NEW YORK — The newly built Barclays Center is the home of the Brooklyn Nets, and Jay-Z, an investor in the team, christened the venue Friday night in uniform, sporting a Nets hat and jersey as he rapped two dozen jams onstage in front of thousands.
Jay-Z performed for an excited and rowdy crowd of 18,000, wearing a jersey that featured his last name, Carter, and the number four. It was his first of eight shows at the venue.
As he emerged onstage, a video highlighting some of Brooklyn’s historical moments – like when it was named an official borough of New York City – played in the background. There were also pictures of famous faces who were born in Brooklyn, from Michael Jordan to Al Capone to Aaliyah to Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys.
Jay-Z opened the show with the hometown anthems “Where I’m From,” a song about his upbringing in Brooklyn’s Marcy projects complex, and “Brooklyn Go Hard.” He followed that with a tribute to one of Brooklyn’s icons: the late Notorious B.I.G. He performed some of the rap vet’s hit “Juicy” as the crowd joined in.
“Sing loud so he can hear you in heaven,” said Jay-Z, who also held a moment of silence for the rapper, who was shot to death in 1997.
Another Brooklynite – Big Daddy Kane – made an appearance, performing songs like “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” and “Warm It Up, Kane.” He received a roaring cheer from the crowd when performing old-school dance moves with two dancers in all white.
Jay-Z said Friday’s concert was incomparable to most of his other top-level performances, including the Grammys, Glastonbury or Coachella.
“Nothing feels like tonight,” he told the crowd multiple times.
The audience was excited and wild, cheering on Jay-Z as blue laser lights beamed across the venue. A seven-piece band was placed a level above Jay-Z, who paced from left to right while performing jams like “Empire State of Mind,” “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “99 Problems” and many others. Videos played on screens behind and above Jay-Z, while screens for fans in the higher sections – though not large enough – showed the rapper’s performance on the left and right sides of the stage.
“I want to thank you, Brooklyn, New York City, for making me the man I am today,” he said. “Like I said, everybody’s from Brooklyn tonight.”
A fan in the front section held up Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers jersey, immediately grabbing Jay-Z’s attention. He asked the fan for it and said: “I promise I’ll give it back.”
“Brooklyn had their heart broken,” he said as he held up the jersey and referred to the Dodgers leaving for Los Angeles after the 1957 baseball season. “We cried for so many years. …Look how far we’ve come.”
Jay-Z will perform at Barclays through Oct. 6 with the exception of Oct. 2.