The biggest artist at the Austin City Limits Music Festival this year is 47-year-old rapper Shawn Carter, who’s riding high on the release of “4:44,” his most powerful album in well over a decade. We studied his recent set lists to get a sense of what the artist better known as Jay-Z is likely to play.
But beyond that, what about special guests, emotional moments and the general vibe? Here are five predictions for Jay-Z’s ACL Fest set.
1: Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley will pop in for a “Bam” feature: Guess who has ankle-length dreadlocks and two open Fridays in his October tour schedule? This song is on fire and Jay’s been frontloading his sets with it. Marley’s tour schedule leaves him conspicuously open both weekends and his Emo’s date scheduled for later this month was canceled because of “schedule conflicts.” Will Jay-Z fly him in for ACL? Well, “Jr. Gong” was on tour in Africa when he wanted to shoot the video, so Jay sent a private plane to Ethiopia to pick him up.
Odds it will happen: 55 percent.
2. Bun. B. will pop in for a “Big Pimpin'” feature. Jay-Z, already a star, asked Texas rap legends UGK to hop on this track on his 1999 album “Vol. 3 … Life and Times of Shawn Carter” even though they weren’t particularly well known to East Coast hip-hop heads at the time. “I’d always loved Southern hip-hop, and UGK combined great Southern bounce with sneak-ily complex rhymes and delivery,” he said in his 2010 book ‘Decoded.’ Though he’s notoriously tight with video budgets, he dropped a cold $1 million on the Hype Williams directed ode to hedonism. Jay-Z will intro this track with a passionate shout out to his wife’s hometown Houston, then bring out Bun as a special guest.
Odds it will happen: 65 percent.
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3: Many, many white people will stand in Zilker Park and shout out the N-word. “It’s OK when you’re just rapping along,” they will say. Nope. “Come on, we’re not allowed to say the words to ‘The Story of O.J. or ‘(Expletive) in Paris’?” they will ask. Nope. Consider every N-word sized space you leave in each song a tiny contribution to our country’s reckoning with an ugly history of racism.
Odds it will happen: 90 percent (please prove us wrong, white people).
4: “What’s better than one billionaire? Two.” Look, we’re not going to get a full song from Beyoncé, who is most likely contractually obligated to not to perform at festivals until she makes up the Coachella dates she skipped this year to give birth to twins. And we at Team360 have been very conservative on the odds of a Queen Bey appearance. But is there a remote possibility that she could step out onto stage to perform the “Amens” she sings on ‘Family Feud’ live? Maybe.
Odds it will happen: Weekend 1: 10 percent. Weekend 2: 15 percent
5. ‘Numb/Encore’ will close out the set. At his last three shows, this song has been one of his closing numbers, played in tribute to Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, who committed suicide in July. In an interview for the Rap Radar podcast, Jay-Z said he’s been in therapy for four years. In an interview with the BBC’s Live Lounge last month, he said he hopes Bennington’s death serves as a wake-up call for people that mental health is real. “Men, we have this bravado, we have to armor up,” he said. “Nah, man, you have to take care of yourself — physically and spiritually.”