Jay-Z celebrated his return to the game with a seemingly impossible trek: seven 30-minute concerts around the country in 24 hours. He hit up Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and finished in Las Vegas early on a Sunday. The Associated Press was along for the ride with the recently unretired rapper, whose comeback album, Kingdom Come, was released last week.
5:15 a.m.: Jay-Z is getting ready for the first in the series of concerts. The initial stop is Atlanta, where he was scheduled to give a concert at 6 a.m. on this Saturday.
6:15 a.m.: Jay-Z comes downstairs, and we load in a car. Among the entourage: an MTV crew and Jay-Z's main sidekick, Memphis Bleek. The energy kicks up as we head to Atlanta's Center Stage. At least 100 people are outside. They will not get in. A hundred more are inside. Jay-Z hits the stage, and the crowd flashes diamond signs. "ATL, what's up?" Jay-Z says as he launches into his hits, the crowd jumping.
"First of all, y'all crazy," Jay-Z says. "I know I'm already crazy. But y'all crazy."
He performs for about 30 minutes before leaving and hopping into a car, escorted by police motorcade, and then loading into a luxury jet. Next stop, Philly.
7:45 a.m.: A G5 is the official caravan, a luxurious jet with leather seats, a couple of couches and a wooden table. Jay-Z relaxes onboard, sunglasses still on. But he won't get much rest. MTV personality Sway begins to talk to Jay-Z about the end of what he had called his retirement.
9:45 a.m.: In Philadelphia for show No. 2, once again the venue is packed. It's a raucous performance. Outside, two women are pleading to get a picture with Jay-Z. One is wearing stiletto heels, a tight skirt and a low-cut shirt. As Jay-Z leaves the venue, one of the women bangs on a chain-link fence and screams: "Jay-Z! Jay-Z! I'm your No. 1 fan!"
12:30 p.m.: Heading to Washington, D.C., the hardest part about the tour is keeping together the motorcade, which now includes contest winners picked up in each city to enjoy a day in the life of Jay. There are two jets to carry the load. The ride to Howard University is long. Almost 100 students are awaiting the motorcade. At the stage where Jay-Z is performing, about 1,500 students are awaiting. A marching band plays on the sideline.
4:15 p.m.: Jay-Z has the same energy in New York as he had at 6 a.m. It looks as if more than 2,000 people have shown up this time, at a pier off Manhattan's West Side highway. "We started at 6 o'clock in the morning," Jay-Z tells the crowd, adding that each crowd has been more energetic than the next.
8:30 p.m.: The Riviera in Chicago is the only venue not packed to capacity, though it is almost full. Offstage, Jay-Z's entourage keeps growing. A third plane has been added to the convoy.
1:45 a.m.: In Los Angeles for a stop at the Wiltern, almost everyone seems exhausted. Soon, everyone heads off in assigned cars - Jay-Z is in a separate car - when we stop at a hotel bar. It seems we are too early for the gig and have time to kill. So Jay-Z saddles up to the bar and orders drinks for the entire crew, and the bartenders switch on ESPN so he can get an update on the Michigan-Ohio State football game. A few minutes later, a toast is made to everyone for surviving this far.
3:15 a.m.: At the Wiltern, soon after Jay-Z begins, someone jumps onstage. He's accosted, pinned down and thrown out. But who cares about a deranged fan? Beyonce is here, stunning as always. She and Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams are offside to the stage, dancing with the crowd.
6 a.m.: Last stop, Vegas. The last performance is to be at club Tao, and everyone's energy level is back to 100 percent. But the last bash was the one the Associated Press couldn't see. We got separated in the mash of the crowd and had to retreat to the backstage VIP area.