Previously: Jay-Z was frustrated by Slate's Jody Rosen's analysis of his new single D.O.A. Is Jay just getting old? Or is Jody being thoughtless? Negropedia Brown investigated, and here's the solution to yesterday's Media Mystery!
Negropedia took a deep breath before explaining himself to Jody Rosen. He liked solving mysteries, but hated being critical of people:
Well I dunno, Mr. Rosen, I guess the first thing is that you're so mean about Jay's age. Here you two are born the same year, and you've written a book about an old christmas song, and another one where you collected old novelty Jewish songs, it seems you'd have an appreciation for Jay's desire to get back to traditional basics. When you wrote about Run DMC being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame you said, "Hip-hop may have gotten more sophisticated in the decades since, but Raising Hell (1986) has never been improved on."
Well gosh, I don't want to argue with you about all the great albums in the past twenty-three years, a time frame that spans the entire career of artists like Public Enemy, Outkast, Eminem, Snoop, Kanye, The Roots and more, but if Jay is a curmudgeonly hip hop purist, wouldn't that make you — excuse me, Mr. R, I lack your vocabulary — but what's, like, bigger and even more curmudgeonly than a curmudgeon?
I don't want to belabor other blind spots or inconsistencies in your hip hop files: in your Kingdom Come review you say Jay has 11 solo albums, he had 8 at the time; you suggest 50 Cent is the"pioneer of the hip-hop beef as postmodern marketing strategy", which willfully ignores a lot of hip hop history (KRS-One, LL Cool J, Ice T, just a few curmudgeons to use "beef" to market); you psychoanalyze Biggie as a "thugged-out neurotic" in the mold of Woody Allen (please someone comment with mash-ups of Biggie lyrics in the style of Woody Allen schtick).
These things are odd, Mr. Rosen. But they're just nits, fodder for us to discuss while we sip lemonade on a Saturday afternoon and get to know each other. I don't have your years of wisdom, but it seems inconsistency is human. Blind spots, too. So all of this amounts to arrows and flags pointing to a problem best captured in your third paragraph.
Who exactly Jay-Z is taking on in this polemic is unclear. [—snip—] In lieu of picking a fight with human beings, Jay-Z disses technology itself, calling out not just pitch-correction software but iTunes and ringtones. (We await the release of the rapper's forthcoming Blueprint 3 album for Jay-Z's rants against the cotton gin and the steam engine.)
Well golly, Mr. Rosen, why in heavens would you take Jay-Z's lyrics so literally? His seond line says, " this [song] ain't for itunes." It's just illustrating a manifesto. You think this multi-millionaire artist who just purchased the rights to be independent with his next album is really anti-itunes?
When Lady GaGa does a song about "Paparazzi" we don't stop to ask if she's considered what would become of her career without paparazzi. We accept it as a piece of art, and deconstruct it as such.
I love Run DMC, Mr. Rosen, and I think it's easy to say nice things when they get honored. And I'm sure it feels good to find the positives in a rather pedestrian mainstream biopic of a hip hop legend, because not many of those exist. But you wouldn't treat other genres with such kiddie gloves; your take down of the Decemberists concept album is amazingly incisive. You pull apart the pretensions, and show where "the whimsy is suffocating".
Meanwhile you claim Jay is anti-technology because he does a song against digitized singing? I think a dumbed-down hip hop critique just makes hip hop seem dumb.
A song like DOA provides the opportunity for a thoughtful meditation on the import of auto-tuning as a "sign of the times". A technology that only two years ago you clunkily described in a T-Pain review as: "a talk box, or some synthesizer-simulated version thereof-a gizmo that transforms the human voice into a kind of robo-drone."
Now we all know about auto-tuning, the en vogue technique for digital voice correction. It's kind of like Photoshop for graphic artists! Or maybe the audio equivalent of editors at a magazine.
Which means, I guess, that you're not so bad Mr. Rosen. It's just your hip hop criticism is a little off and could probably use some auto-tuning.
Come back next weekend for The Case of Vanity Fair and Is Obama Gonna Have to Smack a 'Trix? (the solution will be much shorter!)
illustration via Brandon