NEW YORK – You could create a music award based on Jay Z’s collaborative tours.
Past nominees for best live performance by Jay Z and friends would include Justin Timberlake, Eminem and Kanye West, among others. And this year, the rap king is hitting the road with his superstar wife, Beyonce. The On the Run Tour kicked off Wednesday in Miami.
In light of the duo’s epic trek, we rank Jay Z’s tours that have co-starred others, which doesn’t include Rihanna or Alicia Keys (surprisingly, right?).
1. Kanye West and Jay Z, Watch the Throne Tour: Jay Z and Kanye West have been a dynamic duo since West started producing some of Hov’s best tracks in the early 2000s, and the pair easily tops this list. Performing songs from the incredible “Watch the Throne” album, the rappers were enticing onstage and left you wanting more on this 2011 tour. And it’s also easy to digest the cocky and brash West with Jay Z by his side.
2. Eminem and Jay Z, The Home & Home Tour: In some ways, it’s hard to call this a 2010 tour with four dates and performances held only in their respective hometowns of Detroit and New York. But what it lacked in length, it made up in power. Eminem – touring behind his comeback album “Recovery” – may have gotten the crowd the most excited, in part because he hadn’t been on the scene for a minute. And bringing out the likes of Dr. Dre and 50 Cent at Yankee Stadium also didn’t hurt. But Jay Z had the crowd on its feet and may have won the night even before the likes of Kanye and Alicia Keys walked onstage.
3. Mary J. Blige and Jay Z, Heart of the City Tour: The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul and the King of ... everything? This 2008 tour married Blige’s sweet but gritty soul with Jay’s grimy rhymes, and it worked. Blige, with passionate delivery and sermon-like interludes, was the one with the most firepower.
4. Justin Timberlake and Jay Z, Legends of the Summer Tour: Legends don’t always mix well, which J and J proved with this 2013 tour. While it was enjoyable, it wasn’t full of sparks, much like their collaborations on the songs “Suit & Tie” and “Holy Grail.” More like “Holy Fail.” OK, not really, but expectations were high for these icons. Highlights included Timberlake singing hooks on popular Jay Z anthems including “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).” The downfall: The prince of pop didn’t perform his signature dance moves. Maybe Jay Z forgot the choreography?
5. R. Kelly and Jay Z, The Best of Both Worlds Tour: This 2004 tour had “99 Problems” from the jump. Shows on the 40-date trek were canceled amid rumors of tension and jealousy between the superstars. It all came to a head when a Jay Z associate allegedly used pepper spray on the Pied Piper of R&B after Kelly left the stage abruptly with claims he saw people in the audience waving guns. The following night, Jay Z relied on his all-star friends – including Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Blige and Diddy – for a spectacular performance that made the audience wonder, “Kelly who?” The tour ended shortly afterward – and then the lawyers got involved.
6. Ciara and Jay Z, Jay-Z & Ciara Live Tour: Did this really happen? If it weren’t for Google, we wouldn’t be able to confirm that it did. But Jay Z and Ciara – who was more popular in 2009 – hit the road together for a five-date tour. We miss the Ciara then – her music was better – and we wonder if she could even open on tour for Jay today since she’s taken about one, two, three thousand steps back.