The main reaction to Jay-Z and Beyoncé's On the Run Tour seemed to be some variation of "Jay-Z sucks! Get this old asshole off the stage!" I don't disagree—Jay-Z is old, and in 2014 he doesn't really belong on a stage with Beyoncé. But let us not forget that Jay-Z was better than Beyoncé is.
Beyoncé is an incredible artist and a great pop star. We're a decade into her solo career and she just put out her most acclaimed album. The world is at her fingertips, both musically and otherwise. This is not true for Jay-Z. His last album sprung a few major hits, but it was not very good overall. Jay-Z in his most recent incarnation is not necessarily a bad artist—he was the better rapper on Watch the Throne—but his best days are behind him. This is as obvious as Beyoncé's genius. Not even he would dispute this.
But those best days? Those best days were better than Beyoncé's best days. Let's just quickly look at each's five best singles:
"Crazy in Love"
"Drunk in Love"
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
"Can I Get A..."
"Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)"
"I Just Wanna Luv U (Give It 2 Me)"
"Nigga What, Nigga Who (Originator 99)"
Now, five songs does not a career make, and you could certainly shuffle some of those songs out for other singles. It also doesn't take into account Destiny's Child (or any of Jay-Z's guest verses). It is just to distill each artist down to their best solo work. I'd take those five Jay-Z songs.
This is not to compare the overall careers of Jay-Z and Beyoncé, primarily because—as noted—Beyoncé's career almost feels like it's just beginning. She may eventually put out more great albums than Jay-Z (who probably has half a dozen great albums), and if you wanted to say that the best current Beyoncé album is better than the best Jay-Z album I wouldn't argue too hard.
But we are probably at peak Beyoncé right now, and as great as peak Beyoncé is I just don't think she quite matches peak Jay-Z, one of the slickest and most vivid writers in the history of rap music and a thrilling pop star in his own right.
Jay-Z is old as fuck and should probably stop making music very soon, but for the kids growing up thinking that was always true: let the record show that Jay-Z was better than Beyoncé is now.
[image via Getty]