On the Scene: Jay-Z tapes VH1's 'Storytellers'
Brooklyn was definitely in the house at the VH1 Storytellers taping of “Jay-Z: Life of An American Gangster” (premieres Nov. 8) Filmed inside a cavernous 16,200 square-foot soundstage at Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Wednesday, the show gave Jigga an opportunity to perform selections from his upcoming CD, American Gangster, for an intimate audience — including fans, VIPs (L.A. Reid, Fab 5 Freddy), and hired seat-fillers — while narrating his creative vision for each track.
Casually dressed in blue jeans, black sneakers, and a black T-shirt, the rapper was backed by a dapper nine-piece band that included both a horn section and a DJ, all elegantly attired in black and white formal wear. As Jay spit cinematic rhymes about the ephemeral highs and crushing lows that punctuate a gangster’s life, a collage of corresponding images — ranging from the blood-stained wall of a jail cell to a crumpled pack of Newport cigarettes — flashed across jumbo projection screens that surrounded the stage. But instead of performing American Gangster in its entirety, his set list centered on eight choice cuts:
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3. “Roc Boys”
5. “Party Life”
6. “I Know”
8. “Blue Magic”
After rocking the mic solo for nearly an hour, Jay playfully asked the audience, “Do you have anywhere to go?” Then, to everyone’s surprise and delight, he performed the whole show all over again! Talk about déjà vu! But while Beyoncé — who reportedly took in the show from the back of the room, though we failed to spot her — didn’t appear onstage, her boo’s second set delivered one of the evening’s most memorable moments. It happened just as Jay began to kick off an encore of “I Know,” a trippy track he described earlier as “a song about addiction.” “Can I get my Lindsay Lohan on?” he asked, chuckling at his own wisecrack. After pausing to reconsider his harsh but fair barb, he then wondered aloud, “That’s too far, huh? They may have to edit that out.”