Jay-Z Performs ‘Hard Knock Life’ At Carnegie Hall

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(Jay-Z performs “Hard Knock Life” at Carnegie Hall)

On Monday evening (February 6) Jay-Z took the stage at New York’s Carnegie Hall for the first time, and the Brooklyn rapper treated guests at the charity show to a generous set list that included most of his classic songs. In addition to performing hits like “New York Sate of Mind,” with Nas, Hov also performed “Hard Knock Life.” Watch the performance footage above.

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With a full orchestra that included ?uestlove and Young Guru playing DJ, Hov took the stage at 8:45 p.m. ET after a dramatic string build. Emerging from the stage’s side door in a white tux jacket toting a gold bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, Jigga began his evening shouting, “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Hov,” the iconic opening line from 2003′s “Public Service Announcement.”

Those who thought Jigga would conform to the stuffy artistic standard typically associated with the famed concert hall were mistaken. Jay strutted across the stage drinking from his gold bottle promising the crowd, “It’s just tea.” On this night, Hov pledged to eradicate the divide that separates musical genres, only differentiating between good and bad music. “All those lines that divide us, we gonna step on ‘em,” he announced to the electric crowd.

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As he’s done most of his career, Jay continued to stomp out the misconceptions that rap can’t be considered highbrow art as he tore through radio hits and street favorites like “U Don’t Know” and “Where I’m From.” Jay did balance things out when he invited Alicia Keys onstage for “Empire State of Mind” but got extra-gritty on the very next song, making way for Nas to perform his own “N.Y. State of Mind” from the Queensbridge MC’s 1994 classic Illmatic. There was a perfect juxtaposition throughout. The biggest musical clash came when Jay performed the “Annie”-sampling “Hard Knock Life.” Jigga rapped the song’s verses, while the wealthy crowd song the downtrodden chorus. By the time Hova rolled into the set’s next song “Izzo,” a marijuana smell filled the air. That must be a first for Carnegie.

Ever the master of ceremonies, the Brooklyn rap juggernaut slowed things down properly easing into “Girls, Girls, Girls,” then “Song Cry” and then “Glory,” the song he released days after the birth of his and Beyoncé’s first daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. “One hand in the air for Blue,” he screamed before delivering his heartfelt daddy raps.

“I didn’t think I was gonna make it through that one, that was tough,” Jay said at the close of the number.