Jay Z | United Center | Hip-Hop | Chicago Reader
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Jay Z

Jay Z

When: Thu., Jan. 9, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $32.50-$150
Jay Z has covered a lot of territory in a recording career nearly 20 years long—beginning in grimy east-coast boom-bap and leading to the luxurious futuristic beats of his latest, Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail (Roc-a-Fella/Roc Nation)—but his catalog is tied together by his bottomless ambition and inimitable, often breathtaking flow. In the early days Jay Z’s goal was to get out of selling crack and into the music business, and once he conquered the rap world it evolved into a desire to establish himself as a top-tier mainstream pop star and a world-class entrepreneur. Having accomplished that, he’s moved on to proving himself as a serious aesthete, dropping an album full of references to his collection of big-name contemporary art and promoting it using stunts that borrow heavily from the work of performance artist Marina Abramovic, who’s recently emerged as an unlikely influence among the Top 40 set. At age 44, Jay Z is starting to lose some of the addictive on-mike electricity that’s made him an icon, and his performances on Magna Carta can’t quite match his aspirations—but he remains an unparalleled live performer, and he’s backed up by what’s inarguably the strongest body of work in rap history. —Miles Raymer

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