Jay-Z returns to Brooklyn roots at stadium launch
NEW YORK - Rap superstar Jay-Z returned to his home borough for a sold-out concert on Friday night to open Brooklyn's new basketball stadium.
The rapper who grew up just two miles away from the new Barclays Center arena - now the home court of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team - talked about how far he had come in a show sprinkled with emotional speeches.
"I've been on many stages all around the world and nothing feels like tonight," Jay-Z told the cheering audience.
"I'm really overwhelmed by the moment," he said as he described his humble beginnings in Marcy Houses, a Brooklyn public housing project he noted was just 15 minutes away from the arena. "I can't believe that this day has come."
Jay-Z, who raps about the time he spent as a drug dealer, released his first album in 1996. He is now one of the most successful rappers in the world, owns a minority stake in the Nets and has businesses including a clothing label.
He encouraged members of the packed crowd to have their own stab at success.
"I believe everybody in the world is born with genius level talent ... Apply yourself to whatever you're genius at and you can do anything in the world," he said.
It was the first of eight Jay-Z concerts planned for the venue in the arena's first week.
Jay-Z sported the team's jersey and hat as he sang recent hits like Empire State of Mind and returned to his highly acclaimed debut album Reasonable Doubt.
The rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has been heavily involved in the promotion of the 18,000-seat arena, which took years to move from concept to reality partly because it met with legal challenges and opposition from people in nearby residential areas such as Fort Greene and Park Slope.
The stadium, which started construction in 2009, will bring a major professional sports team back to Brooklyn for the first time in 55 years when the Dodgers baseball team moved away from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and became the L.A. Dodgers.
Jay-Z showed off a jersey worn by Dodgers player Jackie Robinson - also the first African American Major League Baseball player.
He paid tribute to deceased rap star and fellow Brooklyn native Notorious B.I.G. by projecting an image of him on the stage and covering two of his songs. Brooklyn hip-hop pioneer Big Daddy Kane appeared later in the evening.
Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand and the Smashing Pumpkins are all due to appear at the Barclays Center during its first two months.