If Kingdom Come lurched at us like a misbegotten marketing creation — with its Bud Select and NASCAR tie-ins, and the commendable if heavy-handed “Water for Life” shows — American Gangster is Jay-Z finding his footing. The accompanying mini-tour, which wrapped up last night with a red-carpet gig at the Apollo Theater, was spectacular on a smaller scale — in spite of all the celebs who rushed the stage to share in the love.
Wearing a black tee, Nikes, and shades, Jay didn’t need help owning the stage, but he got some top-shelf assistance. “Success” had the crowd surging with anticipation — would Nas appear to rock his verse? He would! Bounding from stage left, clutching a cigar and a bottle of Champagne, he ripped it. The two superstar MCs then huffed and puffed through “Black Republicans,” and Nas quickly bounded offstage reminding everyone that his “new album’s called Nigga.”
Meanwhile, up in the VIP balconies, Diddy bopped his head, and Beyoncé and LeBron James threw the Roc-a-Fella diamond. Diddy hopped onstage for the encore, wearing some sort of alpaca-wool jumper and doing girl-jumping-in-puddles twirls while muffing lines. With “Roc Boys,” triumphant horns swelled for the sudden appearance of Jay-Z's extended posse. It was time to play spot-the-Roc-a-Fella second string — Hey, Tru Life! Is that you, Uncle Murder? Even LeBron got in on the action, towering over the gaggle and getting hold of a mike for a few muffed lines of his own. It was a ridiculous spectacle, but near-transcendent all the same. —Amos Barshad