Kanye and Jay-Z
by Chris Chhoeun
“You are now watching the throne!”
All night, these words bellowed through Mohegan Sun Arena. Jay-Z and Kanye West, arguably the two biggest rappers in the industry today, refer to themselves as rap royalty and on November 18 in Uncasville CT, the duo put on the type of show that only kings could produce.
The two truly are the top dogs at what they do. From the start, they showed how they are masterminds when it comes to sampling other artists in their own music.
Take Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)”, for instance. The DJs played a short of it, which led into Kanye’s “Good Life”. The song “D.A.N.C.E” originally written by Justice proceeded before Jay-Z broke into “On to the Next One.” Mind-melting.
While waiting for the show to begin, the audience was serenaded with soul and Motown tunes from the 1970s; tracks that Jay-Z and Kanye handpicked themselves.
Appropriately, the music of Al Green, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye were featured here. Both rappers have said this music was very influential to them early on, and it was right that this music would set the stage for their performance.
A whole two hours after the doors had first opened, the lights went out, and West took the main stage and Jay-Z appeared the back of the arena.
The openers, “H.A.M” and “Who Gon Stop Me” featured both on top of cube-like platforms that slowly raised them several feet above the concert floor. Separated by the length of the entire arena and a sea of screaming fans, Hova and Ye furiously spat verses at each other for two tracks before finally backing down.
Leading into the next track, a recording of Otis Redding belting out “Try a Little Tenderness” entertained the crowd while larger-than-life sized American flag slowly dropped on the main stage.
Jay-Z along side with Kanye burst onto the main stage together for the first time of the night to perform the soulful “Otis”. A second grand entrance. Blazes of fire shot out of the stage on the downbeat of each bar as the two went head-to-head in front of a sold out crowd.
Dull moments were hard to be found during this particular show, for each rapper took turns in performing the biggest hits from each of their catalogs.
After a few more songs from Watch the Throne, Kanye took the stage solo, reviving old singles from earlier in his storied career. He relentlessly blasted through “Flashing Lights”, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Jesus Walks”.
“Hard Knock Life”, “Izzo”, “Empire State of Mind” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” were all hits from the Jiggaman’s repertoire.
Despite being long-time friends and working together since Jay-Z’s 2001 release “The Blueprint”, stylistically the two are very different. Jay’s huge stage presence and over-zeal mixed with Kanye’s highly emotional and energetic character combined for the perfect one-two punch.
All senses were engaged during this show. It wasn’t all showgirls and flashing lights; a big highlight coming when Kanye, atop a Rihanna-red cube rising 30 feet above the ground, sang an auto-tuned “Heartless” and “Runaway”.
The charisma of them both, particularly Jay-Z, was domineering. Some might view them as overly self-confident, yet this Mohegan Sun crowd simply could get enough as the rappers repeatedly roared, “You are all witnesses of history. You are now watching the throne!”
No opening act. No guest appearances. Not even a full band. There was no need for all of the former. Just two of hip hop’s greatest, in their prime, microphones in hand, storming the stage.
It was the show of the decade. If you’re on the west coast, I highly recommend you catch the second half of the tour.