An artist usually cannot attain legendary status within his or her lifetime. They either have to die from old age — or better yet, a sensationalistic, mysterious death — for everyone to worship at their shrine. Only the rare few achieve widespread praise from everyone and anyone while they are still living. In the world of hip-hop, Jay-Z is a member of this select elite.
The man, empire, and legend is on his 2006 World Tour and will be in Taipei tomorrow for a one-off concert. Taiwan will be the only Mandarin-speaking territory on Jay-Z's map and as a consequence, the promoters, Party Room and True Color Music, are bringing out all the stops.
“The rider alone is 300 pages!” George Trivino, True Colors' main organizer, joyously exclaims. “Jay-Z is flying in his entire entourage, as well as a ton of equipment: LED screens, sound system ... [the] quality will be top notch.”
Promoters always make this kind of promise when an international celebrity comes to Taipei. But more often than not, the artist flies in, plays the bare requirement, and flies out again with a whopping stack of NT dollars. Just last month, Missy Elliot performed for a paltry sixty minutes. With poor sound and chaotic organization, the concert ripped-off thousands of people.
“Oh, I wouldn't worry about that [happening again]” said Trivino. He added that in terms of live performances, the Missy and Jay-Z shows will be in “different leagues.” Firstly, the venue that will showcase Jay-Z — the Taipei Arena — is a vast improvement over the one used for Missy, the Taipei World Trade Center 2. “The Taipei Arena is Taipei's premiere venue, with a great stage and sound - it's truly world class,” says Trivino. What's more, Jay-Z is guaranteed to play for 90 to 120 minutes.
Jay-Z won't be alone on stage, either. “His shows definitely have a party atmosphere” with many of his cohorts alongside the Great One. Who we'll actually see on stage with Jay-Z remains in doubt, as it's his final decision. But past shows have been star-studded affairs, featuring good friends and long-time partners like Mary J. Blige, Guestlove, and Pharrell Williams. What's more, according to sources close to the event, Jay-Z's girlfriend, Beyonce Knowles, will be in attendance at this Saturday's concert.
“This concert is the most important foreign hip-hop concert to come to Taiwan yet,” said Mike Jansen, aka. THATguy, local hip-hop DJ and promoter of SoundMindset Productions. “If you're not excited about seeing him perform, just go watch Fade To Black ... his live show is nothing short of spectacular.”
His marriage of hardcore raps with friendly beats and hooks means Jay-Z's fan base is one-part rap purists, one-part hoods, and one-part suburbanite mall-shoppers.
The culmination of his career came in 2003, when Jay became the CEO of the major record label, Def Jam/Island Records. Wanting to make the most of his new role, not only for himself but to set an example for other young African American entrepreneurs, Jay-Z retired from performing. But even he called it the “worst retirement in history.” Jay continued to play live and feature on other artists' tracks until, in a surprise to no-one, his new album, Kingdom Come, was announced for a November 21st, 2006 release date.
Now in his golden age, Jay-Z is a busy man with an incredible amount of responsibilities. For that reason, George Trivino believes that Saturday's concert will probably be the only time Jay-Z will ever come to Taiwan. “He's just too busy ... he's CEO of a record label, a UN Goodwill ambassador, a bar owner.” The concert, then, will truly be a historic event for Taiwan's music culture. Legends don't come around everyday.