Grand Re-opening…Grand Closing?

On January 18th Gotham’s hottest celebrities and Warren Buffett came out to celebrate with rap mogul Jay-Z.  And it was not to celebrate the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy Carter; it was to officially announce that 40/40 Club was re-opened for business.  Or is it?  Yes, the Flatiron nightclub, located on West 25th Street, received a $10 million overhaul, but apparently that wasn’t enough to get the club a passing grade with health inspectors and was closed again a day later.

According to the Post, the health inspector gave the club 69 violation points and a “C” grade, and in case you are unsure what that means, that is bad.  The health inspector found perishable food at dangerously warm temperatures inside the walk-in refrigerator, “hot” food left out on the counter and a worker mixing salsa with bare hands. 

The grade will be adjudicated at a hearing next month.  Ron Berkowitz, spokesman for 40/40 Club, stated to TMZ that the grade was a still pending.  Since news broke of the club’s closing a day after its star-studded re-opening, some have rushed to various websites to question Jay-Z’s business acumen.  But even “The Donald” has had his share of bumps along the road.  I’m sure HOV could’ve oversaw the details of re-opening of 40/40 Club with a platinum tooth comb to ensure no hiccups like this would happen, but I believe Jigga has much more on his mind as of late.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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Give Me an O

Oh Sugar, Honey, Ice, Tea…guess who is back?  Its 2011 hip-hop cash king Jay-Z and his once protégé producer turned Michael Jackson wannabe and superstar in his own right, Kanye West.  I am sure all you FAMERS have seen the video for “Otis”, which has been on rotation on MTV and plastered all over the internet.  “Otis” is the first video to be released from their collaboration Watch the Throne, and features a vocal and instrumental sample from Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”, a flame-shooting overhauled Maybach and a mountainous American flag draped over a hanger (oh did I also mention there are models too).

The video is directed by Spike Jonze, known for cranking out a great video or two, has been well received by critics and the public and looks more like the outtakes of a video shoot rather than a video itself.  It is not contrived, the concept not overly artistic, it is just Jigga and Kanye kicking it, whipping around in a super Maybach with models in the backseat and “Parks and Recreation” star Aziz Ansari making a brief cameo.   As simplistic as it gets, “Otis” gets high marks for showing two hip-hop moguls having fun.  But for me the best part of the song or video is the Redding sample.  Although I did cringe at the blasphemy of using the legendary soul singer’s most famous hit in an almost haphazardly fashion (hey, I am an old head), I must admit the track did grow on me.  The best samples take great beats and hooks and transform them into new music.  And that is exactly what Kanye West did with “Otis”.

The production of the song harkens back to tracks like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, which featured a sample of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” or “Hard Knock Life” which used a sample from the musical Annie.  Although the shrieks at the end of the video can be unnerving, the sample introduces the music of Otis Redding to Millennials, a generation who has probably never heard of him and gives old heads like me the opportunity to relive the joy of Redding’s music in another form.  And besides the track being a headbanger, the Maybach shown in the video is being auctioned to aid the East African drought relief efforts.

And in case you have not seen it…Here’s Otis!

Hov to Tour with U2 Down Under

FAMERS, ready to have some Vegemite with your turkey?  If not, then you probably do not want to spend your Thanksgiving with Jay-Z and Bono.  In recent Jigga news, Live Nation.com announced that the rap mogul will be joining the rockers from Ireland as a special guest when U2 brings their 360 tour to Australia and New Zealand. 

The Aussie leg of the tour is set to begin at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium on November 25 with stops in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and makes a final stop at Perth’s Subiaco Oval.  Tickets go on sale September 3 with almost 45% of the tickets priced under $100.

U2 just recently resurrected the 360 tour in Turin, Italy this month after taking a brief hiatus to allow frontman and humanitarian Bono to recover from back surgery.  Along with sharing the stage, Jay-Z and U2 also share the dubious distinction of being some the richest entertainers in a sagging music industry.  F.A.M.E NYC told you that Mr. Carter topped the list of hip-hop’s cash cows in Forbes Magazine, but Forbes also reported U2 was the top grossing band for 2009, earning $300 million with their tour.  The 360 tour is also poised become the top-grossing tour in history, outselling the Rolling Stones’ “Bigger Bang” tour, which grossed $558 million in 2005-2007, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Along with giving fans a “best of both worlds” tour bill, these entertainers are solidifying their claim to remain number one next year.

Jay Z Heads The Rap Pack

 

Back in the day when I was rocking my Lee jeans and shell toe Adidas and spinning windmills at house parties, my mind could never fathom that the genre of music that I thought belonged to my generation exclusively would grow to dominate and influence the world, much less be mentioned in Forbes.    But it has done just that; despite Gulf Coast oil spills, an on-going war, a wretched global economy and changes within the music industry that have permanently altered the way business is done and new artists are handled, hip-hop is a juggernaut that can not be stopped. 

On August 17, Forbes.com released its annual “Hip-Hop’s Cash Kings” list.  Brooklyn-born rap mogul Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) was ranked number one raking in $63 million over the past year.  Well, it seems that the foundation of “The Roc” was built on moola.  But despite having the bragging rights of being hip-hop’s top earner, Mr. Carter is still not the bread winner in his household.  That honor goes to his wife Beyonce who pulled in a hefty $87 million, now that is bringing home the bacon.  Harlem native Diddy came in at second earning $30 million. 

The secret to their earning ability does not just lie in their lyrical savvy.  Creating a brand that has several streams of revenue is what keeps these artists from being one-note.    For instance, Jigga co-owns the 40/40 nightclub chain and is part owner of the New Jersey Nets franchise.  He is also serves as co-brand director for Budweiser Select and is one of the producers for the Tony award- winning Broadway musical Fela!

Rounding out the top five were Akon with $21 million, Lil Wayne with $20 million and Dr. Dre with $17 million.  Hip-hop beef maker 50 Cent also appeared on the list at number fourteen grossing $8 million. View the complete list at Forbes.com. 

 

Broadway Takes Time to Give

On May 17 some of Broadway’s power players gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel to lend their support and signatures to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ “Time to Give” Auction.  The “Time to Give” auction is a collaboration between Audemars Piguet Swiss watches and the Tony Awards. Each watch will be a one-of-a-kind creation featuring the celebrity’s signature recreated on the back or side.

Kelsey Grammer and Jay-Z

 

Legends of the Great White Way attended the invitation-only auction, conducted by Christie’s Lydia Fenet.  Liev Schreiber’s signature watch sold for $13,000.  Screen and stage veteran Catherine Zeta Jones’ signed timepiece brought in $80,000 and Nathan Lane’s autographed watch sold for $26,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Francois-Henry Bennahmias and Vanessa Williams

Meryl Streep is not only a big draw at the box office; she is big draw on the auction block as well.  Her watch sold for $100,000.  Francois-Henry Bennahmias, President and CEO of Audemars Piguet North America, provided a second autographed Meryl Streep Millenary Astrologia watch to a guest willing to match the $100,000 bid.  Kelsey Grammer’s autographed Jules Audemars Chronograph watch sold for $45,000.   Vanessa Williams sang an a cappella rendition of “Losing My Mind,” which she sings in Sondheim on Sondheim, live after someone paid $50,000 for her watch.  Jay-Z brought in the highest price of the evening for his autographed Royal Oak Offshore Las Vegas Strip timepiece.  His signature watch and signed poster from Fela! sold for $220,000. 

Other celebrities that lent their signatures to Audemars Piguet watches were Antonio Banderas, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Edie Falco, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Hayes, Neil Patrick Harris, David Hyde Pierce, Hugh Jackman, Jane Krakowski, Angela Lansbury, Cyndi Lauper, John Lithgow, Sienna Miller, Bebe Neuwirth, Cynthia Nixon, Chita Rivera and Anika Noni Rose.  Fifteen of the autographed Swiss timepieces are still available for bidding at www.charitybuzz.com/audemarspiguet.  The auction closes on May 24.

Photos: © Bill Davila/startraksphotos.com

Fame Mistress Opens 52nd Grammy Awards

 

The grand dame of music and fashion walked the red carpet looking like an extraterrestrial representative from the planet Diva.  Lady Gaga did not disappoint fans or media with red carpet ensemble or other outfit changes, none of which were able to grace the Staple Center stage.  Although Gaga did not receive the opportunity to speed through a speech before the music cuts into her “thank you “list, she did add Grammy winner to her list of accolades.  Lady Gaga won Best Dance Recording for “Pokerface” and Best Electronic Dance Album for The Fame.  She also opened 52nd Grammy Award ceremony and shared the stage with another piano tickling, fashion icon Elton John creating another memorable moment in Grammy history.   

Speaking of memorable moments in Grammy history, the music industry’s consummate rebel Pink gave one the best performances of the evening.  Her high flying, Cirque du Soleilsque rendition of “Glitter in the Air” proved to the audience in attendance and to those viewing at home that she is still a badass with a banging body to match.

Yonkers native Mary J. Blige provided inspiration duet with Andrea Bocelli.  Introduced by Haiti’s native son Wyclef Jean, they sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in support the impoverished island devastated by the recent earthquake.   

Beyonce took fierce to another level with her hair swinging, military powered performance of “If I Were A Boy.”  She also won Grammys for Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Halo”, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Traditional R&B Performance for “At Last”, Best R&B Song for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and Best Contemporary R&B Album for I Am…Sasha Fierce.  I don’t know if The Black Eyed Peas did, but I believe Mrs. Carter definitely had a good, good night.   Mr. Carter added to the family’s night of Grammy wins. The ambassador of New York took home Grammys for Best Rap Solo Performance for “DOA (Death Of Auto-Tune), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for “Run This Town.”

R&B crooner Maxwell cemented his comeback with Best R&B Album for Blacksummers’ Night and Best R&B Male Performance for “Pretty Wings”, which he performed during Sunday night’s telecast. He also performed a duet with the incomparable Roberta Flack, thank you Maxwell for truly bringing sexy back.

Punk superstars Green Day provided a glimpse into their new Broadway musical American Idiot.  They sang “21st Century Breakdown”, which won the Best Rock Album Grammy, along with the show’s cast.  American Idiot will hit the St. James Theater in March and officially open in April.

 Photos courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Empire State of Mind Top Single for 2009

Not since Frank Sinatra’s rendition of New York, New York has the Big Apple had a theme song that unites, describes and inspires the way Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” has.  Jigga hit pay dirt with this single and the feature of Alicia Keys, another fellow New Yorker, on the hook.  Both these artists are at the top of their game musically and could make for no better New York duo.  The song seemed to be perfect for the time since the Yankees used it as their theme song while clinching their 27th World Series victory.  “Empire State of Mind” took on a life of its own; from ringtones to victory parades, this single was everywhere.  It took more than 30 years for hip hop to deliver an anthem dedicated to the birth place of hip hop.  Thanks to Hov constant creativity, “Empire State of Mind” has reached beyond hip hop’s global borders with a timeless anthem that will carry us into the next decade of the new millennium. 

The Call Was Answered Top Event at MSG for 2009

September 11th will always be a day of remembrance and reflection for New Yorkers, but this year Jay-Z sent out a call and answered without a shadow of a doubt.  New Yorkers made their way through the downpour of showers to Madison Square Garden to witness Hov deliver a knock out performance.  The Jay-Z and friends concert proceeds were donated to the New York Police And Fire Widows’ And Children’s Benefit Fund providing awareness to this worthy cause as well as an additional boost of pride on the usual somber day.

The friends that came out for this show included Kid Cudi, Diddy, John Mayer, Memphis Bleek, Pharell, Kanye West, Rihanna, Santo Gold and Jigga’s wife, the diva Ms. Bey.  The tickets sold out faster than a New York minute and thanks to Fuse those who were unable to witness the concert live were able to see the concert without interruption. 

The energy that was circling at the Garden was crazy.  The concert was a genuine celebration of every life lost in the 911 attacks. Every time another artist came out on stage the energy heightened.  Everyone was rocking and singing along, it was the best representation of hip hop I have witnessed in a long time and made me realized why I loved this music.  The Garden has played host to many events, this will undoubtedly rank in the top of all time.  I just hope Jigga will give us an encore next year.