Jay-Z @ Glastonbury
June 29, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous

Peep some of the highlights on YouTube.

I don’t know how much of the furore surrounding Jay-Z’s placement as Saturday headliner at Glastonbury Festival has made it across the pond, but over in the UK it’s been impossible to get away from the controversy of an American rap artist occupying a spot that has been traditionally reserved for guitar-led anthemic rock. For whatever reason, people seem to have ignored the fact that despite two years of mudbaths and a growing proliferation of cheaper festivals avaliable to British punters, the struggle to sell all avaliable tickets for Britain’s most high profile festival has fallen firmly on Sean Carter’s shoulders. Jigga’s response? One of the most electrifying and original performances in the history of the festival.

Sadly, I wasn’t in attendance (if I had been, this post would be almost completely incomprehensible), but even from the comfort of my own living room in front of a 20″ screen it was clear that Jay-Z’s set was nothing short of extraordinary. Opening with a cover of Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’ was a stroke of genius, sending a veritable eff you to Noel Gallagher who in the run up to the festival has been particularly outspoken about his opposition to Jigga as headline act, a diss served up with a knowing smile and a sense of inimitable grace.

From this sarcastic and intelligent opening it was a non-stop rollercoaster through the more commercial hits, with beautifully delivered acapellas and numerous other elements thrown into the mix to keep the crowd hyped. The backing band’s renditions of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’ and the Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’ sample flip provided exciting platforms for Jay to rip through a couple of sixteens, and these weren’t the only references to music outside of the hip hop realm, with Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ also cropping up during the set. It was really the pace of the performance that was most striking, with swift transitions and these multiple musical references maintaining an almost unstoppable momentum that had even the crustiest hippies waving their hands in the air and hollering like they were at a dingy basement somewhere in Brooklyn circa 1994. White people with dreadlocks can bounce and grind with the best of them, don’t ya know…

Top all this off with dazzling visuals and perfectly judged interactions with the crowd and it’s fair to say that this was a defining moment in the festival’s history. What really landed the sucker punch was that apart from Memphis Bleek acting as hypeman, this was Jay-Z and Jay-Z alone: the temptation to throw in a duet with Beyonce to ensure the crowd stayed happy was categorically eschewed and allowed Jigga to shine firmly on his own merit.

Thought that a group of muddy, largely white Brits wouldn’t appreciate the work of arguably the greatest rapper alive? You couldn’t have been more wrong: hip hop music has officially just been taken to another level. Glastonbury Festival in the house, y’all!

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