Jay-Z, DJ Clue?, DMX, Method Man and Redman, photographed showing off their Gold and Platinum plaques backstage during the “Hard Knock Life Tour” by Barry Roden in March 1999.
The star-studded 54-date tour grossed $18 million and suffered no cancellations (in fact, it added 17 extra dates during its cross-country trek to meet the high demand), no artist drop-offs, or any incidents of violence—completely silencing the mainstream critics who believed a purely rap tour of its magnitude couldn’t be done. “People were saying someone’s going to die on that tour,” Damon Dash recalled in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in May 1999, but after 11 weeks on the road, playing in sold-out arenas from Canada to Texas, ”there was no violence and no fights.” Declaring it “the most successful hip-hop tour ever,” Dash unabashedly went on to say, ”we set a precedent not just for rap tours, but for all music tours.” Jigga would add this about whether he was surprised the tour unfolded without fan violence: “Anytime you get a large group of people in one building together, whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll, country music, whatever it is, there’s always a chance for violence, there’s always a chance for something happening. We didn’t believe the music would contribute to that.”
Jay and X would donate their proceeds from the Denver stop of the tour to help the families of the victims of the Columbine tragedy. “We decided to donate the proceeds from this show as soon as we saw the date on the schedule. We’ve known first hand how pointless and senseless violence always is, and we wanted to show our support in a real way” Jay said of the decision.
The tour was chronicled in the September 2000 documentary film Backstage, featuring live performances by the tour’s roster and an in-depth look at the events backstage. The film grossed $496,226 at the box office during opening weekend; and made over $1.2 million during its four-week run. It was released on DVD in February 2001, and is available for purchase or streaming.
Presented by DJ Clue?, the majority of the soundtrack Backstage: A Hard Knock Life was recorded on tour buses while the acts traveled around North America. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA three months after its release.
In an interview with MTV in October 1999 Hov said he wouldn’t be against recreating the tour at the top of 2000 to support the artists new projects: “Well, the same people are [releasing new albums] at the same time. DMX comes out, myself comes out, Method Man, Redman, we all come out. So hopefully we be as hot and we try and do it all over again.” “But,” he added, “you can only make history once.”