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By Elysa Gardner,

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?: If you’re rapper/king of New York Jay-Z, you pick a date — or two (Tuesday’s second show). Both nights at the storied venue are sold out, of course; a capacity crowd (2,800) attended Monday.

  • Decked out: Jay-Z performs at Carnegie Hall on Monday to benefit the United Way and the Shawn Carter Foundation.By Kevin Mazur, WireImageDecked out: Jay-Z performs at Carnegie Hall on Monday to benefit the United Way and the Shawn Carter Foundation.
Decked out: Jay-Z performs at Carnegie Hall on Monday to benefit the United Way and the Shawn Carter Foundation.

The cause: The shows are charity events, benefiting the United Way of New York City and Jay-Z’s own Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation. The latter was created a decade ago to give socially and economically challenged young people access to higher education.

The crowd: Though fans are glad to support the cause, the main enticement for most is the man and the venue. Ricky Grey, 23, of Cherry Hill, N.J., has seen Jay-Z live before, “but I knew seeing him here was a historic opportunity, and I had to be a part of it.”

The start: The 36-piece orchestra enters first. The lights dim and strings swell. Jay-Z enters in a cream Tom Forddinner jacket. “What’s uuuup?” he bellows to a standing ovation.

Thanks for waiting: Jay-Z commands the stage with an easy poise — his nimble swagger doesn’t seem out of place with the setting. He kicks into PSA and Thank You, and delivers a gently urgent a cappella rap version ofMost Kingz, then gets loud, with the musicians, for You Don’t Know.

The Big Apple: The New York of other iconic artists is saluted with a string of Manhattan-themed selections, from a soulful spin on Billy Joel’s New York State of Mindto a quick take on Gil Scott-Heron’s New York Is Killing Me.

The guests:Alicia Keys turns up for an exuberant Empire State of Mind. Nas joins him for N.Y. State of Mind (the other one) before segueing into his own If I Ruled the World.

Hometown shout-out: “Is Brooklyn in the house? Is New York City in the house?” Jay-Z shouts before a poignant Where I’m From, which segues into a thumping Run This Town. A jazzy interlude is followed by a ferociously funky Roc Boys.

Golden oldies: After a sinuous Dirt Off Your Shoulder, he steps up the beat for a rousing On to the Next OneHard Knock Life is a crowd singalong, with the fans taking over for the Broadway-based chorus. The audience continues singing along enthusiastically to Izzo (H.O.V.A.).

A joke for the cheap seats: “You having fun?” Jay-Z asks, adding dryly, “You want some tea?” Ba-dum-bum, go the drums.

Proud father: “Put a hand in the air for Blue,” he tells the squealing crowd for Glory, which the new papa wrote for his and Beyoncé’s baby daughter.

“A beautiful time”: “I really had a beautiful time tonight,” he says near the end, and tells the crowd they look “exquisite.”

The end: For his encore, he switches into more typical hip-hop garb (black T-shirt, gold chain). The set ends with a cheeky Big Pimpin’ and Forever Young, which he precedes by acknowledging late greats Bob Marley and Don Cornelius (Soul Train). Then he races up the steps into the first tier for Dead Presidents and Money Ain’ta Thang.

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