The man they call Hova - that's short for Jay-Hova - liked what he heard. "That's it," he said, before exiting the stage. "Y'all don't even need me no more."
But of course, as he made clear on the fittingly titled "Encore" ("Who you know that fresher than Hov? / Riddle me that / The rest of you know where I'm lyrically at"), he knows that we do.
As with Frank Sinatra and Michael Jordan - both high on the list of luminaries he enjoys comparing himself to, along with Berry Gordy, Robert De Niro and the Grateful Dead - Jay-Z had only to dip a toe into retirement to figure out how much he needs to be back in the game, too.
That's why, hot on the heels of last year's album, Kingdom Come, the Def Jam records executive was ready to be inspired by the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe drugs-and-guns flick American Gangster, which spurred him on to produce his new, invigorating album of the same name.
And that's why, on Monday, he found himself onstage at the Fillmore as he wound down a mini-club tour to build Gangster buzz.
"You know that this is a special night," the rapper said, after opening with a wicked combination of the new album's "Pray" and "No Hook." "There are about a million people out there who wish they were in here with you."
A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but it did indeed feel like a momentous occasion. All the guys in the 11-person backing ensemble wore vests and ties, though Jay himself kept it street in shades and a black T-shirt emblazoned with an inverted American flag. The crack band included a three-piece horn section - well-suited for Gangster's '70s soul and funk grooves - plus a trio of backup singers, drummer and percussionist.
Along with Jay-Z - a superstar on top of his game who demonstrated his nimble flow and prodigious skills with a cappella intros to songs old and new to which his audience knew every word - it was the drummer and percussionist who made the evening live and breathe.
Hip-hop is all about rhythm. But so often hip-hop shows never gain momentum because rappers simply rhyme over prerecorded beats that come crashing to a halt at the end of every song. Jay-Z, who's employed Philadelphia's The Roots to back him up in the past, is too savvy to let that happen, and he's comfortable improvising with a live band, which he did dexterously all night.
He's also perfectly happy to share the mike, and happy to hang with his boys onstage, especially if it means he can promote his Roc-A-Fella record label. So along with New Yorker Memphis Bleek, he brought out an array of local talent, including Beanie Sigel (whose The Solution comes out Dec. 11), and the especially fierce Freeway (whose Free at Last arrives Tuesday) as well as the Young Gunz, who promised they'll have a new album early next year.
For their moment in the spotlight, the Gunz - the Nicetown duo of Christopher Ries and Haneef Muhammad - did their 2003 hit "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." That song title is a hip-hop mantra that any rapper with the music in his blood takes to heart. The heartening thing about watching Jay-Z on Monday was that it was clear that he feels it, too. And, thankfully, won't be re-retiring any time soon.
Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at http://go.philly.com/inthemix.