Arriving late to Staples Center, we hit will-call like a whirling dirvish and raced through security to “Otis”. The show was underway and we ran through the empty lobby to our gate, where we showed our tickets and were ushered down the lodge stairs. I started scanning the stairs for Row 10. Another usher lit up my ticket and pointed down. “There’s no where to go”,  I’m thinking. I dubiously made it to the bottom of the stairs, ready to be told to go back to where civilians sit, but the wall of a man at the bottom checks the tickets and welcomes us on to the floor at Staples.

I’ve never been on the floor at Staples, but really for Jay-Z?! After some initial “get the fuck out of our dope ass seats”-ing, we were home in our seats, making eyes with Jiggman, no big deal, close enough to make eyes. I grabbed my friends and shook them like crying babies, pretty sure it was all a dream. I’d woken up that morning and, unconsciously put on my ’98 Yankees t-shirt and my NJ hoodie. Maybe I was still in bed, maybe it was yesterday. I don’t want to wake up.

(Photo courtesy of Kerri Borsuk)

Between them they have enough hits for a life mixtape. Jay-Z pulled from decades worth of my favorite songs. We were on the “Jigga what?” side, and we blew doors on the “Jigga who?” side. “U Don’t Know”, both hands at the air, rapping like you’d think I wrote the song. I was Seat 1, Row 10, on the aisle, with room to dance and ready to throw down. It’d rained in LA that night and I’d carried my sneakers, like one of the secretary commuters I used to ride home with on the JMZ line. I’d come with the intention of lighting the floor on fire, so I ditched my rainboots in the car. Genius move, because I had so much Goddamn enthusiasm, I was sore for two days from bouncing.

It was gratifying to see hip hop presented in such a spectacular fashion. Having grown up in the ’80’s to Run DMC and NWA, then living in New York for the ’90’s, getting to film Stretch and Bobito’s radio show, I feel like hip-hop’s my friend. It’s really nice to see a friend succeed.

The moving grids of lazer beams operated by Lucasfilms, nor the lit up, two-story stages that raised up in the middle of the venue, could compete with the sound. I felt the sound internally, fuck my hearing- I could feel it. I looked up at a hundred foot tall stack of speakers hanging above me. I was human sound baffling. Sweet. If they’d thrown chocolate me I might have died on the spot. It felt like a revival. It felt like The Beatles at Shea.

I expected Jay-Z to be amazing, effortless, charismatic, and charming. I expected Kanye to cry and riff on the vocorder. But you can’t really prepare for a thirty-nine song set-list where you know every word. These are my shower jams, car jams, dance routine when I’m home alone jams. I sing the words, my body runs the bass line and my hands are high hats. Further, I have to say, for as irritating and egomaniacal as Kanye seems, he is one passionate motherfucker. He is about it.

We had a petrie dish of crazy women two rows in front of us. There was the hot lesbian supermodel couple making out passionately, oblivious to the performance. They infuriated the future star of  Season 10 of Basketball Wives, who was determined to nab a baller. Her transparent shirt, big ass, acrylics and giant hoop earrings were no competition for the lesbian supermodels. Basketball Wife finally blew her lid, spitting on the gorgeous couple and wilding the fuck out. They shoved rows eight and nine into us, hair was flying and punches that looked like pitches were landing. My friend jumped in and protected the lesbian supermodels, because who wants to see beauty destroyed? He grabbed the Basketball Wife by the chin and finger wagged her good, amazing.

Fortunately, security was on hand to remove the spectacle just in time for the encore. Suddenly the aisles were full of kids, as Staples had released an awaiting bullpen of rabid fans to fill the open spaces. They closed with “Niggas in Paris”, and as I barely remembered I was invited to the show, I was unprepared, when they started it again. By the fourth time I was on the groove. I got it. I was being hypnotized. Bring it. By the seventh “Niggas in Paris”, Kanye demanded the audience find some piece of clothing to spin above our heads. I whipped off my Yankees tee, and was a rallying windmill. By the eighth time I was in full frenzy, as was Kanye, who’d given up on words- holding the microphone with both hands, screaming like he’s backing Slayer. By the ninth and final encore of “Niggas in Paris” I was being led out of the venue by my friends, who looked possessed, with spinning orbs for pupils.

We shoulder bounced out onto the wet street. I blew a kiss at the Magic statue and danced up the block with a spliff. We passed a waiting black SUV and by the subtlety of its’ tint and rims, I knew it was a chauffeured escape car. We got in our car and pulled around. The SUV had moved. In its’ place was a silver  Rolls Royce Phantom with a black top and matte black rims, Jigga’s ride. A car fit for a king.

Happy Birthday Ker Bear, not for nuthin’, but I’ll take this birthday celebration over any of the previous Hogwarts themed birthdays!

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