Jay-Z, Kanye, Fact, And Fiction Collide At Webster Hall

Jeff Rosenthal | July 31, 2009 - 11:23 am

Last night’s Diesel : U : Music show at Webster Hall was a hot ticket, thanks to a bill stocked with highly bloggable acts like Clipse and the Roots, and rumors swirling all week that Jay-Z—in the tri-state area for his All Points West appearance this evening—was going to surprise the crowd by bringing the house down. We sent Jeff Rosenthal of ItsTheReal.com to suss out the rumors and scope out the scene; as it turned out, Jay didn’t show up, but one of his town-running cohorts did.

If Jay-Z was going, then we too must go. It was conditional: everyone in New York must go. A requirement. Sorry! Drop your plans of doing nothing, and go. The Diesel: U: Music Show at New York’s Webster Hall was going to be a bunch of tight-jeans bands for the tight-jeans crowd, sure, but immediately after would be an pretty incredible lineup for hip-hop fans: Clipse! Drake (before he pulled out with a bum knee or whatever)! The Roots! The Roots with special guest(s)! And, obviously, one of those special guests was going to be Jay-Z, because of all of the reasons that Foster Kamer at Blackbook pointed out, including the fact that Jay-Z loves making surprise appearances. If there’s a surprise appearance to be made, then Jay-Z will make it. Period. See you at the show.

And this wasn’t just a rumor, because everyone knew it would happen.

No, it was the actual rumors that were crazy talk — Jay-Z’s going to bring Kanye and Rihanna with him, yea, right — but we believed those, too. Every few minutes, our phones would vibrate, and so too would the room, with word that Rihanna was on her way. It didn’t matter that the Warner exec by the bar came over to us and said that Jay-Z wasn’t showing up. He didn’t know, just like we didn’t know. Except that we did know. We were right, he was just uninformed, since he clearly hadn’t gotten the messages on his BlackBerry that we had gotten.

But then a friend said that Jay-Z had signed a non-compete contract with All Points West, which didn’t allow him to play any shows 30 days prior to or 30 days after his gig there, and we knew it was over. He works at Bank of America, so that too must be true. What a letdown.

Actually, how could Jay-Z sign that contract, since he just was added to the All Points West show like, a week ago? There was no way. Jay-Z was backstage, and it was going to be The Roots and Jay-Z together again, and we were going to be there. But, you know, even if Jay-Z wasn’t going to be there, we’d still be okay with seeing the Clipse and The Roots (and now, we were told, special guests Santigold and Lykke Li), because wow: what a solid lineup.

[Ed’s note: Oh, since this is Idolator, I should probably go into how Passion Pit was pretty great — even if the sound wasn’t — and how Cobra Starship was pretty unlistenable (sorry, Maura), but that’s not the point of this story, so go to BrooklynVegan or Pitchfork if you want to read about that. Thanks.]

It was getting late. Rihanna’s whereabouts were unknown, and even though no one had said it explicitly, we held out hope that Jay-Z was in the building. There were just too many facts for that not to be true. And then we saw Kanye backstage, right as the Clipse were about to go on, which brought everything that had just been rendered impossible back into the ‘obviously going to happen’ column.

The Brothers Thornton ran through four of their greatest hits — “Grindin’,” “What Happened to that Boy,” “Mr. Me Too,” “Keys Open Doors” — and the coke-users in the crowd knew every word that the coke-pushers onstage were going to say. The opening runs of Kinda Like a Big Deal blasted through the speakers, and we braced ourselves for Kanye’s arrival. We had seen him backstage, with our own eyes. This was fact.

He strutted out. The cameras came up. He shut the place down.

The lights came on for intermission, and reality set in: Jay-Z wasn’t going to show up. It was too late. No! If only he hadn’t signed that damned non-compete contract. That was the reason. We pinned everything to that one sheet of paper that his lawyers made him John Hancock. It didn’t matter. It was a great night, but we would point our fingers at Jay-Z’s lawyers.

So we said our goodbyes. We didn’t need to see The Roots if Jay-Z wasn’t going to be there. We see them on Fallon enough, and we’d seen them at the Highline Ballroom a week ago. Goodbye, Foster Kamer from Blackbook. Good night, friend from Bank of America. Goodbye, Elliott Wilson, who showed us his texts back and forth with Jay, who was in Las Vegas and never had any plans to be at this show.


We were — truly — a little surprised. That was a fact.

[Photo: Sean Edgar for Self-Titled]