R. KELLY, JAY-Z Feuds mar stars' concert tour
The R & amp;B artist was accused in 2002 of distributing child pornography.
By BRIAN KATES
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
NEW YORK -- They billed it as the "Best of Both Worlds." But as the stars veered out of orbit, the much-hyped concert tour of R & amp;B legend R. Kelly and rap megastar Jay-Z quickly became the War of the Worlds.
The tour began with problems in Chicago and ended in disaster at Madison Square Garden -- after a month of missed rehearsals, onstage temper tantrums, canceled concerts, an alleged death threat and an attack that sent Kelly and his bodyguards to the hospital.
In the end, Kelly was booted from the tour and Jay-Z soldiered on with a cobbled-together supporting cast of rap stars.
Multimillion dollar lawsuit
The debacle unfolded between Sept. 29 and Oct. 29. But the war is far from over. Kelly has sued Jay-Z and tour promoter Jeff Sharp for $75 million, and their lawyers sparred briefly at a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday. They are set to go at it again May 2.
In June 2002, just before the two stars issued their first joint album, "The Best of Both Worlds," Kelly was indicted on charges of distributing child pornography -- a videotape purportedly showing him having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
Jay-Z -- who was serving three years' probation for stabbing a record producer -- distanced himself from Kelly. The album tanked.
By November 2003, the relationship began to thaw. Kelly appeared at Madison Square Garden in a sold-out concert celebrating Jay-Z's short-lived retirement. Soon after, the pair recorded another album together. Its title was auspicious: "Unfinished Business."
They put together a tour to promote the album.
But last Nov. 1, Kelly's Manhattan lawyer, Edward Hayes, filed a lawsuit against Jay-Z and promoter Sharp, charging that the rapper "sabotaged" the tour to "elevate his own status and to retaliate for having to agree to a lesser share of the tour revenues."
Jay-Z's lawyer, Jonathan Davis, scoffed at the suit. "A calculated stunt to deflect public and media attention from his upcoming felony trial," he called it.
This much is not in dispute: Last July, the two agreed to a tour involving 42 concerts in 39 cities. Kelly was to receive 60 percent of the proceeds with Jay-Z taking 40 percent.
Hayes maintains Kelly got the lion's share because of his "greater star status." Davis contends Jay-Z agreed to the deal only because Kelly complained he "desperately needed money," apparently for his criminal defense.
But if Kelly was worried about his indictment, you wouldn't have known it from the opening show in Chicago.
At one point, he flashed a fake E-mail message on a giant video screen above the stage saying he was "looking for a girl." She "must be down for everythin. ... She has to be at least 19!" In another skit he simulated sex with dancers in a prison cage.
When Chicago reviewers panned the skits, Kelly scrapped them. But he didn't bother to tell the lighting director, whose subsequent miscues enraged Kelly.
In any case, Kelly was still fuming about the flubbed lighting when he showed up three hours late for the second Chicago concert. He quit the stage early, leaving Jay-Z to do the finale alone. The concert did not end until 1 a.m. -- leaving no time to get to Cincinnati and set up the next night's gig. Sharp canceled the concert.
As tensions mounted, Jay-Z cut out early from an Oct. 17 concert in Memphis to attend R & amp;B singer Usher's birthday party. This time it was Kelly who had to finish the show alone.
Kelly's anger reached a crescendo at St. Louis' Savvis Center a week later. Jumping off the stage, the crooner ran to the back of the auditorium -- with his vocal track still playing as if he were performing -- and confronted Gary Wescott, the lighting director.
Kelly's late arrivals, refusals to rehearse and arguments about lighting caused delays in several cities and forced cancellations in Milwaukee and Hartford, Conn. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance-sale tickets had to be returned.
Finally, at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 28, the blighted tour took a positive turn. Kelly had hired his own lighting expert. The show went off without a hitch. It was seen as a good omen for the next night's show at Madison Square Garden.
More than 15,000 fans filled the Garden, and at first things seemed to be going smoothly. Then, suddenly, Kelly became unhinged.
In tears, he announced to the crowd that he had seen someone with a pistol in the audience. He threw down his microphone, stormed off stage and barricaded himself in his dressing room.
"He got a death threat on his cell phone earlier that day," a member of his entourage recalled. "He was really scared, shaking, crying, freaking out."
Security guards searched but found no guns.
Jay-Z rushed to the stage and asked for patience while he assembled a cast of stars -- Usher, P-Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Ja Rule and Foxy Brown -- from the audience.
The speed with which Jay-Z put it all together is proof, Kelly's legal team maintains, that the rapper had planned it in advance. Jay-Z's supporters say the stars were there to enjoy the concert but, consummate performers, they jumped in to save the show.
But the move did nothing to calm the volatile Kelly, who headed for the stage.
Jay-Z's right-hand man, Tyran (Ty Ty) Smith, warned Kelly not to go on. Then he allegedly used a can of pepper spray on the singer and two of his bodyguards.
Kelly and the guards were treated at St. Vincent's Medical Center. Jay-Z and his friends finished the concert. The fans went wild.
Smith was later charged with assault. His case is pending.
With the prospect of an $800,000-a-night gross slipping through his fingers, Sharp canceled the tour, then reinvented it as "Jay-Z and Friends," with many of the same stars who salvaged the Garden gig.
They went on to 18 cities, with each show ranking among the week's top-grossing concerts.