Concert Preview: Jay-Z

"What I have is a gift from God. It can't be explained."

He's sold more than 20 million albums, he's worth more than US$50 million, and notwithstanding a recent conviction for assaulting a record executive in 1999, he's also considered by many to be the best in the business. In tandem with a Tokyo appearance at the upcoming MTV Japan Video Music Awards, Jay-Z will also be performing for two nights to paying audiences.

Born Sean Carter in Brookyln, New York, 31-year-old Jay-Z is firmly ensconced atop the hip hop heap, with his most recent album, The Best of Both Worlds, the latest coup in a career that began to gather steam when Jay-Z went solo in 1996.

Launching his career rapping on the hit single "The Originators" with hip hop artist Jaz, Jay-Z didn't take long to establish himself as a solo artist. His debut full-length, Reasonable Doubt featuring cameos by SWV and Notorious B.I.G., went gold in 1996.

In 1997, the supremely confident rapper followed up with In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, with production work by Sean "Puffy" Combs and appearances by Babyface and Li'l Kim. 1998 confirmed Jay-Z's position at the head of the hip hop pack, with Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2 going platinum.
Known for committing his verses to memory and never putting them down on paper, Jay-Z's unflappability and cool detachment have seen him withstand even the conviction for a crime he says he didn't commit.

For last year's album, The Blueprint, Jay-Z recorded nine tracks in a two-day stretch. "The songs just started happenin', comin' out of nowhere," he told Rolling Stone. "What I have is a gift from God. It can't be explained." Jay-Z sometimes calls himself the God MC and Jay-Hovah.

For The Best of Both Worlds, Jay-Z collaborated with rapper R. Kelly. The album was both a celebration of success and a meditation on its pitfalls. On "It Ain't Personal," Jay-Z lamented how success can end friendships. "Now when we see each other, it's so strange," he raps. "I don't know whether to hug him or slug him/I don't know whether to cap him or dap him/I don't know what to think of him/I don't know what's happening."

In Tokyo, Jaz-Z will be joined by fellow rappers Dabo and S-Word in an all-nighter at Zepp Tokyo and an evening performance at Tokyo Bay NK Hall.

Jay-Z plays Zepp Tokyo on May 24 and Tokyo Bay NK Hall on May 26. See listings for details.

credit: Three Vases

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