Jay-Z, Che Guevara, & the Modern Day Sell-out
I don’t know where to begin so I will just dive right in. What is wrong with these rappers nowadays? As someone who grew up during hip hop’s golden era, I am way past being sad at the state of hip hop…I’m pissed off. Is it me or has this “I-sell-crack” genre in mainstream rap gone way too far? It has gotten to the point where I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) of this phenomenon:
Where do I begin with his guy? On the The Blueprint album, which was his 6th album, he has a song called “Neva Change” in which the hook says “I’ll never change-out hustling same clothes for days…I’ll never change I’m too stuck in my ways”. Really Jigga? You’re worth a quarter of a billions dollars but you’re out hustling in the same clothes for days?
My point is not whether or not what he is saying is real, because it obviously isn’t. My point is really more of a question: what’s his point? Why is he saying this? Why does he want us to believe this? It seems as though he is trying to convince us that, in spite of his fortune of millions, he is still selling drugs. Why would he want to say these things when they obviously aren’t true?
The fact that he did really sell drugs prior to the beginning of his legendary Hip-Hop career has been the backbone of his street credibility and the backdrop for his whole hip-hop persona. But why 6,7, or even 8 albums in the game would he still feel the need to pretend that he is selling drugs? Certainly, he has generated millions of dollars, traveled the world, and has had numerous experiences and insights to discuss, instead of fabricating or rehashing drug tales from years ago. OK, so Jay-Z’s range of topics is about as wide as Paris Hilton’s waistline but that is not really the whole problem here.
You see, I like Jay-Z, and I can deal with his drug dealing raps to an extent, because I think his drug-dealer-turned-CEO rags-to-riches-story is kind of fascinating. However, I have a problem with a get-money, super capitalist rapper, trying to pose as a champion of the people. That is very cartoonish.
His first move in this direction occurred when he appeared on MTV unplugged with a T-shirt bearing Che Guevara’s face. I found it rather curious, but hey, I figured maybe he thought it was a cool shirt to wear and doesn’t really know who Che is. Then on The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse he refers to himself as the revolutionary Jay Guevara, while in the same song he says he’s like Ross Perot? Truthfully, I was annoyed by the reference, but I was probably more annoyed by that whole album, so I didn’t really focus on it.
Then, on The Black Album, he takes it to the next level and says “I’m like Che Guevara with bling on, I’m complex.” This was the last straw for me. At first, I wasn’t really sure whether he knew who Che was, but after he made this ridiculous remark, I was sure he DIDN’T know who Che was. That’s like saying “I’m like, Arafat with an Israeli Flag on I’m complex.” No you’re not, you are an asshole. By the way just because you have said something that doesn’t make sense, doesn’t make it complex.
To add insult to injury, in the same verse he uses the famous Malcolm X quote: “by any means”, to describe his approach to getting money (hustling) and towards the end of the verse says he has a hustler’s spirit. Let me get this straight, you are like Che Guevara with bling on, and you have a hustler’s spirit. I can assure you Che doesn’t possess such a spirit or bling. But in the words of the mad rapper, let me explain a bit about Che so that you can begin to understand why I am mad.
Do you see the connection? If you do, you should seek professional help. However, if you are like the rest of the clear-thinking individuals in this world, then you have failed to make any connection between the two. You see my problem is this: Jay-Z has just told us on his song "Moment of Clarity" that he would like to make conscious Hip-Hop, but he is more committed to making the kind of music that will sell the most.
Does anyone know what a sellout is? Last I heard it sounded remarkably similar to Jay’s justification for not making more socially conscious music. Furthermore, if he is truly worth half a billion, as he brags in "What more can I say?", how can we respect his decision to chase even more dollars at the expense of our beloved art form?
If Jay-Z is not financially in a position to make the kind of music he wants to make, WHO is? Bill Gates? The truth is, he IS making the music he wants to make, and it is unfortunate that he doesn’t have the balls or the commitment to the art form to lead the music in another direction. In the end, after all of his posturing as a revolutionary, and self-promotion as a champion of the people, he is, at best, someone with extreme wealth, immense influence and no vision beyond what is profitable. Thanks Jay-Z. But it’s okay, when you said you were “the soul of mumia in this modern day time” and that your album with R.Kelly was like “Larry Davis and Pappy mason, Martin and Malcolm” we knew you were taking a page out of Pharell’s book …you were "Just Frontin"!
Released: February 16th, 2004
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