DMX Sparks Jay-Z’s On-Stage Evolution

Jay-Z was the first rap artist to headline Britain’s Glastonbury Festival in 2008 and he will make history once again next Friday when he becomes the first solo hip-hop act to top the bill at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. But Jay wasn’t always able to command a stage. He opens up about the rapper who indirectly encouraged him to become a better performer and the artists who’ve influenced his on-stage evolution.

“In hip-hop, there’s not many great performers,” Jay-Z told the Los Angeles Times. “I look outside the genre, measuring myself against others. I look at Madonna’s production and envy that. Daft Punk’s set, I’m like, what the… And I look at the way U2 can command an audience. Bono’s a performer pretty much like I am. He’s not a dancer; he’s not jumping around. He’s having a conversation. He’s using his stillness as movement.”

The hip-hop heavyweight was modest when talking about his early stage presence. “All my early years? Forget it. I was a horrible performer,” he admitted, realizing that he needed to up his game when touring with DMX in 1999. “DMX tore me to pieces. I remember being stunned.”

It was then Jay knew that he had to raise the bar. “[DMX] had me really working. But I had to figure this out,” he explained. “If you want to be a headliner, you better put on a headline show.”

Now well adjusted to playing sold-out arenas, Mr. Carter is looking forward to his next headlining gig at Coachella in Indio, Calif. “There’s nothing like seeing 100,000 diamonds.”