Saturday, October 06, 2012

Jay-Z round-up: late start means straggling crowds; no BK beer but happy concert-goers; new YouTube channel focuses on "the new global cosmopolitan elite;" Jay-Z's profits; synergy with the Nets; and some dissents

Two reports from reporters attending Jay-Z concerts at the Barclays Center aim to (mostly) praise the events, but also wind up offering a backhanded explanation for the lack of traffic chaos before the official 8 pm start: the concert doesn't start until 9:30 pm, and lots of people know that, so they straggle in closer to that time.

No Brooklyn booze but a good time

Matt Chaban in the 10/5/12 New York Observer, writes Jigga Scam: No Brooklyn Booze But Plenty of Time to Run Up the Tab at the Barclays Center:
It may not be universally loved, for its tortured past or rusticated design, but there is no question the Barclays Center is one of the most unique and interesting sports venues in the world. It is certainly the most exacting, with every inch of the place being burnished and detailed. It is like a Swiss watch—everything in its right place—albeit a Swiss watch with a discrete EmblemHealth logo on its face, the kind of thing handed out for a Christmas bonus. You eagerly wear it and just hope no one wants to see the thing up close.
One thing was out of place, though, when The Observer took in Wednesday night’s packed Jay-Z concert: drinks, drinks everywhere, but not a drop from Brooklyn.
...nd there was the expertly curated local food offerings—Calexico, L&B Spumoni, Fatty ‘Cue, Cafe Habana, Nathan’s—but that only threw into starker contrast the absence of any Brooklyn libations. It is not only the fact that Brooklyn has become home to numerous notable craft brewers and distillers but also the fact that one of them, Steve Hindy of the Brooklyn Brewery, very publicly defended this project for some time, even garnering boycotts from some of the haughtier establishments in the borough. His wares, despite much publicity to the contrary, were nowhere to be found.
There was another problem, as this reporter and his wife swilled a $10 Stella Artois (cheaper than many Manhattan bars, come to think of it). The tickets said the show started at 8 p.m., we had gotten here at 7:35 to be sure we had time for some delectable dinner, which cost a pretty penny, but then again it always does at arenas anymore, and at least the food was generally very good. Around 8, when we asked a very polite usher (everyone was trained by Disney) when the show might start, she said in about 40 minutes. In the end, Jay-Z would not take the stage for another hour and a half.
Chaban found an arena spokesman failing to explain whether Jay-Z gets a cut of concession sales, a claim that Brooklyn Larger is available, a report from Hindy that those paying for sponsorship seem to be getting the most attention.

"Totally worth it"

Chaban's close:
Did we mention the show was—like the arena—unlike anything we had ever seen? Not life-changing, a little too slick, perhaps, but still certainly not the kind of thing one gets to experience on a regular basis. Unless you’re a season ticket holder. Guzzling glitches aside, totally worth it.
I don't think Chaban is applying "totally worth it" to the arena as well as the show, but that's not an implausible misreading. People still need to be reminded that, however much they like going to the arena, the New York City Independent Budget Office called it a net loss for the city--and that's without counting giveaways like naming rights.

In the Times

In the 10/5/12 Times CityRoom blog, Joseph Berger writes Concert Is a Roaring, if Not Quite Timely, Success:
At the official starting time for the Jay-Z concert Thursday night, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was more than half empty.
The cognoscenti seemed to know that Jay-Z does not begin his raucous act until 9:30 p.m., not 8. But a reporter sent to see whether there were any empty seats at Jay-Z’s sold-out run (and whose last pilgrimage to a true rock concert was in the late 1970s to hear Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead) was not among the cognoscenti. Many fans did not even bother getting on the subway until 8:30 or 9.
...“I feel good being a Brooklynite,” said Brenda Baldwin, a 54-year-old nurse. She was sitting next to me, the only near-contemporary to this 67-year-old reporter in sight, but she has been a Jay-Z fan for more than a decade. She told me she was delighted there was now a major arena in Brooklyn, the first since the demolition of Ebbets Field after the departure of the Dodgers following the 1957 season.
“It’s right here in Brooklyn,” she said. “We now have a place for entertainment. I don’t have to go into Manhattan. I can wait for everything to come right now in Brooklyn.”
Bruce Ratner couldn't have provided a better quote.

How full?

Berger writes that, before the room filled up, "cynics might have been forgiven for dismissing the 19,000-seat arena’s claim that Jay-Z had sold out all eight shows."

Actually, capacity for Jay-Z concerts has been 16,200. Also, they put some tickets on sale late, so the house was never fully sold-out as claimed.

Jay-Z at his stash spot

"On the roof at 560 State Street.
Words can't describe." 
As noted on GlobalGrind:
During the mid-'90s, Jay-Z used to hide the drugs he was selling in his apartment in Brooklyn, located at 560 State St. He said so himself on the classic track "Empire State of Mind" ("I used to cop in Harlem, all of my Dominicans right there up on Broadway, pull me back to that McDonald's. Took it to my stash spot, 560 State Street").
As you all probably already know, times are different now. And today, the iconic rapper can go to that same building and look at the arena he helped build: Barclays Center.

The rapper did just that and he posted a picture of the occasion, putting it on his LifeAndTimes site. In the picture, we see the rapper rocking black jeans, a black and grey Nets hat and Jordan 6s while he looks at his arena located in his borough.
Jay-Z's concert and channel

A 10/4/12 press release, ‘JAY Z’s Life+Times’ YouTube Channel Launches With an Oct. 6 Live Stream of The Conclusion of JAY’s Sold Out Eight Concert Run at the Barclays Center:
The final performance of JAY Z’s eight-night stint to celebrate the opening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be live-streamed on his new JAY Z’s Life+Times YouTube channel on Saturday, October 6 at 9:30pm ET: youtube.com/JAYZsLifeandTimes. JAY Z has joined forces with IconicTV to create this original channel, based on his hugely popular and very personal blog "Life + Times." A preview of the Live Stream is available now, as a featured video, at: youtube.com/JAYZsLifeandTimes.
"After a decade and a half of amazing musical success, JAY Z has emerged as the definitive cultural arbiter of his generation,” says Michael Hirschorn, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of IconicTV... “JAY Z's Life+Times channel, with its focus on the new global cosmopolitan elite, will be an expression of a man who has become an international cultural ambassador,” states Hirschorn.
The channel is a platform for JAY's many passions and interests, while serving as a hub for music, art, and cultural trendsetters in the United States and globally. Following the concert live-stream, look for shows such as “The Road to Brooklyn,” a docu-series that captures the excitement of the Nets’ storied journey to Brooklyn, and “Roc Nation Check-In,” which allows viewers to get up close and personal with Roc Nation artists. Programming also includes “Well Dunn With Jourdan Dunn,” a series about the English supermodel, and “Blueprint,” which captures the craftsmanship behind the world’s most iconic luxury brands.
...About JAY Z’s Life+Times
Conceived and curated by Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, JAY Z’s Life+Times is a testament to its name, an online destination that features in depth lifestyle pieces on an array of subjects. The first of its kind, it is a content-rich hub that seamlessly blends the interests of JAY Z with those of his fanbase, listeners, and those whose interests lie in a similar lifestyle. From burgeoning musicians to fashion luminaries, design houses, sports icons, automotive firms and more, JAY Z’s Life+Times (youtube.com/JAYZsLifeandTimes) is an editorially driven digital platform that provides a succinct insider’s perspective on the world’s most influential people, places and products through both this Original Content Channel and the Website.
The Nets and Jay-Z

From the New York Times's Off the Dribble blog, 9/30/12, For the Nets, a Coming-Out Concert:
The arena is really a shared space, and the “home court” that N.B.A. players rhapsodize about is really an illusion created for 41 nights, and perhaps a few playoff games. The rest of the year belongs to Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.

This is what made Friday’s opening of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center so remarkable.

The night was not about the Nets, not officially, yet in so many ways it felt like their coming-out party.

The concert by Jay-Z — who owns a tiny share of the team — was a hip-hop show, a self-tribute, a Brooklyn pride rally and a Nets pep rally all in one.

The team’s black-and-white logo was everywhere, stamped on hats and T-shirts worn by fans in every section. The N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, watched from a luxury suite. About a dozen Nets players were in attendance, including the stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. So were Coach Avery Johnson and General Manager Billy King.

Yet there was no bigger symbol of the Nets’ arrival than Jay-Z himself. Though he only owns about one-fifteenth of a percent of the team, his immense influence was felt the moment he stepped on stage, wearing a white Nets cap and a black jersey with “Brooklyn” spelled out across the chest.

It was surely the first time in N.B.A. history, and perhaps the history of any major sport, that a team’s uniform was unveiled by a global entertainment icon during a rap show.

...The confluence of themes Friday was evident at the souvenir stands, which mixed T-shirts featuring Jay-Z with T-shirts that merely listed Brooklyn neighborhoods (Clinton Hill, Bensonhurst, Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Williamsburg). Another read, simply, “JZBK 2012.” And of course, there were shirts declaring, “Hello Brooklyn” — which is both a Jay-Z song and the Nets’ marketing slogan.

It is rare to see high-ranking N.B.A. officials at a hip-hop show, but this was no ordinary concert and no ordinary performer....

Magic Johnson was in the building. So was John Calipari. He was trailed by William Wesley, the mysterious “Worldwide Wes,” who serves as a confidant to LeBron James and several other N.B.A. stars...

Fans readily conflated the arena’s opening with the Nets’ arrival.

Amilcar Davy, who wore a white Nets hat, excitedly called it “opening night of the first basketball team in Brooklyn.” Davy, 30, said he grew up in Crown Heights but now lives in Maryland. He came home just to see the show.
The WTC developer at the Barclays Center

The Commercial Observer reported 10/4/12, Larry Silverstein’s Loud Night With Hova, the anomalous situation of an 81-year-old real-estate developer checking out Jay-Z:
Once we went and got in there– of course we saw Bruce Ratner and so forth, and I congratulated him because he’s done an incredible job. All of New York blesses this man, or should bless him, because what the impact that this will have on the borough of Brooklyn and therefore the city of New York as a whole, is just hugely beneficial. It is so positive. The fact that he’s only been at it for 10-or-11 years of his life under extremely difficult circumstances, so I came by and I saw Bruce and I said, ‘Bruce, you’re crazy!’ He said, ‘yeah, not as crazy as you are.’
...As it turns out, we watched Jay-Z perform and I thought it was fascinating. First of all, he’s a superb performer, really a first-class performer, and he controlled that audience so beautifully. But he worked them up into a frenzy, because first he talked about the fact that he was born, what, three blocks away from the stadium, and the area was nothing like what it is today. He said, ‘frankly, I am so fortunate to be here, I am so fortunate to make it out of that, and to be able to come through all this and to be here today and to be able to do this, and to recognize that we are doing this in Brooklyn, in the city of New York…’ The place went wild!
...Of course what I couldn’t appreciate was the language. Why does he have to use this? I couldn’t understand that. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why this language? It was horrendous language. Look, I’m 81 years of age, so I can’t relate to that. It’s impossible. But I did appreciate him enormously as a performer, as an eminently successful businessman, and as someone who had enough humility to understand where he came from and the long road from where he started to where he is today. I really thought it was a uniquely wonderful experience, and I came away just hugely appreciative to Bruce for what he’s accomplished there, for all of us, all of New York.
An AP story on Jay-Z

This 9/27/12 article, headlined Jay-Z: Bringing Nets to Brooklyn an American dream, was widely distributed:
Jay-Z has accomplished a lot in his career, but his latest feat has him feeling that like he's living the American dream.
The 42-year-old music mogul and entrepreneur says when he was a poor kid in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, he never imagined that he'd someday own a piece of a basketball team. Now Jay is an investor in the Brooklyn Nets and instrumental in moving the franchise from New Jersey.
He feels his rags-to-riches story embodies all that is possible in America.
"Yeah I think I'm the American dream," Jay-Z said. "That whole thing that you could come here and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, like that whole thing what America has always put up to the world that we represent. I feel that. Yes, I've lived that."
Jay-Z made the comments at the launch party for the upcoming NBA 2K13 video game, where he acted as the game's executive producer.
Jay-Z in the New Yorker

Sasha Frere-Jones, JAY-Z CROWNS BROOKLYN, 9/29/12:
When he said repeatedly, “nothing feels the way tonight feels,” he wasn’t necessarily describing catharsis or ecstasy. He moved slowly and carefully around the stage in a limited edition S. Carter jersey and fitted cap, seeming to feel relief, a kind of wonder, and lots of responsibility. He mentioned several times that he couldn’t put his feelings about the show into words but he expressed one idea very clearly right before leaving the stage: “You know they’re waiting for us to fuck up.”
The moment you entered the Barclays Center, it was clear there had been Do Not Fuck Up meetings. The various ticket lines were orderly, and the interior space was immaculate. The staff was surreally courteous. If anybody had come looking for flaws in the system, Barclays Center saw them coming first. The established fast food chains have been relegated to the upper tiers, while local shops—Habana Outpost and Junior’s, among others—have concession stands on the main floor. The interior is detailed entirely in black or white, with dozens of horizontal video screens providing flickering instances of color and light. The place reads as high-end, Brooklyn, and very well planned.
..Jay-Z’s oft-quoted line—“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”—was made material during the show. His old friends are his old business partners; Ratner, a newer member of the business team, got his own “What’s up, Bruce?”
...“I don’t want any trouble tonight,” he said, which might have been the only night’s flaw. As much as it’s always an honor to absorb the act of Jay-Z rhyming—an act that only required two sips of water and two of champagne to be maintained, a fact which should sound as jaw-dropping as it is—his careful attack made the night warm and contained, and that doesn’t adequately represent his gift. It’s intensely impressive how far the business has come, but Brooklyn is never all business.
Jay-Z in the Amsterdam News

The Amsterdam News, 10/4/12, Jay-Z runs Brooklyn:
Can’t deny it. Jay Z is a consummate performer. His opening show of an eight-night run at the brand-new—and controversial—Barclays Center blew the roof off of every damn thing.
When Jay took the stage at 9:45 p.m., 19,000 fans lost their collective mind.
With what seemed like ease, Jay commanded the stage by himself, so you can imagine the barely controlled mania when the Roc Boyz—his incredible live band—dropped the first few chords of “Where I’m From,” flowing effortlessly into “Brooklyn Go Hard,” “Kick in the Door” and “Juicy.”
Jay-Z stood onstage drinking in the total adoration. Was he verklempt? Overwhelmed? In awe of himself? Wondering how best he could turn that adoration into political/community power?
“They call me H.O. eight shows,” he bragged. “You can stunt like that when you own the whole place, though.”
The crowd went nuts when Jay, 42, projected an image of Notorious B.I.G. above the crowd. Brooklyn had taken over Brooklyn.
Stopping several times to look at the crowd, he asked, “You don’t mind if I take my time? I’m really overwhelmed a little bit.”
He humbly stood before the curious mixture that made up the crowd—probably 60/40 white to Black.
....Before he went, though, he told the crowd that everyone has their own “genius-level talent” that they should strive to develop. “I ain’t no different from anyone in this room, and now I’m standing on this stage, living proof,” he said, having worked his way up from the Marcy Houses to now being part owner of the Brooklyn Nets and playing at the billion-dollar arena.
However, with an anti-violence rally outside the venue, whose organizers are asking Jay to become a financially supportive Ambassador for Peace, there were those in the audience who had hoped that the uber-entertainer—who held Brooklyn in the palm of his hand—would at least mention the need to stop urban violence. Especially gunplay. He did not. And as he left the stage with “Young Forever,” it was duly noted.
Jay-Z's profits

Zack O'Malley Greenburg in Forbes, 9/28/12, Barclays Center To Boost Jay-Z's Bottom Line From Many Angles:
Jay-Z is set to profit at every turn from his involvement with the Barclays Center. Yes, he picked the cutlery, but he also gets free use of one of the arena’s $550,000-per-year luxury suites. Sure, he helped secure a bar-restaurant, but it’s an outpost of his own 40/40 Club. And as for the champagne, well, it’s the $300-per-bottle Armand de Brignac in which he holds a financial interest (a connection detailed in my Jay-Z biography, Empire State of Mind).
Then there’s Jay-Z’s much-trumpeted equity. He holds a small stake in the Nets, only one-fifteenth of one percent, according to the New York Times, but he owns a larger piece of the arena itself–one fifth of one percent. That may still seem trivial, but o.2% of a $1 billion building is $2 million, about ten times more than his piece of the team is worth, and almost certainly more profitable.
Then there are the concerts themselves, which should provide him with an even more handsome profit. The Barclays Center’s 18,000-seat capacity is about 30% larger than the average arena in which Jay-Z plays. With eight sellout shows, that’s 144,000 tickets sold. Even if the prices fall short of Jay-Z’s $119-per-show average, he should easily gross somewhere around $15 million for the shows, taking home at least $5 million for his troubles. It’s also possible that he was guaranteed an even larger sum in advance.
Note that the capacity for his shows is 16,200.

More video Jay-Z

The Times's T Magazine, 10/3/12, T Exclusive Video | At Barclays With Jay-Z
As the Jiggaman hits the midweek mark in his eight-day christening of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, we thought it only appropriate to unveil a short film by Cass Bird featuring the Bed-Stuy-born rapper bopping about the stadium as it rose.
In these frames, the future home of the Brooklyn Nets is spare and still under construction as the team’s No. 1 fan and part-owner surveys its progress in a variety of snappy outfits: a stars-and-stripes sweater, a quilted leather jacket and a well-tailored suit.
Watch as a reflective and triumphant Shawn Carter stares out at the shell of a stadium that has come alive the past few evenings with thousands of Jay-Z loyalists in a major celebration of the artist’s hometown borough and his path out of the projects into stardom.
The instrumental back-beat is, of course, courtesy of Hova himself.
Yeah, there's a video too.

Some dissents on Jay-Z

From Music is My Oxygen Weekly, 10/2/12, Jay-Z Opens Up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
Throughout the lead-up to the Barclays Center’s opening, Jay-Z has striven to cast the venue as a moral triumph for the people of Brooklyn, as embodied in the person of Sean Carter. He and his partners remained strategically mum about the actual percentage of his ownership, and the concerts that he is playing to celebrate the Center’s completion feature no openers and no flavor-of-the-month guests. So far, the only rapper with whom Jay-Z has shared the stage is Big Daddy Kane, a pioneering Brooklyn MC whose career missed hip-hop’s commercial ascendance by mere inches.
The message behind all of this seems to be that Brooklyn has made it, despite the odds. However, a closer look at the messy history of the Barclays Center reveals that the project is the child of a prominent (white) real estate developerand that the majority owner of the Nets is actually a Russian plutocrat.
The Barclays Center might be a coup for Jay-Z as well, but he, like Brooklyn itself, has had to make some hard sacrifices to attain this victory, sacrifices whose wider effects are as yet unknown.
From Mozzarella Firefox, 9/29/12,What Jay-Z and Mitt Romney Have in Common
Last night it opened with a concert by Jay Z, a big booster of the project who also owns a piece of the arena’s home team. In the course of mocking him with friends on facebook today I looked up this video. The thing that really struck me was, buried among all the garden-variety bragging and street-cred-establishing, this Mitt Romney-esque line:
8 million stories, out there in it naked
City, it’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it
Yup, it is a pity. Maybe unscrupulous real estate developers have something to do with it? In any event, the concert’s a fitting way to christen the thing. Let them eat rust.

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