I Went to the Jay-Z 4:44 Tour Stop in Washington, DC. Here’s What Happened

Timothy Norris/Getty Images for ABA
Timothy Norris/Getty Images for ABA

1. Jay performed for roughly two hours. And I could have danced and rapped along for two more hours, easy. Obviously this is not news to anybody, but that man’s catalog is STACKED. He ran through a few records from Reasonable Doubt (he did “Can I Live” to give a shoutout to D.C. drug kingpin Rayful Edmonds, “D’Evils” and the first verse of “Dead Presidents” over the “Allure” beat), quite a bit from The Black Album and The Blueprint and, of course, every song on 4:44 except “Legacy” and “Caught Their Eyes.” Of course, “Big Pimpin’” and “Give It to Me” and “Empire State of Mind.”


But NOTHING prepared me for the HUGE energy boost of him hitting “Bam” and the intro line of “Fuck all that pretty Shawn Carter shit, nigga, HOV!” The entire arena went apeshit on that as well as, always crowd favorites, “Public Service Announcement” and “U Don’t Know.” Personal favorite? “Imaginary Player,” one of my favorite Jay records ever that I never thought I’d see performed live. Single thug tear, bro. Single thug tear.

2. Jay is turning 48 next week. I don’t think there’s a single other rapper outside of maaaaaaybe/likely Eminem (because white) who will be able to sell out 20,000-seat venues at that age. LL Cool J can’t do it. Not by himself. And Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center and MCI Center, aka the Phone Booth) was sold out. He might not have sold out every stop on the tour, but all 18,000-plus spots in Washington, D.C., were black history.


3. I’ve seen Jay maybe five times. The first time was back in the 1999 right after white people discovered him because of “Hard Knock Life,” but he was still doing club spots, bringing along the likes of Amil and Memphis Bleek, which is how I first saw him at D.C. Live (RIP) on 9th and F streets. I wonder what THAT shit feels like—to go from performing in a club on F Street to performing at an almost 20,000-seat arena two blocks away.

Nothing to see here—just, I would love to ask what it feels like to live that life that’s had such ups and downs and such a huge progression. Of course everybody has issues—Lemonade and 4:44 are testaments to the fact that humans gon’ human no matter how much money they have—but it has to feel like playing with house money at some point, right?

4. Jay is my favorite rapper. To me, he is the GOAT. And it’s not even close. Seeing him in concert running through 20 years of hits that we ALL knew, word for word, and watching the 50-plus Armenian dude in front of me dance like the whitest of dads just solidifies it to me.

Sure, lyrics, influence, fame, success, etc.—in roughly all measures he’s either at the top or very, very near it. But white-dad dancing? In a sea of young, cool, hip black people, those older white men and women gave no fucks and got their lives and had fun. I think Kanye is the only other rapper who could probably pull that off.


5. That brings up another point—the concert was actually fun. Jay is a very cool dude. Like, you’d hang out with Jay in the way that I can’t see anybody wanting to actually hang out with Kanye or Eminem. You might love those shows for their awesomeness, but fun? Jay is fun.

6. Two rows in front of me was a stripper. And I don’t feel no kinds of ways by saying she was a stripper without definitive proof because I ain’t no judge, bih. Either way, this woman, who, if she wasn’t a stripper, NEEDS to be a stripper because she’s leaving money on the table, was putting in not-safe-for-WORK.


Some song came on—it escapes me, provided by the DJ after Vic Mensa and before Jay—and she shot right up, bent over and started getting to twerking and gyrating and doing all kinds of shit that had people hitting “video” on their phones.

Like, she was impressively inappropriate. She had on the bootiest of booty shorts and pulled them into her ass so that she could be at optimal twerk. Mind you, the rows were absolutely not that wide. Had she thrown her leg onto a chair and popped that ***** for a real nigga, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the slightest. Why am I telling you this? Because sharing is caring.


7. I realized last night that if I had to be a rapper for a day and perform a concert as that person, I’d have to be Jay-Z. I knew about 90 percent of the words to every song he performed last night. I think Outkast (both Big and Dre) would be next, followed by maybe Biggie then Ice Cube and DJ Quik. What about you?

8. I also realized last night why white people ask if they can say the n-word. It’s because any one of them asking goes to rap concert and wants to know if they can rap along. Jay’s song “The Story of O.J.” starts off with “Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga”—you get my point. There were A LOT of white people in there last night, and you can bet I was looking around my section doing my black duty, ready to slap somebody in the mouth. Everybody stayed in their lanes, but you could tell it gets uncomfortable. Universally, white people, no. Just hum, nigga(s).


9. I really wonder what it’s like to be worth that much money. I had the same thought standing in front of Oprah, like, this woman can afford me. Like, you know how folks jokingly say shit like, “You can’t afford me”? For some people, that statement is literally not true at all. These things keep me up at night.

10. Fuck all that pretty Shawn Carter shit, nigga, HOV! Pretty much. I got my tickets the day they went on sale, so I paid a pretty penny for my seats. They were worth every cent.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


K. Araújo

I have never wanted to see him in concert.. you just changed that.