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Today is:
One of Rap’s Most Influential Steps Back,
But Did He Hold His Weight
By Constant

Jay-Z is officially retired from the rap game and while most are sad I feel a slight relief.
Relief? Is this notion strange to your ears? Well its not that I think he wasn’t a good rapper, he was great at that! Its just I thought he could have been a even better MC.

To me a rapper is someone who does whatever it takes to get a rise out of people and a MC does them with little regard who accepts it or not just as long as they have piece of mind and work.

Of course this is predicated on where you are from and what is considered Hip Hop in your area. You can’t put the same qualifications on a down south rapper as someone that is from East or any other part of the country. Some people know no better. So I don’t expect the lyrics of a Rakim from Lil Jon and The Eastside Boyz! It is about doing you and being real.

If you aren’t a MC, your just a producer with a record contract say so i.e. Puffy. Then the expectations are out the window. And if you going to do a new style, do it fly and do it first.

Remember when Biggie did the Bone Thugs flow on “Notorious Thugs”? It was fly cause he showed and proved he could switch styles. But you also remember everyone trying to do the same flow for the next two years, right? Not the same effect.

It is a thin line between showing diversity in skill and just going overboard. When you start as a “tough” dude and then start singing every song (I don’t even have to say his name) we have a conflict of interest cause you have sold out your initial style for a market you got some fortunate cash from.

Oh that is the last thing, you have to remember where home is. Meaning keep your fan base. While introduced to several other fan bases on that hot single you have to know your first fans need love too. If you start one way it’s nice to know you remember what way that is.

So after all that I have a problem with Jay as a MC. In my opinion when someone has Jay’s talent and they admittedly dumb down their lyrics to get a bigger fan base it is sad.

We need those with power of the voice to use theirs.

Am I asking Jay to be Malcolm X, or the solo form of Dead Prez? No but I don’t want a MC who claims to be a God and claims to be the best of his time to be singing for other peoples money. Especially if they use lines from people they now claim they are better than and fail to remember historical perspective of the man (R.I.P. Biggie). Jay has kids now a days thinking Big’s lyrics are his own using them so much. Then has the nerve to say he is better than him? That’s not how you pay respect to a “friend” and someone who helped blow you up.

The music business is tough with companies holding the keys to the “financial” cars and most artist struggling to catch a ride. You want to keep you sanity and credibility but still come out with some significant change.

How far your willing to go is the big question.

If you want to be a whore in the game you can be paid. Doing business with others is great but you must keep your style.

Do we complain that Busta Rhymes is on every remix killing it? No cause he’s been doing that and can still bring that fire on his own albums.

My main problem with Jay is while his guest appearances and collaborations have been hot for the most part I think his albums have continued to falloff or at least cater to the less Hip Hop inclined. Instead of two cheesy songs for the radio the album has turned into 6 songs about the club or the chickenhead!

Catchy phrases and hooks are good for two to three songs cause we all know you need to get paid in this music business but when you put out an album and 75% of the LP is full of collaborations, the hottest producers and/or has a lot of cheesy hooks it is like come on! How much time did you really spend on this LP?

You can hold rap down for seven summers like he quotes but it is what your saying really changing anything besides Rocafella Records and your personal bank account?

Jay recently (I’d say since Volume 2: Hard Knock Life) raps mostly about superficial things or things that most don’t have. While true he saw and probably did more then and now than he did previously you still can’t go money and bull crazy.

Hey Jay, remember the grind dog? Remember the gritty lyrics, the beats, the skills needed to talk about situations like in “Lucky Me" and "Friend or Foe”?

Do remember your voice set to the beats of DJ Premier or is it all Timberland and Neptunes these days?

Can you be confident and even cocky without mentioning how many records you sold or how we should be happy to have heard your voice every time? I need to know!

It’s interesting that when recently interview by Vibe magazine and asked for his favorite songs Jay chose less commercial cuts like “Where I’m From” and “Brooklyn’s Finest” over songs like “Big Pimpin” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. His list is a lot like mine would have been as a fan but yet he put out music that wasn’t remotely as meaningful for money.

I guess that is his right as a businessman and some would say the reason Rocafella Records and his other businesses are doing well.

I would hope he could have done alright without dumbing down his lyrics. Remember it is like a kamikaze fighter in World War II if your willing to lose something (in their cases their lives) you can do anything. My point if you sell out artistically anything is possible.

I know some will say well Jay does give back?

He does but you do the math: if you make money talking about product you sell and things you do and you aren’t helping the community out with the message of a Talib Kweli or even Nas but you later give a couple million to charity did you really do anything? I compare it to a harmful company like R.J. Reynolds (a tobacco company, if you didn’t know) selling cigarettes in the neighborhood and the donating money to the recovery industry.

You are cutting your nose to save you face. Is it as malicious as the cigarettes businesses, no it is not close. Jay is like any person: imperfect and he does a lot of this unintentionally, but the fact remains it still happens.

While he boasts about what he is doing and what he has he has a lot of weak-minded people following his examples and trying to be like him. It not his fault he is in fact a leader of sorts yet when you have the power it is how you handle it or harness it.

As businessmen Jay-Z as well a Damon Dash have done well beyond their jobs bringing a young self started label and making it extremely profitable with a nice and increasingly large roster of talent and room to expand. In fact, I like most of their acts.

I think the problem is the leader of the Roc on the microphone is one of the leaders of the business and that is an opportunity for artistic death. Meaning as you have to think business before what is just as an artist.

It is about the bottom line and unfortunately that isn’t what music – the art is about unfortunately it’s the business part - which has corrupted the game.

Jay-Z the businessman is richer but was his talent used the best it could have? Not really!

He alright but he’s not real!

While Jay-Z is immensely talented he gave up some of his street credibility for the money. I respect his drive as a hustler but his talk shouldn’t represent the people and it doesn’t problems of the hood. For the most parts he just makes you dance.

And while not a bad thing it’s not all he could be, in my opinion.

While money makes the world move that isn’t a good thing when you use money as you ultimate motivation over uplifting your people.

Drop some knowledge every once in a while get deep with the people show them how to get out of their predicaments not just champion their common struggles. That’s easy and to the avid listener gets tired.

It is like Styles P. said: “I overstand the game”. Meaning tell me something new not gloss over what I have seen my whole life. A couple of hot lines and a hook on each song do not excuse uninspiring content.

Sadly he got the point and attempted to return to a breath of rawness on his latest album, The Black Album, clearly his best work since Volume 2.

My question is what took so long? When you’re walking out the door you decide to get retro/introspective?

That album was just a glimpse of a man clearly skilled but flawed by the drive to make money.This society breeds to many people clearly out for the paper instead of for the respect and love of what your doing. This is sadly cause love can’t alone bring food and happiness to the table. But if you find something you love it should drive you past fiscal goals. Someone who loves their job never retires; they just get a new fire started! That fire and the substance of your work will have people saying you lyrics for years to come.

So the question is did Jay love or just use the game? If you’re in and out that will probably wind up being your legacy.

He was good but had the potential for so much more!

Did Jay-Z live up to his potential? Vent on GeoBoards

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