I. Will. Not. Lose: JAY-Z, The NFL, And Immortalizing Hip-Hop
Respect the Brooklyn finesse.
On August 13th, 2019 the NFL revealed a new partnership with Roc Nation, the entertainment and media company founded and led JAY-Z. The deal would give Roc Nation, and JAY-Z more specifically, an advisory role “on selecting artists for major NFL performances like the Super Bowl.”
But didn’t he shun Travis Scott for performing at the Superbowl?
And what about Kaepernick? Why wasn’t he at the press conference?
There Is No Culture
Hip-Hop has no culture. Although people frequently combine the words together, “Hip-Hop culture” means nothing when you step back and question what the culture is. What are the rules, parameters, and agreed upon methods that everyone who profits off of Hip-Hop follow? Who are the elders and advisors people go to when they have concerns? What is seen as crossing the line? There are no answers to these questions. Any answer would be based off of individual opinion.
This isn’t to say Hip-Hop should be regulated; no other other music genre is. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment at the continual fundamental flaw in what Blackness represents in America — an attempt at shaping uncontrolled chaos and the continual desire to attempt to regulate the lives of others.
Adding the word “culture” to HIp-Hop denotes the idea of a form of tribalism that consumers feel artists, not only owe them something, but that they should also be their voice of reason and represent them to the masses.
The undertone in a lot of the language used by Black Americans is essentially, “What about me?” or “What are you doing for the culture?” These questions can be answered with a simple “What about you?” and “What culture?” The more fans support artists and cause these artists rise into notoriety, the more fans set their expectations. Black Hip-Hop fans might be the only music fans who expect artists in their genre to speak for them, their plights, and their livelihood.
Hip-Hop quickly, and unfortunately, became the standard for everyday interactions in the Black community. The idea that whenever a Black person is in front of the camera they represent all Black people is systemic and most likely rooted into slavery when other slaves were punished for the behavior of another. Instead of punishing the “guilty” party, slave masters punished those closest to them as a mental check to foster more subordination.
In recent years, once television became a standard for home life, whenever a Black person committed a major crime or was asked their opinion on a crime that recently occurred, Blacks cringed at the act, the voice, the language, the “shout outs”, the clothing, the hair, etc. Every Black person represented every other Black person, somehow. And the Blacks who thought they were better than the other Blacks who live in the projects or ghettos of America, or who were desperately trying to distance themselves from their origin story, felt embarrassed. “They set us back.”
I hoped social media would shift the perspective of Blacks and how they view each other. Historically, American media has pushed the agenda to dehumanize Blacks in America. The push to make them look like imbeciles, lazy, predators etc is rooted in the history of Blackface. I thought that seeing other groups of people acting the same exact way on WorldStar HIpHop would change how Blacks were stigmatized and stereotype. Being able to see all races and groups of people invest in debauchery, laziness, violence, etc would change how we viewed each other. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The perspective divide is still ongoing and what’s good for one group, raises questions for another group. If Bill Gates or Warren Buffet make any type of business deal, they’re praised for their tenacity and genius by all groups of people. But whenever a Black person makes a deal, there’s scrutiny, questioning, and conspiracy in their motives.
How will this help people in the hood?
Why are all the individuals in non-Black groups allowed to to make good for themselves and their family? And why is there a constant “what about us? “ standard in place for Black America? Is this the culture? If so, when was this established and how do we get rid of this part of the culture?
With the success of his 10th studio album 4:44, JAY-Z helped HIp-Hop break through another level. JAY has constantly led the charge in redefining music and the Hip-Hop genre. Additionally, he has also has been monumental in breaking through glass ceilings, as well as mental and social conditions forced onto Blacks. His success shows growth, which is the standard for life development. He represents the best of “us”. Us in the sense of Blacks in America trying to break through the preconditioned ideologies and attributes placed on us.
It’s unfortunate to realize that when people discuss JAY’s business dealings, Black people bring up his music. This mirror the sentiments of racists and bigots who say, “He’s just a rapper”, and the general idea that Blacks can only have one lane and most importantly should stay in that lane. It’s the same language used by people who told Kaepernick he should just play football. Well, he got paid, accepted a gag order even though he claimed to have proof of collusion, and let the institution win. All settlements, pay-outs, and acceptance of money over legal acknowledgement of wrong doing is a cop-out. And that’s why Kaep had no place at the table.
JAY didn’t need to make 4:44 from a financial standpoint. His business dealings over the past ten years have solidified his wealth and the wealth of the Carter name for generations. The album was a choice to pay homage to his wife, Beyonce Carter-Knowles, for his flaws, mistakes, and realizations as a man with a home.
4:44 was significantly other compared to his previous work. He included relevant social issues, history, and incorporated his own personal life into the album. The album keeps his music legacy relevant but also, and more significantly, it lets the entertainment world know that rappers don’t just age and fade out of the limelight. It lets people know that there is no age limit when it comes to creating content and if you have a story to tell, tell it.
JAY has become a godfather in music. Although there are former rappers who are in there 50’s and still in the entertainment business (LL Cool J, Ice Cub, E-40, Queen Latifah, Ice-T, Master P), they aren’t creating music because they have to, they create music because they are artists and artists create when the urge calls.
Most of the rappers I grew up on from the 90’s and early 2000’s are staying relevant by way of social media — JAY isn’t. But yet he still has notoriety and respect, keeps his ear to the streets to stay aware as to what’s going on in the genre/culture, and has made business deals and efforts that aren’t garnering the same media attention as the NFL Superbowl deal.
A godfather doesn’t need to do much. His role is to set the tone and guide the next generation, while supporting the older generation, and that’s exactly what JAY-Z has been doing.
JAY-Z’s TIDAL Ownership
People laughed when JAY-Z unveiled Tidal via a livestream. They knocked down the idea of artists gaining some type of freedom from record labels in order to increase their value as streaming has become the standard for music, with little monetary benefit to artists.
People gawked at the $19.95/month fee. Yet no media outlet focused on the numbers and what the price represented. Here’s the most updated stream rate cost analysis for each service:
Napster is paying artists the most when it comes to streams. Napster. Did you even know Napster was still a viable or lucrative company?
The second company is TIDAL. This was JAY’s realization and purpose in taking ownership of TIDAL. Streaming isn’t going anywhere, and instead of letting entertainment outsiders (Youtube via Google, Apple, and Spotify) come in and lowball artists, JAY provided the highest paying and most relevant music streaming service. This is what a Godfather does — he breaks bread with the family.
There are two constants that have always mattered in modern society: money and influence. Sometimes these two intertwine and sometimes they stand alone. You can be rich but have no influence (Minecraft maker who sold it to Windows). And you can have influence but have no real money (most social media personalities). But most importantly, you can’t be poor and truly influential.
Although, there are plenty of social media personalities who are just getting by and faking it, their influence is merely getting other people to buy branded products or think about certain things for a short period of time. That isn’t change — that’s consumerism. True change comes from the top, although it can be influenced by the bottom. Coming from the bottom, JAY understands what poverty is. And reaching his current level of success, he understands that power and influence need to be solidified and trickled down, versus merely influencing people in the moment with words.
So, yes, the clothing and cars were part of his persona during his initial career as a rapper, but after the Kingdom Come album, it all went away. American Gangster, MCHG, and 4:44 are mature rap albums that focus on perspective and life in the golden years of 40+. 4:44 could even be considered a contemporary rap album because of how against the grain it is compared to the current hip-hop norm. Most importantly, it is an evolution of rap that acknowledges the history but also solidifies its own place into the space. In 10 years people will relisten to 4:44 and discuss why it’s a masterpiece and so important to the genre.
During the post Michal Brown era, JAY Z and Beyonce bailed out protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson. JAY Z executive produced the Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story as well as TIME: The Kalief Browder Story. And although I do criticize JAY in other works for the influence his music has had in comparison to what he’s doing now, I understand that he’s doing what he has to for himself and his livelihood. He’s responsible for himself and his family, and in the same field, we should be responsible for ourselves and not look to celebrities to invoke change. But, I also see that he’s understands how influence, money, and power truly invoke change.
Additionally, JAY has a completely different perspective and understanding of how success and integration work at the top level. How can I or any other outsider, whether based on financials or world perspective, truly grasp the workings of a billionaire who has traveled the world and has unlimited resources? There is a learning and understanding gap, and the only way to get closer to that is to learn and experience more in life.
JAY-Z: Future Of Hip-Hop And The NFL
Over the years JAY has squashed issues with a lot of rappers he had beef with: Nas, Cam’ron, and Jim Jones, most notably. In fact, JAY brought all three of these artists out at his most recent Webster Hall show, the B-Sides. Jim Jones is even signed to Roc Nation, along with a long list of artists from the ‘90s and 2000s that people grew up on: The Lox, Damian Jr. Gong Marley, Fat Joe, Fabolous.
Rappers don’t have longevity. Where rockstars become legends in their old age, rappers are labeled as washed once they hit a certain age, especially by the American Black community.
“I ain’t tryna hear no old ass nigga rap”
Throughout the years, the Superbowl has pulled a variety of talents into the mix, fusing living legends, with future legends, and other notoriety-gained artists. My end vision of this deal is JAY Z helping to solidify the longevity of Hip-Hop in world culture. The Superbowl isn’t going to be a “Blackfest” as some people fear, instead in place of the Rolling Stones, we’ll get a Jr. Gong Marley; instead of Sting, we’ll get Fabolous. JAY is attempting to even out the playing field.
4:44’s success showed him that longevity in Hip-Hop is possible, but without having artists hit big stages to gain national attention, and without reminding Black fans who grew up on these artists, the hits and classics that shaped their generation, society will simply forget about the great hip-hop artists of the past generation and let the new ones in. Shit, I’d love to see LL Cool J perform I’m Gonna Knock You Out at the Superbowl. Imagine Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren performing Coming Straight Out of Compton at Hollywood Park, just a stone throw away from Compton.
Hip-Hop is shifting into something wholly other. This is natural and expected. But as J-Cole noted, look at jazz music. What was once the soul of Black America, soon became white owned. And it isn’t about appropriation. Cultural appropriation is simply a phrase used to shun people who capitalize off of the interests of others. As much as people market the things that they’ve appropriated, those who claim something as their culture should be fighting back to stake a claim and ownership to make sure only they reap the benefits for the work they and those before them have laid out (Trademarks, Copyright). When it comes to music, no genre is guaranteed to be eternal. But without someone taking the steps to create the means, Black Hip-Hop will just become a milestone in history.
There are HIp-Hop artists and classics that should be immortalized. JAY Z is the first and he’s making sure that he won’t be the last.
Respect the Brooklyn Finesse.