Video Vault: 25 Classic Jay Z Television Performances


Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Jay Z just embarked on yet another high-grossing Summer tour earlier this week, this time with his superstar wife Beyonce as the co-headliner. While young new artists continue to build up their following on the road, and legendary acts keep their careers alive off show money, Hov will be comfy cozy on his private jet flying city to city, padding his family bank account and perhaps Blue Ivy’s college fund with new bags of bills. But the route from Marcy Projects to mansions in the Hamptons didn’t come without continuous hard work. Jigga’s been out here doing this for a minute now (his debut Reasonable Doubt just turned 18 on June 25th), and though his career lifestyle has become more luxurious, it’s still a grind.

To help kick off Jay’s latest tour with wifey, we gathered up 25 Classic Jay Z Television Performances—dating back to 1996 and spanning his entire career—for our latest Video Vault. These TV clips feature on-stage performances with everyone from Beanie Sigel to UGK to Eminem to Lenny Kravitz to the Queen Bey herself, and there’s a few Dame Dash cameos to enjoy as well. Also included is a nice batch of past BET Awards performances to warm you up for tonight’s big show. Throw your diamonds up, the Roc is in the building!

1. “Dead Presidents” and “Ain’t No Nigga” (Teen Summit)

Way before he was packing stadiums worldwide and performing on The Grammys, a laidback Jay Z took the stage on BET’s Teen Summit to give the youngsters on set a taste of his debut album Reasonable Doubt. While this is still an amazing, early clip, it’s not the most energetic performance, as hypeman Dame Dash provides not-so-hype ad-libs for Jigga as he calmly runs through the original, non-album single version of “Dead Presidents” and also his follow-up single “Ain’t No Nigga” (the clean version, aha) for a partially disinterested crowd. But everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?

2. “Jigga My Nigga,” “Can I Get A…” and “Hard Knock Life” (MTV Video Music Awards)

“I’m about to bring Jigga out. We’re sick of playin’ with y’all. For the next five years, we’re taking y’all all the way underground. You’re about to witness a dynasty like no other. Roc-A-Fella, y’all.” DJ Clue hit the nail on the head with this intro. Once Jay Z dropped Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, his status as the next King of New York was cemented, and this MTV VMAs performance of his biggest records to date, “Jigga My Nigga,” “Can I Get A…” and “Hard Knock Life,” only helped to solidify his new status even more, and set up his Roc La Familia to have a run of their own, too.

*Bonus* “Hard Knock Life” (The Chris Rock Show)

Back when Chris Rock had his own show on HBO, Jigga made a guest appearance to perform “Hard Knock Life” to close out one of the episodes, with the kids on stage with him and all that. Nice performance here.

3. “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)” ft. Beanie Sigel and Amil (The Chris Rock Show)

Jay Z returned to The Chris Rock Show in support of In My Lifetime Vol. 3, and brought Beanie Sigel and Amil along with him to perform the first single off the album, “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up).” This joint is underrated, no? Man, I used to love this Jay Z verse, and Beanie kills this shit, too. Very dope.

4. “So Ghetto” (MTV’s Total Request Live New Year’s Eve Special)

Oh yeah, Jiggaman came out in full force to bring in 1999 in his hometown, baby, and he chose his DJ Premier-produced banger “So Ghetto” as his opening song for his TRL New Year’s Eve mini-set. Good choice, this joint still knocks retardedly, and Dame and company are having a blast. Fun times for the Roc!

5. “Big Pimpin’” ft. UGK (BET)

During a BET special, Jay Z brought out his Texas boys UGK to perform their Timbaland-produced smash “Big Pimpin’.” Unfortunately, Pimp C is no longer with us, so this is a special clip that both Jigga and UGK fans alike should treasure ‘til infinity. RIP Pimp C.

*Bonus* “Big Pimpin’” (The Source Awards)

No, you won’t see Bun B or Pimp C in this Source Awards performance of “Big Pimpin’,” but you will see Dame Dash do his signature dice-shake dance at center stage, and that makes this clip absolutely worthy of inclusion as a bonus.

6. “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)” and “Change the Game (Remix)” ft. Daz and Kurupt (Soul Train Music Awards)

Jay Z chin-checked the Big Apple on “Money, Cash, Hoes” with his infamous line, “It’s like New York’s been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings,” a direct reference to Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” video. Ironically, he linked up a couple years later with Daz and Kurupt for the remix to his Roc La Familia banger “Change the Game,” and brought them out to perform it at the Soul Train Music Awards. I can’t front, I totally forgot that this remix even existed. Did you? It’s the R-O-C with the D-P-G! Nice “I Just Wanna Love U” intro here, too. It’s crazy to think, but at this point Jay was just beginning to pile up the hits.

7. “Fiesta (Remix),” “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me),” and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (BET Awards)

As a lead-in to his classic album The Blueprint, Jay Z took the stage at the first ever BET Awards during the summer of 2001 to not only rock current smash hits like the “Fiesta (Remix)” and “I Just Wanna Love U,” but he also premiered his brand new single “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” produced by a still widely unknown Kanye West for the viewers in the audience and at home to hear for the first time ever. I don’t know about you, but I clearly remember watching this and bugging off how dope his new song was. It was a total “what the fuck is this?!?!?” moment that is still triggered when I hear the “Izzo” chorus. Props to Jay Z for knowing how to make hit records without really doing anything more than getting us all to say his name along with him on hooks in cool new ways. Get ya damn hands up! And oh yeah, we see you Sparks! Here too!

8. “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Roc the Mic” ft. Beanie Sigel and Freeway (Soul Train Music Awards)

Here’s another classic Soul Train Music Awards performance, featuring Jay Z performing “Girls, Girls, Girls” amidst a shitload of fly models. And just when you think it’s over, here come Philly’s finest Beans and Free to turn up with their collabo “Roc the Mic.” Yeahhhhhh.

9. MTV Unplugged – Full Show (MTV)

Jay Z. The Roots. Unplugged. The full set. Press play, and enjoy. As for my favorite moment from this, well, check for the beat switches on “Takeover” during the Nas diss verse by The Roots band. Too perfect.

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10. “Guns and Roses” ft. Lenny Kravitz (Saturday Night Live)

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this is my favorite video clip on this list. Again, I remember watching this live, and similar to the “Izzo” moment I described earlier, I was like, “What the fuck is this?!?!” I somehow got a hold of the audio from of the performance on like Audiogalaxy or some shit before Blueprint 2 came out, and I was obsessed with it to the point that I never could listen to the album version after it. It lacked the oomph of the live joint. Such an amazing Jay Z television moment, debuting a collaboration with Lenny Kravitz live on SNL. That whole “Rocawear I’m the young black Ralph Lauren/Every time I get out they pull me right back in/The Michael Corleone of the microphone/The Michelangelo of flow I paint pictures with poems” flow was insane. Unfortunately, the clip can not be embedded, but you can CLICK HERE TO WATCH. And you can stream/download the audio HERE, too (you’re welcome).

11. “U Don’t Know (Remix)” ft. M.O.P. (Showtime)

Jay Z’s had a lot of firsts in his career, and back in 2003, he held the first ever live hip-hop concert broadcasted on television with his Roc-A-Fella crew, which aired before the Mike Tyson vs. Clifford Etienne fight on Showtime. And thanks to The Dynamics, this clip of Hov performing “U Don’t Know” with M.O.P. helping out on the remix made it to the web a few years ago. You got the full show though, fam?! What’s good?!

12. “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” (MTV’s Total Request Live)

Now they’re married and they have a baby and are the two biggest names in music on the planet who are constantly photographed and filmed together, but back when “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” came out, Jay Z and Beyonce’s relationship was just starting to blossom publicly. It was clear though, especially during performances like this with Bey rocking Jay’s signature navy blue Yankee fitted, that this was no flash-in-the-pan hook-up for Hov. They were committed, and whether or not we all thought it would last this long, they were a power couple in the making, TRL cuteness and all.

13. “Crazy in Love” ft. Beyonce (BET Awards)

If there’s one thing Jay and Bey figured out how to do early, it’s turn their love for each other into hit records. “Crazy in Love” was huge, and most likely, it will still turn the party out when it comes on over a decade later. And of course they did it justice on the BET Awards, with Hov making his quick cameo in a baggy gangster ensemble, letting wifey enjoy her well-deserved shine.

14. Jay Z & Linkin Park – Full Show (MTV UItimate Mash Up)

The Black Album has classic hip-hop records on it, that’s undisputable. But when Hov teamed up with Linkin Park to give them the mash-up treatment, those songs became even more accessible to rock listeners. This was a trendsetting collaboration for sure, and one instance that rock and hip-hop fans can agree worked in favor of both genres. Check out the full MTV Ultimate Mash Up special/performance above.

*Bonus* “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)” and “99 Problems” (BET Awards)

For those who’d like another dose of Hov’s Black Album bangers, here he is, once again at the BET Awards, performing “PSA” and “99 Problems.” Yes, that’s Kid Rock ladies and gentlemen, and Jigga spitting with a live band, which would become standard for him moving forward. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And for an added Black Album moment, here’s Jay making a guest appearance on 106 & Park with Kanye West to perform “Encore.”

15. “Deja Vu” ft. Beyonce (BET Awards)

Did you see that? Yup, that was a playful little booty tap by Hovito on stage at the BET Awards. At this point it was abundantly clear that Beyonce was Jay Z’s ride-or-die bae, and they both were very happy about it. “Deja Vu” was appropriately titled because it kind of felt like hearing “Crazy in Love” all over again. It hasn’t stayed in the mix as much as its predecessor, but it’s still a great track, and it  came off well during this performance clip.

16. “American Dreamin'” (VH1 Storytellers)

Jigga’s American Gangster album got broken down thoroughly during his VH1 Storytellers performance, and in this clip, he paints the picture of the tale told on his Marvin Gaye-sampled gem “American Dreamin’.” Watching this just made me want to pull out American Gangster, haven’t heard it in a while.

*Bonus* “Can’t Knock the Hustle” ft. Mary J. Blige

To support their Heart of the City tour, Jay and Mary paid a visit to David Letterman to perform an old favorite from Reasonable Doubt. Nicely done!

17. “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” (Later… with Jools Holland)

International Hov took his talents across the pond to perform some joints off The Blueprint 3 on UK show Later… with Jools Holland, and in this clip, he gives the crowd a fresh live rendition of his auto-tune squashing first release from the album. He really put that shit to bed with this one, huh. Damn, Hov.

18. “Empire State of Mind” ft. Alicia Keys (MTV Video Music Awards)

After more than a decade of making hit records, Jay landed his biggest score to date on an ode to New York City with fellow Big Apple-raised artist Alicia Keys. And they made their rounds performing it together, including stops at both the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards. Watch the VMAs above, and the AMAHERE. Look for Beyonce singing along from the crowd, very sweet. And of course, check for Lil Mama’s infamous stage crash at the end.

19. 9/11 Answer the Call Benefit Concert – Full Show (Fuse TV)

I had friends that were at this show at MSG, but I took full advantage of the Fuse TV live broadcast, and kicked back with my then fiancee and now wife at the crib to enjoy every second of this incredible 9/11 memorial Jay Z concert from the comfort of my couch. And you can too, right now. This is definitely one of Jay’s dopest concerts ever, with appearances by Kanye West, Rihanna, Beyonce, John Mayer, Diddy, Pharrell, Mary J. Blige, and more. And the end is awesome, when he shouts out all the different fans in the audience on some “I see you” shit.

20. “Swagger Like Us” ft. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and T.I. (Grammy Awards)

Say what you want about The Grammys, but they facilitated this live rendition of 2008’s biggest posse cut “Swagger Like Us,” with Hov, Kanye, Weezy, T.I., and a pregnant M.I.A. all on stage together. And for that, the Grammy powers that be deserve our props. This has to go down as one of the dopest, if not the dopest, hip-hop Grammy moments ever. Respect the black and white, suit and tie steez too. Super fresh.

21. “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amor)” ft. Bono, The Edge, and Rihanna (Hope For Haiti Now)

After Haiti was hit with a massive Earthquake in 2010, Jigga linked up with his superstar buddies from U2, and Roc Nation princess Rihanna, to pen an original song to help raise money in support of the relief effort. And on the Hope For Haiti Now live telethon, they united on stage together to perform the song. Always good to see celebrities using their star power in positive ways.

22. “Renegade” ft. Eminem (Late Show with David Letterman)

Almost a decade after the song was initially featured on The Blueprint, Jay Z and Eminem linked up to perform their legendary collaboration “Renegade” on a midtown NYC rooftop in support of their co-headlining mini-tour together, thanks to late night kingpin David Letterman. This was part of a larger performance that included solo joints by each artist, but this was the moment we all were waiting for. Now the question is, did Eminem really murder Jay Z on his own shit, like Nas said?

23. “Otis” ft. Kanye West (MTV Video Music Awards)

This was a big night for Hov. Not only did he tear down his Watch the Throne anthem “Otis” with his little brother Kanye West, but his wife Beyonce broke the news to the world that her and Jigga were expecting, with the famous post-performance tummy rub felt ‘round the world. It would’ve been dope if they drove out on stage in the roofless Maybach from the video, but regardless, they bodied the damn lames with this shit.

24. “Suit & Tie” ft. Justin Timberlake (Saturday Night Live)

Justin Timberlake made a strong comeback in 2013, and it all started with his Jay Z duet “Suit & Tie,” which the two performed live together on SNL. This is some grown man fresh shit, and if you listen closely, you might just hear Justin throw a shot at Kanye West. You can also watch Justin and Jay perform “Suit & Tie” at the Grammys HERE.

25. “Drunk in Love” ft. Beyonce (Grammy Awards)

To wrap this list up properly, here is Jay and Beyonce’s Grammy clip from earlier this year of “Drunk in Love.” As you’ll probably remember, this was the first performance of the night, which turned out to be an extremely tough act to follow. Congrats to Jay and Bey for all the years of hit records, success, and love, and good luck out on tour!

Update: Watch Beyonce and Jay Z perform “Partition (Remix)” at the 2014 BET Awards HERE.


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