Instead, Jay-Z brushed the R. Kelly dirt off of his shoulders, regrouping instantly by way of a few phone calls to some of the biggest players in the industry--namely, P. Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Beanie Sigel and a holy host of other hip-hop heavyweights. Without missing a beat, he loaded the tour buses and the 18-wheelers, turning the immense Best of Both Worlds, R&B-meets-rap stage show into a traveling hip-hop circus.
Jay-Z took the stage by rising to it, comfortably ensconced on a plush leather armchair, puffing on a huge cigar, dressed like an old-time gangster in a sharp suit and matching fedora. He traded the blazer and blunt to a white butler for a fitted Yankees cap. And the rest--two and a half hours and some two-dozen rappers later--is history.
As spotlights swept over a crowd on its feet all around, Hov bit into the crowd with "Public Service Announcement," its acid organ washes saturating every section of the RBC Center before dropping into a "99 Problems" remix. "I've got pizzazz for your piss-ass," he spat in genius, extraneous verse.
As the song snapped out, a booming gunshot snapped in. The crowd jerked and gasped in perfect sequence. But at center stage, Jay-Z stood under a sole spotlight, arms crossed, smiling from ear to ear.
"I got yo' attention now," he laughed, explaining to the audience that there were no guns in the building and that the hype had to remain. "The only cool one in the building tonight is me."
And the coolness or confidence never stopped: Tour buses crashed through the stage walls, Mary J. torched the place with soul, P. Diddy stepped back to No Way Out after a tribute to Notorious B.I.G., DMX sprinted onstage to grab his verse of "Money, Cash, Hoes" and Rick Mumford--a big, thirty-something white guy in the crowd--danced with Jay-Z onstage.
As for R. Kelly, well, he lost this battle.