The volatile pairing of Jay-Z and R. Kelly finally combusted on Friday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the pair’s Best of Both Worlds Tour ground to an abrupt halt one month early after Kelly left the stage in mid-performance, citing security fears, and was promptly pepper-sprayed by a member of Jay-Z’s entourage. The rapper managed to finish the show with some impromptu help from some celebrities on hand for the event, including Usher, Mary J. Blige, Ja Rule, and Foxy Brown. But Hova’s promoter said he would finish the tour by himself, while Kelly’s spokesman said the R&B singer was contemplating legal action against the rapper.
Kelly spokesman Allan Meyer told the Associated Press that he stopped his set about an hour into the show, claiming he saw two people in the audience waving guns, and left the stage. Security guards, finding no weapons, told Kelly it was safe to return, but on his way back to the stage, one of Jay-Z’s associates sprayed Kelly and two of his bodyguards in the face. The men were treated at a local hospital. According to USA Today, Kelly told New York radio station Hot 97 the next day that he panicked and hadn’t actually seen guns but had been spooked by a threatening phone call earlier on Friday. The paper also said police were investigating the spraying, though both performer’s camps say that Jay-Z himself, who was onstage at the time of the spraying, was unaware of the incident.
The fallout between Jay-Z and Kelly seemed all but inevitable during the tour, with several shows where Kelly either showed up late, walked off early, or had the concert scrapped altogether over technical complaints. Mayer said that Kelly would have been willing to perform on Saturday as scheduled but was told he’d be barred from the Garden. Jay-Z performed that night without him but with more unannounced guests, including Brown, P. Diddy, and Mariah Carey. Over the weekend, Mayer told USA Today, ”Because of Jay-Z’s breaching of the contract, there are some serious legal liabilities on his side, and R. Kelly’s lawyers are looking into that.” However, he suggested that the door was still open for a reconciliation, telling the New York Post, ”If Jay turned around and said, ‘Hey, this was all a big misunderstanding and let’s get back together and try again,’ Robert would probably say OK.”