Beyoncé and Jay Z: On top with On the Run II tour

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By: Youeal Abera, Staff Writer

 

On October 2, at BC Place, Beyoncé and Jay-Z brought their album Everything is Love to Vancouver with their On The Run II tour. While watching Beyoncé effortlessly sing some of R&B’s most defining songs, and Jay rap some of hip hop’s most imperative tunes, I found myself travelling through their discographies to remember how both of them became the accomplished artists they are today.

      In 1996, Jay-Z dropped his debut LP, Reasonable Doubt. As the prodigy of the legendary Notorious B.I.G., the young Jay impressed music-industry titans and fans alike with tracks like “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” and “Dead Presidents II.” The swagger, impeccable flow, and sharp lyricism of this record let the world know that the new MC was not to be overlooked.

      Within the next two decades, Jay-Z would drop a number of classic rap records, including 1999’s Vol.2…Hard Knock Life, 2001’s The Blueprint, 2003’s The Black Album, and 2017’s 4:44. In the span of these 20 years, Jay-Z ascended to the top of hip hop’s industry. By becoming the president of a record label (Def Jam in 2004, and now ROC Nation), and through signing some of contemporary music’s biggest names (Rihanna, Kanye West, and J.Cole), Jay-Z has become the most successful MC of his generation.

      Beyoncé’s musical legacy is also one which none can match. As the lead singer of the highest-selling female group, Beyoncé was first introduced to the world through Destiny’s Child’s 1998 debut. Beyoncé proceeded to write some of the group’s most defining anthems, including “Independent Woman (Part 1)” and “Survivor.”

      In 2003, as she released Dangerously in Love along with the global hit singles “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy,” Beyoncé began her solo career. With each subsequent album release, her singles and deep cuts challenged her pop counterparts by sparking conversations about the social and systematic constructs that continue to plague America. Her last two visual albums, 2013’s Beyoncé and 2016’s Lemonade, are her most notable works to date. In addition to releasing these albums by surprise, and forever altering the way contemporary musicians release music, Beyoncé has carefully crafted her music to embody both feminism and the celebration of African-American culture. As a result of the integral messages laden throughout her art, Beyoncé has manifested into the most prolific performer of her time.

      Through reviewing both these artist’s musical journeys, I reflected on the state of music today. Musicians emerge, smash the music charts for two to five years, then fall into obscurity because they find themselves more concerned with current trends and fads than establishing a timeless discography or a respected legacy. It seems that someone’s number of #1 pop records, or their ability to emulate what’s trendy, has taken priority over their drive to make impactful art.

       Seeing Beyoncé and Jay-Z come together to perform an impressive catalogue of music was much more than an exciting concert experience. On the Run II shares the story of how a Black boy from Bedford-Stuyvesant and a Black girl from Houston used their talent, innovative art, and resilient work ethic to reach the top spot of the music industry.

       More than just social media exposure, record sales, or even chart placement, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have redefined what it means to be successful in an industry where everything but the music has taken precedence.