ACL Review: Jay-Z

King MC brings his A game

Jay-Z remains one of the greatest rappers to ever pick up a mic, his place in hip-hop’s pantheon cemented. Going from scrappy street hustler to Oprah status in a career spanning 13 albums and more than two decades, the 47-year-old Brooklyn kid has nothing left to prove. Friday’s headlining set against an Austin skyline demonstrated that for better or worse.

Photo by Gary Miller

Aside from a barely visible band and a massive 40-foot metallic dog balloon sculpture by artist Jeff Koons, the MC stalked the otherwise bare stage alone. There were no special guests (#Beyoncewatch continues next week!), unless you count the Houston Rockets back court combo of James Harden and Chris Paul lurking stageside. Jay-Z’s made a career out of making hustling look easy, and that’s just what he did.

“Bounce, bounce,” he commanded before launching into Kanye West collabos “Run This Town” and “No Church in the Wild.”

From Nina Simone to Bobby “Blue” Bland, his music deftly leans on samples for hits, and the DJ let Max Romeo’s reggae classic “Chase the Devil” run long before morphing into 1977’s “Lucifer.”

“There’s a lot going on in the world, a lot of evil,” Jay-Z noted before the track. “But love will always conquer hate.”

Beyoncé was omnipresent on material from this summer’s introspective 4:44, Jay-Z’s best late-career album. His wife gets name-checked on “Marcy Me” and is the subject of “Family Feud.”

“What’s better than one billionaire?
Two – especially if they’re from the same hue as you.
Y’all stop me when I stop tellin’ the truth.”

“Dirt off Your Shoulder,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” anchored a late-Nineties/early-Aughts hit parade highlighted by an a capella rendition of Pimp C’s “Big Pimpin’” verse. Thousands repped with a Lone Star holler: “Uhhhh, now what y’all know about them Texas boys!”

Grandiose sing-along anthems like “Empire State of Mind,” “Numb/Encore,” and “Young Forever” proved pitch-perfect for the setting.

So it was all great until the end which was … early. Beginning at 8:15pm, Jay-Z wrapped at 9:36pm, returning for a brief but raucous mosh-pit encore of “99 Problems.” Then he disappeared for good, 15 minutes before the festival’s traditional end time.

A couple of nearby Houston Rockets could’ve chimed in on the importance of fourth quarter clock awareness. Then again, Jay-Z doesn’t have anything left to prove.

Check out our daily ACL coverage with previews, reviews, interviews, photos, and more.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Jay-Z
T-Pain's Blueprint
T-Pain's Blueprint
Jay-Z's latest, reviewed via app

Chase Hoffberger, Sept. 10, 2009

More by Thomas Fawcett
The Gospel According to Lee Fields
The Gospel According to Lee Fields
Soul man tells it all ahead of Saturday’s ice cream social

June 22, 2018

Texas Platters
Brownout
Fear of a Brown Planet (Record Review)

June 22, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Jay-Z, ACL Fest 2017, Beyoncé, Pimp C, Max Romeo, Houston Rockets, James Harden, Chris Paul, Nina Simone, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Kanye West, Jeff Koons

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle