Jay-Z Makes a Surprise Video Appearance at the 2024 Tony Awards in New York, Performing ‘Empire State of Mind’ with Alicia Keys to Support Her Musical ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Jay-Z Makes a Surprise Video Appearance at the 2024 Tony Awards in New York, Performing ‘Empire State of Mind’ with Alicia Keys to Support Her Musical ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

On Sunday night, the 2024 Tony Awards in New York City became the stage for an unexpected yet electrifying moment as Jay-Z made a surprise video appearance.

Collaborating with Alicia Keys, the rapper delivered a memorable performance of their iconic hit “Empire State of Mind.” This special performance was a highlight of the evening, aimed at supporting the musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” produced by Alicia Keys and featuring her songs.

The musical, which draws inspiration from Keys’ early life and music, has garnered significant attention and acclaim, earning 13 Tony Award nominations.

Jay-Z’s Unique Performance

Jay-Z’s appearance was unique in that he did not perform onstage but instead delivered his rap verses from outside the venue. Fans quickly noticed this unconventional setup, with many taking to social media to express their surprise and amusement. One fan humorously remarked, “Jay-Z was like, yeah, I’ll come perform outside the Tonys, I’m not trying to hang out with theatre people… and I don’t blame him.” Another quipped, “Why didn’t they let Jay-Z in the actual theater?”

Despite these lighthearted comments, the performance was well-received and added a distinctive flair to the evening’s proceedings.

The Venue’s Constraints

Ramin Setoodeh, co-editor-in-chief for Variety, provided some insight into the reasons behind Jay-Z’s external performance. He explained on social media platform X that the stage inside the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was too small to accommodate the rapper’s live presence.

Consequently, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys concluded their song in the lobby, much to the audience’s delight.

A large screen behind the dancers on stage showcased the duo belting out lyrics on the stairs, with a spotlight shining down on them, creating a visually captivating performance even though they were not physically present in the main theater.

Alicia Keys’ Red Carpet Appearance

Before the performance, Alicia Keys graced the red carpet with her family, including her parents and three sons: Kasseem Jr., Egypt, and Genesis. Keys made a striking fashion statement in loose-fitting, brown-patterned Gucci trousers, a matching jacket, and a dark brown corset-styled top.

She completed her ensemble with a pair of closed-toed heels and accessorized with a chunky gold chain necklace and flashy gold earrings. Her dark hair was pulled back into a sleek bun, adding a touch of elegance to her look.

The Success of ‘Empire State of Mind’

“Empire State of Mind,” a track from Jay-Z’s 11th studio album “The Blueprint 3,” released in September 2009, has enjoyed tremendous success.

The single topped various music charts, including the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for five consecutive weeks. The song also received multiple award nominations, winning two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

This enduring popularity made it a fitting choice for the Tony Awards performance, further highlighting the musical “Hell’s Kitchen,” which prominently features this hit song.

The Journey of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

“Hell’s Kitchen” premiered off-Broadway last October and concluded its initial run in January. It later moved to the Schubert Theatre on Broadway in April, where it continued to captivate audiences.

The jukebox musical has received an impressive 12 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Maleah Joi Moon, and Best Direction of a Musical for Michael Greif.

Alicia Keys has expressed her gratitude for the positive reception and the connections it fosters among audiences. In an interview with People, she emphasized the universal themes of belonging and self-discovery that resonate throughout the musical.


Jay-Z’s surprise video performance at the 2024 Tony Awards, alongside Alicia Keys, brought a unique and memorable element to the event.

Their rendition of “Empire State of Mind” not only entertained the star-studded audience but also shone a spotlight on the musical “Hell’s Kitchen.”

This performance, coupled with the musical’s multiple nominations, underscores the creative achievements and collaborative spirit that define this year’s Tony Awards.

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