Jay-Z is in the middle of his Magna Carter tour, and on Friday, my friend Erika (I’ve linked to her posts before; here’s a fave) and I went to the show. The concert was reeeeaaaally fun, and there was a surprising lack of screaming teenagers. Maybe it’s because Jay-Z is 44, and thus, his fan base is a little older. Maybe it’s also because Timbaland (who was spinning on stage the whole night) is 41. Anyway, I’d say the majority of the people there were in their 30s and 40s, which I thought was unexpected but pretty cool. A bunch of people re-living 2003 and brushing their shoulders off. Jay-Z took a break to drink water and put on a fresh t-shirt, probably, and Timbaland started playing Missy Elliot (age 42!), which I *OF COURSE* enjoyed.
At the end of the show, Jay-Z started calling out people in the crowd. The camera would zoom in on that person, and he’d chat with them for a minute. “Hey, you in the blue shirt in the front row. I saw you singing along. You knew every word; I appreciate that.”
“Hey babygirl in the teal pants, is this your first show? Your sixth!? Thanks for coming out.”
“Hey you in the khaki pants! You look like Jake from State Farm. I watch too much TV.”
“Hey you… I see you.”
He kept telling people in the crowd “I see you.” And of course those people would be delirious with excitement, waving and blowing kisses. Jay-Z, international mogul with a net worth of $500 million, was calling out people that came to his show and letting them know he sees them.
If you’ll allow me to go on a religious/spiritual tangent here (which you can totally ignore if you hate that sort of thing), I was standing there in my ripped denim shorts (I wore tights) with my makeup sweating off me, surrounded by thousands of people screaming, and I started thinking about theology. Jay-Z’s “Hey ma in the tribal shirt/Hey bro holding up the Magna Carter flag, I see you” reminded me of a story in the Bible. Summary: God had promised Abram an heir, but his wife Sarai was way too old to have kids. So she tells him to sleep with her maidservant so he can have a son. That happens, and Hagar (the maidservant) gives birth. But then Sarai gets pregnant (another heir!) and treats Hagar so badly that she flees.
The story goes that she’s out in the desert without food or water, but an angel appears and provides resources and direction. Hagar names God “El Roi” which means the God who sees.
Jay-Z – a regular human – is calling people out letting them know he sees them, and God sees us, regardless of our stories or our battles or lack of famous spouses and clothing lines. And maybe Jay-Z and the story in the Bible can inspire us to see each other.
I’m in Target buying shampoo and crayons and dish soap, and I can take a moment to let the employee at the register know that I see him. I can take a five minute work break and get down on the floor and work on a puzzle with my daughter and let her know that I see her. I can take ten minutes and endure a conversation with a notoriously irritating older lady in my community instead of ducking down the next aisle and making an escape plan, and it’s a small sacrifice to let her know I see her.
The act of seeing – really seeing – turns a stranger into more than a stranger. As I stood and engaged in that aforementioned irritating conversation, a part of me softened towards this woman. I felt compelled to ask a follow up question. I embraced her and told her that I hoped that she’d have a good day. I went through the motions of seeing her, and I felt myself starting to care for her. I’ve noticed that when I’m able to look past a person and realize that we all have our own stories hidden behind daily pleasantries and how do you dos, it’s easier to lose judgment and rather, feel empathy and compassion. Learned in a venue full of guys wearing snapbacks and girls wearing mini-dresses.
You’re crazy for this one, Jay.