock" written by K. Bennett, M. Collins, published by Universal PolyGra]
6. Heaven [S. Carter, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Justin Timberlake, T. Mosley, J. Harmon, W.] [Sample Credits: "Reverie" performed by Adrian Younge, used courtesy of Wax Poetics Records. Written by A. Younge, published by Linear Labs. Contains elements of "Losing My Religion" (Berry/Buck/Mills]
7. Versus [S. Carter, K. Dean, J. Davis, T. Mosley, J. Harmon, F. Hubbard, M. Jones, M. Ta] [Sample Credits: Embodies portions of "Sucka Nigga," written by Ali Shaheed Jones-Muhammad, Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, Malik Izaak Taylor and Freddie Hubbard, published by Universal Music-Z Tunes LLC]
8. Beach Is Better [Produced by Mike WiLL- Made It for Eardrummers Entertainment LLC Co-Produced by Marz for Eardrummers Entertainment LLC Recorded by Chris Godbey for Side By Side/JVU Ent. at Jungle City Studios, NYC]
9. BBC (Feat. Nas, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz & Timbaland) [Produced by Pharrell Williams Recorded by Chris Godbey for Side By Side/JVU Ent. and Demacio "Demo" Castelllon at Oven Studios, NYC Assistant Recording Engineer: Ramon Rivas]
10. 14. Jay-Z Blue [S. Carter, J. Harmon, C. Broady, T. Mosley, Justin Timberlake, S. Combs, D. McD] [Sample Credits: Features samples from The Notorious B.I.G. recording "My Downfall." Produced under license from Atlantic Recordings Corp. by arrangement with Rhino Entertainment Company, a Warner Mus]
11. La Familia [Produced by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc. and Jerome "Jroc" Harmon for Bronze and Brainz Productions/Timbaland Productions, Inc. Recorded by Demacio "Demo" Castellon at Oven Studios, NYC]
12. Nickels & Dimes [S. Carter, K. Joshua, M. Dean, S. Valentine] [Sample Credits: Sample of "Nikels And Dimes" performed by Gonjasufi, used courtesy of Warp Records. Written by S. Valentine, published by Warp Music Limited (ASCAP) Produced by Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshu]
13. Oceans (Feat. Frank Ocean) [Produced by Pharrell Williams Additional production by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc. Recorded by Jordan "DJ Swivel" Young at Jungle City Studios, NYC Additional recording by Ramon Rivas]
14. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt (Feat. Rick Ross) [Produced by Boi 1da for 1da Boi Productions and Vinylz for Vinylz Music Group Additional production by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc. Recorded by Chris Godbey for Side by Side/JVU Ent. and Demacio "Demo" Castellon at Jungle City Studios, NYC]
15. Tom Ford [Produced by Timbaland for Timbaland Production, Inc. and Jerome "Jroc" Harmon for Bronze and Brainz Productions/Timbaland Productions, Inc. Recorded by Chris Godbey for Side by Side/JVU Ent. and Dema]
16. Part II (On The Run) (Feat. Beyonce) [Produced by Timbaland for Timbaland Productions, Inc. and Jerome"Jroc" Harmon for Bronze and Brainze Productions/TimbalandProductions, Inc. Recorded by Demacio "Demo" Castellon at Oven Studios, NYC]
(Use the left and right arrows to view more tweets)
Hov has decided to conduct a live Q&A that's going on a couple hours now at posting time. This is noteworthy considering Jay-Z's lack of tweeting altogether, a mix of fun questions and #MagnaCarta questions are answered, and he cites the legendary Mark Madsen dance. Needless to say, it's all been entertaining.
Keep it locked here as we curate some of the best and most interesting questions and answers and follow Hov at @S_C_ — he's still going. (And if you thought about it, Billboards' William Gruger confirms Jay-Z's account has not been hacked.)
NOW UPDATED through 6:09p CT. Hov is done tweeting for the day, ha!
The musical update stems from one of the questions seen above. Jay was asked about "Dead Presidents 3" and he responded giving Twitter permission to Young Guru and Just Blaze to release the track. Soon after, voila!
Just one of the many reasons to be refreshing Hov's Twitter today. Be sure to click all the arrows above to see my favorite tweets from Jay-Z.
The Dream reveals to Revolt that the body of Magna Carta Holy Grail only took two weeks to complete. "The body, the significant part of the album? Two weeks of work. Easily," explains The Dream.
When confronted with the question of how he helped in possibly making the best Jay-Z album yet, he replied, "Energy, don't compromise your brand, don't compromise your creativity, and just deal with somebody who understands what the culture is." Simple as that.
The Dream also said that in an era where album sales no longer reflect an artist's cultural reach, artists should follow Jay-Z's lead and partner with corporate brands. "Everybody should do that," The-Dream said. "I should be over at Mountain Dew ... Those are the new labels."