Jay-Z's had a great year. He became the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His wife, Beyoncé, gave birth to twins. Also, he's still married to Beyoncé, so that in itself is a win. And in June, he released 4:44, an album that got him nominated for multiple Grammys, including Album of the Year, and catapulted him back into the GOAT conversation after a few fallow years.
All in all, it was a banner 2017 for the Jigga Man, which he's capping with a massive tour celebrating not just his most recent creative triumph but the full breadth of his storied career. But here's where things get weird—according to reports, the 4:44 Tour is selling way below expectations. Tickets have gone for as low as $6 in some markets. A day before his stop at Moda Center, you can snag a 300-level ticket for $15 on StubHub. Billboard published a piece contending that this is all by design, and that Jay-Z is actually turning a mighty profit on this outing. But still—it probably shouldn't cost you less to see one of the greatest and most popular rappers of all-time than, say, a buzz band at Mississippi Studios, right?
So what's the deal? Hard to say. But here are a few theories.
None of his music is on Spotify.
Coming off the flat response to the rich-dude megalomania of 2013's Magna Carta Holy Grail, this year's acclaimed 4:44 represents a comeback for Sir Jigga. But keeping the album off the world's biggest streaming site means not everyone has heard it, and taking down the rest of his catalog has possibly left memory-shriveled millennials earnestly asking, "Jigga who?"
Beyoncé put a curse on him.
Maybe not through actual sorcery—though it's hard to put anything past her—but her public accusations of infidelity tattooed him with a scarlet lemon that's yet to fade, even after he confessed and apologized for his sins. The Beyhive is slow to forgive, and never forgets.
Fans don't like "conscious" Jay-Z.
4:44 is his most inward-looking album ever, and Grammy-nominated single "The Story of O.J." is an incisive critique of race and wealth in America. But maybe there's a segment of his fanbase that just wants to see him lighting up cigars on a yacht again.
He needed a bigger opening act.
Roc Nation signee Vic Mensa certainly has buzz, and his political edge meshes with this current iteration of Jay-Z, but the reaction to the Chicago rapper's long-awaited debut, The Autobiography, was a collective shrug emoji. Reeling in someone like, say, Future, would've made the tour unmissable.
Maybe hip-hop won't age like rock'n'roll.
As hip-hop enters middle-age, Jay-Z has survived long enough to emerge as the first truly huge "legacy rapper," and this tour—featuring a massive, career-spanning setlist—is effectively a test case for how fans are going to regard their legends as they get older. You'd think if anyone could stay on the road, packing arenas into his '70s, it'd be Hov. But if he's not the rap game Paul McCartney, then who is?
SEE IT: Jay-Z plays Moda Center, 1 N Center Court St., with
Vic Mensa, on Thursday, Dec. 14. 8 pm. $27-$138. All ages. Get tickets here.