I’ve been to my fair share of music tours but as a first time viewer of a Jay-Z concert, I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I was excited to find out. Outside the arena, you see last minute concertgoers in line for a ticket, Atlanta radio stations raising the energy and high security before you walk through the door. People are stirring to get find their seat in the arena all the while hearing stationed patrons yelling “ Ice cold beer!”, “Jigga Spiked Lemonade!”. Ever since Jay-Z’s 13th album, “4:44” dropped, hip-hop fans having been waiting for this tour and tonight was the night for Atlanta.

Opening the show was Vic Mensa, a Roc Nation recording artist who speaks his truth via the “south side of Chicago”. Mensa performed some of his notable singles like, “U Mad” and “Rollin’ Like A Stoner”, which wasn’t in the vein of my musical taste but definitely appeals to the current Trap culture. However, there were a few songs that gave you a peek into the deeper textures of Mensa’s artistic makeup. His signal, “16 Shots”, portrays the tragic killing of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was brutally shot 16 times by police officers. Other songs like, “Homewrecker” fuses a “Love & Hip Hop” drama with an interesting flow of storytelling. Lyrically lighting a candle for his slain brother, Mensa created a solemn moment with the performance of “Heaven On Earth”.

As the time hit 9:30pm, you could hear the crowd scream for the headliner, hip-hop artist and mogul, Jay-Z to hit the stage. The “4:44” tour had some significant highlights that pulled together his classic work with his current direction through the album, “4:44”. One of those highpoints was the provocative intro that certainly set a tone of human struggle and evolution. As the arena grew dark, eight automated screens, played visuals that gave a “dream-like” narrative that flashback to the “life and times” of his career. As the video pauses on a veneer-shielding photo of Jay, fire begins to burn the image while “The Alan Parsons Project” sample, “Don’t Let It Show” from “Kill Jay-Z” plays in the background. With the lights in coordination with the bass, Jay-Z raps his first lines while elevating on an octagon stage.

Another moment was his performance of “4:44”. Jay described the song as “the most uncomfortable song” he’s ever done. Standing on stage, he removes his jacket as though he is taken off his ego. The background starts to play the familiar “ Late Nights & Heartbreak ” sample lyrics, “Do I find it so hard….“. Under a single spotlight, Jay pours his soul as a sinner in a confessional, revealing his infidelities on wife, Beyoncé and their three children.

In animated lights throughout the night, Jay definitely got the crowd “turned up” with songs like “No Church In The Wild”, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, the rebellious “99 Problems”, and the hustler’s anthem, “Big Pimpin’ “. There were interludes in the show where Jay took an opportunity to be a beacon and speak on various issues such as the current state of society and how ” love trumps hate”, smiling in the midst of adversity as he lead into the song, “Smile” and “the human issue” beneath the NFL protest stirred by the Trump Administration.

In commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the “Black” album, Jay’s last song of the night was “What More Can I Say”. To every line, the audience recited and when he reached the final lines, “We’ll see what happens when I no longer exist/
Fuck this”. He slams the microphone to the floor and walks off the stage into the crowd surrounded by security. Overall, Jay-Z gave an awesome show that brought an assortment of a “turned up” party to an introspective view of his own maturation. Prior to the show, I struck up a conversation with a fan and asked, “What was it that made you a fan of Jay-Z?” He replied, “What made me a fan of Jay was his ability to relate our struggle to the world.” While I can agree with that fan, I would take it one step further. The 4:44 Tour displayed not only “the struggle”, whether that struggle is racial, social-economic or just human, it presented the necessity to face our pain in order to grow and mature.

Check out a short clip from that show…

Hope is a music enthusiast and continual student of photography. Also known to rock out a quiet church or elevator with her current ringtone, Tom & Jerry’s Uncle Paco, “Crambone”.