It’s official. Hip-hop star Jay Z will call it a rap at the Yasalam After-Race concert on November 1 at Abu Dhabi’s du Arena.
The rapper will make his first appearance in the Middle East on the Friday night of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, following the opening night performance from Arab stars Amr Diab, Elissa and Hussain Al Jassmi on October 31.
Jay Z will be followed on Saturday by British rock band Muse — known for their incredible stage performances — and Depeche Mode, who round out the weekend with Sunday’s closing concert.
Mike Fairburn, Flash Entertainment’s vice presidentm marketing and communications, told tabloid!, “Jay S is the biggest rap mogul and music icon on this planet. He was an obvious choice. Booking artists of high calibre is important since Abu Dhabi is one of the top circuits in the world.”
While the Yasalam After-Race concerts are exclusively for F1 ticket and invitation holders, Jay Z’s name was revealed at a unique event at Virgin Megastore, Mall of the Emirates on Monday with hundreds of music fans gathered in the hopes of getting free tickets to the Friday concert.
The first 200 fans received invitations while the lucky first 40 fans received a three-day pass to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the accompanying concerts. There were loud cheers when Jay Z’s name was announced.
Some fans had been waiting since 9am — before the store opened — and took to dancing to Psy’s Gangnam Style to kill time. Piers Walsh, 16, had been there since 9am. “The wait has paid off. I am in the first 10 now. F1 concerts are the best.”
“I have never waited in a queue for anything in my life,” said 20-year-old Ken Khuzae, adding he hopes Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce — also currently on tour — will follow him here. Fairburn would not comment on whether she will also be in the UAE.
Beth Qutob, 14, was holding token number 55. “I have all his albums. “I am super excited. I was here at 11.30am but I would have come earlier if I knew it was Jay Z.”
Jay Z’s debut means this region’s music fans will finally get to hear live songs from the rapper’s highly personal post-fatherhood album Magna Carta Holy Grail, where he voices his fears about playing father to his daughter Blue Ivy Carter — as well as raps about fame and Michael Jackson.
He’s been touring the album this summer with Justin Timberlake — so hopes remain strong that Timberlake will make a second outing to the Middle East sometime soon.
But the big question remains whether the Brooklyn native and the recently de-hyphenated rapper will outdo his wife Beyonce’s superlative 2009 F1 closing act.
Jay Z, born Shawn Carter, is the poster boy for the rags-to-riches rapper dream and is perhaps one of the most popular living rappers.
Tickets for the 2013 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which include Y1 access, can be purchased from www.yasmarinacircuit.com, 800 YAS (927), Virgin Megastores and Etihad Airways Shops. Tickets range from Dh895 to Dh4,420 (three-day pass), Dh545 to Dh1,875 onwards for two-day tickets and Dh365 to Dh1,500 onwards for one-day pass.