Jay-Z christened the $1 billion Barclays Center Friday night with so much Brooklyn pride that it seemed the answer to his question "Is Brooklyn in the house?" could burst the new arena's rusted-metal facade.
"This is a celebration of where I'm from," Jay-Z said, taking the stage shortly before 10 p.m.
Soon, he was launching into his hit "Brooklyn (Go Hard)," offering the first of his tributes to The Notorious B.I.G., following a historical film of the borough's accomplishments.
"I want you to be so loud that B.I. can here you up in heaven," Jay-Z said, leading a fierce rap-along.
His triumphant homecoming is an extraordinary success story, a rare musician able to help with such a massive project.
Of course, Jay-Z, raised in the Marcy Projects in nearby Bed-Stuy, wasn't the only Brooklyn representative in the building.
A walk around the arena is like a tour of Brooklyn standards that may even rival Jay-Z in borough name recognition — including Junior's cheesecake and Nathan's hot dogs, as well as his own Rocawear store.
And there were plenty of basketball players. After all, big-name concerts aside, including the return of Brooklyn's Barbra Streisand next month, Barclays Center is also the home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, the borough's first major league team since the Brooklyn Dodgers left Ebbets Field in 1957. Jay-Z is part-owner of the Nets.
"Brooklyn, this is our night tonight," was DJ Mister Cee's mantra, as he warmed the crowd with plenty of Brooklyn music, including lots of music from the late Notorious B.I.G., who gave Jay-Z his first break. "I never thought I would see an arena in Brooklyn."
The new arena has already brought some A-listers to the Prospect Heights neighborhood, with Rihanna and the New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire showing up late Thursday night for the opening of the arena's outpost of Jay-Z's 40/40 Club. The stars were in the arena last night as well, with everyone from J. Cole and Memphis Bleek to Lil Cease showing up to congratulate Brooklyn.
Jay-Z will play seven more sold-out shows at Barclays Center through next Saturday.