It’s a well-documented fact that, generally, white people plus hip-hop equals ridicule. While it may be true that Eminem is one of the foremost stars of the scene, on the whole it’s fair to say that the two shouldn’t really mix. If we learned anything from Vanilla Ice, surely that was it*.
Against this background, it seemed that Jay-Z and Kanye West’s stint at the O2 was going to tread somewhat of a tightrope. At £68 per standing ticket (including a booking fee that exceeded the face value of a ticket to see Moonface at Cargo next week – Thanks O2), it was never exactly going to be a gig that really “represented” those whom the pair would say were their target audience.
Anyhow, with this inevitable situation in mind, I headed down to the Dome last night, accompanied by Trivial Pursuits racing man The Ferret (probably the whitest man alive) to see Messrs West and, erm, Z in action.
We took up a relatively central spot as people surged to the front, only to watch them turn on their heels as Jay-Z appeared on a rising plinth not 10 metres behind us to break into opening number HAM. The pair spat lyrics at each other from their opposing blocks as the place went “gorillas” (no-one knows what it means, it’s provocative…) around them, before convening on the main stage at the front. Flames lashed up in the background as hip-hop’s self-proclaimed royalty ran through a variety of numbers from last year’s overblown but excellent Watch The Throne album.
Jay-Z then ceded the stage to his protege for a solo set that included barnstorming singles Jesus Walks and Diamonds From Sierra Leone, before returning to hit back with his own individual hits from The Black Album. The white boys around us exploded with excitement.
There was the odd disappointment, as personal Kanye favourites Monster and Runaway didn’t translate well to the live arena. The former really missed Nicki Minaj’s insane verse, while the latter disappeared into some sort of autotune mess, just as it appeared to have taken off. However this could not detract from a truly awesome joint-performance. Individual hits were traded: for every Gold Digger, there was a 99 Problems. While for each of those, there was a fantastic duet to rival it. Nothing changed my assertion that Jay-Z is the better rapper, while Kanye has the better tunes, but it was evident that both are entertainers at the top of their game.
By the time the gig concluded with about 50 renditions of recent smash single Niggas In Paris, the crowd was absolute carnage. Age, class and race had nothing to do with anything, it was a delightfully all-encompassing and unifying experience. Come one. Come all. Go mental.
The “Niggas” may have been in Paris, but the “Honkies” were right there with them. And we were bouncing with the best of them.
by Harry Harland
* Although I fully appreciate that I am doing the likes of Plan B and the Beastie Boys a major disservice here.