The tumultuous tour pairing platinum-selling stars R. Kelly and Jay-Z came to an abrupt end Saturday, one day after Kelly walked offstage during a performance and allegedly was blasted with pepper spray by a member of Jay-Z’s entourage.
Kelly was booted from shows Saturday and Monday at Madison Square Garden by the promoter, who told the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer that he was banned from the facility, said his publicist, Allan Mayer. The promoter announced that Jay-Z, with special guests, would do the shows alone.
“The fans deserve better than this,” Kelly said in a statement. “I’d like the show to go on. It’s really disappointing that Jay-Z and the promoter don’t.”
Jay-Z and R. Kelly were in the midst of a 40-city “Best of Both Worlds” tour, which has been beset by canceled shows and reports that the feuding performers weren’t even on speaking terms.
The tour, which had been scheduled to run through Nov. 28, has been canceled, said promoter Jeff Sharp of Atlanta Worldwide Touring. Jay-Z’s publicist was unsure if the rapper would try and fill the remaining dates as a solo act.
The pepper-spray incident happened about an hour into Friday night’s show, when Kelly walked on stage and said he saw two people in the audience waving guns, Mayer said. Kelly abruptly stopped his set around 9:30 p.m. while arena security employees searched for weapons.
Finding none, guards told Kelly it was safe to continue performing, Mayer said. But as the singer was making his way back to the stage, a man in Jay-Z’s entourage – apparently miffed that Kelly interrupted the show – sprayed him and two of his bodyguards in the face, Mayer said.
“I’m pretty sure Jay didn’t realize what was going on,” Mayer said.
All three men were treated at St. Vincent’s Hospital and released, he said. Jay-Z performed for another 45 minutes after Kelly was sprayed.
Jana Fleishman, publicist for Jay-Z, said Saturday that the rapper’s entourage knew nothing about the incident because it occurred while Jay-Z was performing. Jay-Z “did not attack R. Kelly in any way, shape or form,” Fleishman said.
In a radio interview on Hot 97 FM radio Friday, Jay-Z said he couldn’t understand why Kelly left the stage.
“You can’t get a gun inside Madison Square Garden,” the rapper said. “If people give me love he can’t take it.”
Mayer said Kelly’s lawyers were filing a criminal complaint against the man who allegedly sprayed him and also were considering legal action over the decision to remove the singer from the remaining tour dates.
“We’re considering all possible ways of protecting Robert’s interests,” Mayer said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported discord between the two performers after Kelly showed up more than two hours late for a show in Chicago and walked off the stage mid-performance in St. Louis this month.
Three shows on the tour were canceled because of “technical difficulties” suffered by Kelly, Fleishman said.
On Tuesday, Kelly and Jay-Z released their collaborative CD “Unfinished Business.”