Jay Z laughs as he tells fans at his Barclays Center show last week about a meeting he had with a fire marshal.
Apparently, the fire marshal had heard about the point in his "Magna Carter World Tour" where he encourages fans to dance in the aisles and stand on their seats.
"If you do that at this show, we're going to fine you, young man," Jay Z recalls being told.
"Oh, the irony," he says, with a big smile, as his fans catch on to what comes next. Jay talks about the "poignant line" in his dance smash "In Paris," where he declares, "Ball so hard [people] wanna fine me. . . . What's 50 grand to a [guy] like me, can you please remind me?"
Then, he tells his fans to do whatever they want.
"They can't fine me, 'cause this is my ---- building," he says. "Security, stand down."
Whether that story is true or embellished for the stage, it does crystallize Jay Z's current way of thinking. He launched his "Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail" (Roc Nation) album last year in a flurry of talk about "new rules" for the music industry.
At the moment, though, it seems those new rules may only apply to the Carter household -- as Jay and his wife, Beyoncé, became the only artists to succeed in using unconventional strategies for their album releases. And even though reviews for "Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail" were decidedly more mixed than usual for Jay Z, he still managed to turn the project into the most-nominated album at this year's Grammys, with nine at next week's awards ceremony, and it still went to No. 1, as he extends his streak in chart-topping albums to 13, more than any other solo artist ever.
It's Jay Z's unprecedented success in his music career that feeds his ability to try new things.
In the past year, Jay unveiled a $20 million deal with Samsung that included the company purchasing 1 million copies of "Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail" to be given away to customers, allowing the album to go platinum even before it was released to the public. He stepped into the world of performance art by delivering his song "Picasso Baby" over and over for six hours at Pace Gallery, eventually turning it into an HBO documentary.
Jay became a sports agent, landing Robinson Cano a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, and starting his own agency with big-name clients that include Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
And, after the success he had with launching Barclays Center in Brooklyn with Forest City Ratner, Jay also signed on to work on the $229 million renovation of Nassau Coliseum. Part of his support will come in funneling Roc Nation artists to the Uniondale arena, which already has led to a New Year's Eve show from Roc Nation's Deadmau5 and the upcoming show from Jay's collaborator and pal Kanye West, who will end his "Yeezus" tour there Feb. 23.
Of course, all those successes also bring criticism, and it's recently become trendy -- or perhaps profitable, considering how many website hits discussion of his actions generate -- to take shots at Hov. Much of the criticism surrounded his partnership with Barneys New York on a new luxury line of items while the retailer was embroiled in a scandal involving allegations of racial profiling of its customers.
Despite pressure for him to walk away from the partnership -- designed as a fundraiser for the Shawn Carter Foundation, which helps low-income students pay for college -- he opted to move forward with the collaboration, which reportedly earned the foundation $1 million.
In a statement, Jay says he agreed to continue only if he had "a leadership role and seat on a council specifically convened to deal with the issue of racial profiling" at Barneys. "I am in a unique position to use my voice to effect change to this disturbing issue," he says. "The easy position would have been to walk away and leave policymaking to others, hoping that someone addresses the problem. I will not leave the outcome to others. I will take this into my own hands with full power to recommend, review and revise policies and guidelines moving forward. I am choosing to take this head on."
At his Barclays Center concert, Jay laughs as spotlights are directed at the audience during "Encore."
"This is my favorite part of the show," he says, as he calls out members of the crowd. "I really appreciate every single person here."
"What's up, iPad man?" he says. After encouraging a couple to kiss, he tells the slightly embarrassed guy, "Love is gangsta, these days."
Later, during "Young Forever," he may reveal the secret of his success to his fans. "Don't let nobody put their fears on you," he says.
"Everything is possible."
Roc Nation's up-and-comers
Jay Z's Roc Nation, which has a deal that will help funnel its artists to Nassau Coliseum, has plenty of up-and-coming stars on its roster, along with A-listers Rihanna and Shakira. Here's a look:
J. COLE The rapper-producer was the first artist signed to Roc Nation, and his first two albums have reached No. 1, including last year's "Born Sinner," which features "Power Trip" with Miguel (and is up for a Grammy next week). He will be part of VH1's "Super Bowl Blitz," playing Queens College on Jan. 27, the day before his "What Dreams May Come" tour hits the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
CALVIN HARRIS The Scottish DJ -- with hits including "We Found Love" with Rihanna, "Sweet Nothing" with Florence Welch and "I Need Your Love" with Ellie Goulding -- is currently doing a residency at Hakkasan night club in Las Vegas. (His girlfriend, singer Rita Ora, is also signed to Roc Nation.)
BRIDGET KELLY No, not the one fired by Chris Christie in Bridgegate. That's Bridget Anne Kelly. The real Bridget Kelly has a powerful, soulful voice and is set to release her debut album this year, following her recent EP "Cut to . . . Bridget Kelly." (She took the recent surge of interest in her name in stride, tweeting, "I dunno what happened to the other Bridget Kelly, but get it together, girl, you need to take better care of this name!!!")