Jay-Z is a pretty good rapper. Jay-Z is not the best rapper ever. Jay-Z is not a role model. Jay-Z is not a hip hop hero. Not even for you, cool kids. Get off Jay-Z's dick.
GOD DAMN KIDS TODAY DON'T EVEN APPRECIATE Illmatic. Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. I never loved Jay-Z's last eight albums or so, but that's just a decrepit old opinion that you are free to ignore. Let's examine the bigger problem. Jay-Z's music is okay. Whatever. But Jay-Z is to hip hop what New York is to magazines: Flawless, efficient, gleaming; cool, soulless, endlessly self-absorbed. Crowning Jay-Z the King of New York for bragging about his fucking market share is like giving New York the National Magazine Award for Best Magazine because of their unparalleled feature on Downtown's Most Expensive Chairs. It misses the big picture.
Don't take it from me! I'm just one jerk. But I just got back from the Harvest of Hope Festival, a huge three-day music festival in Florida, where I got the chance to interview Dead Prez, the single most non-hypocritical rap group in America, the closest thing to a modern-day Public Enemy. I didn't even have to mention Jay-Z's name to get this from M-1:
What happened to hip hop was the use of capitalism in hip hop. I was listening to EPMD the other day, and Parrish said—I don't want to misquote him—but he said, "And I still don't see one rapper living comfortably." Things have changed since that time. We have found artists who have developed the capitalist mold into their way of thinking. Artists have even shifted from the artistry to how well you can make money. That really shows how good of an MC you can be. So if you come on the scene, and you are seen as someone who can be influential and knows how to turn capital over, then generally you can speak the language of hip hop. That's why Jay-Z has found affluence, and Young Jeezy, the moneymaking aspect of it. To me, that's the poison. That's the poison in it, is the indoctrination of capitalism. Not to say we don't need people to understand the business of making money; but the model wasn't Marcus Garvey—the model became people like Rockefeller. And Scarface. And all them. So, yea.
So, yea. Hey cool kids, you can't idolize Jay-Z and Dead Prez at the same time. And while Dead Prez was down in dirty, muddy-ass Elkton, FL, giving a free concert to benefit migrant farmworkers, Jay-Z was performing before a crowd of celebrities in Atlantic City before retiring to the high-limit blackjack room at the Borgata.
Yes, Jay-Z is a cool black guy who has nice flows and a famous, pretty wife and knows CEOs and other fun things, and white internet people have embraced him orgasmically just like they bizarrely embraced janky coke rap a couple years ago. But Jay-Z represents one thing: money. And you, cool kids, always aspire to be about more than that. Let's have good idols instead of empty ones that are all shiny.