My musical influence was nurtured and manufactured by my older brother, Enver, who (11 years my senior) was a Jay-Z fan from day one and a Notorious BIG fan before that. I worked my hardest to impress him. Before I could fully comprehend Jay-Z lyrics, I memorized them hoping to recite them to my brother’s satisfaction. I remember listening to Politics as Usual with Enver as the line “Winter’s here, I’m tryina feel _____, nigga,” played. My brother filled the blank in with “made,” which would make sense in following the mafia theme Jay-Z employed in his work. “It’s mink,” I said to him, fearing a backlash from the man I admired most. “Cuz it’s winter. He wants to feel a mink.” He paused. Rewound. Listened again. “Mink,” he finally said. “I think you’re right.” It was a compliment from my idol because I had showed him that I understood his idol. As his fan
That moment solidified my Jay-Z fandom.
I don’t have a favorite Jay album. Much less a favorite song. I could never pick out a favorite line. I believe that his work is great. Each album, each song, each word, deliberately picked to describe his feelings and the way he deemed most appropriate. Most times I relate, sometimes I understand. As his fan (a listener who enjoys listening to a particular person), I listen. I try to understand. He has something to say that I think is worth listening to. Just because he’s rapping, I don’t listen to him any less than I’d pay attention to Toni Morrison or Spike Lee. All three are in different mediums but address the life I live and represent the same people I represent. I listen to Jay because he made a promise:
“One day I pray to you and said if I ever blow, Let ’em knowMistakes ain’t exactly what takes place in the ghetto.”
“Where I’m From“; In My Lifetime Vol. 1
He’s always spoken on behalf of the people. He questions everything from the liquor stores on every to what liquor is being sold in those stores. He’s questioned more, more vocally, more widely than Toni Morrison and Spike Lee. If only the fans would truly listen, he’s taken care of his people whether that be Memphis Bleek, his family or the people he knows he’s a representative of. In actuality, he’s spoken out for the rights of his people more openly and blatantly that Obama, the man Black America thought would fight for them primarily. Now, I understand that Jay-Z might be a “dope man, dope man” but…
“I try to tell them, I where hope floats man,
A ghetto spokes-man.”
-“Dope Man” In My Lifetime Vol. 3
I am a Jay-Z fan because he speaks the world I live in a manner I could never accomplish myself. He responds to attacks in the manner I would respond. I am a Jay-Z fan/listener because I understand. And in return, he understands me, my brother, my cousins, my men, my uncles. He represents us.
Funny how people say that Jay-Z was better before than he is now. He simply has different things to say. And if he was so good, why didn’t Reasonable Doubt more? Everyone listens to Reasonable Doubt. New fans will talk about how much they love the first album and detest all else. No one listens to Volume 1 or 2 or 3. Those are old, too ya know. Jay’s first EIGHT (8, OCHO… EIGHT) albums only have one year of thought between. Like his mama, Ms. Gloria Carter, said on The Black Album’s track “December 4th,” “Isn’t that special?”
I’ll leave you with the entire last song, “Hova Outro”, on In My Lifetime Vol. 3. An album widely overrated and considered commercial.
“First album niggaz love me cause they thought I was poor
Guess I’m successful; industry don’t love me no more
Well I’m the same nigga from your corner, bubblin raw
Skully tilted, pants saggin, damn near touchin the floor
And I come with do-rags to your so-called awards
T-shirt with my chain out like fuck y’all all
Retrospect ain’t been the same since I lost my dad
He’s still alive, but still fuck you, don’t cross my path
A&R’s had me feelin like moss in the drab
So I turned the league out with “Reasonable Doubt”
Get your CD’s out, let’s go, song for song
I’m the illest nigga doin it til y’all prove me wrongW
Do you believe?
It’s Hova the God”
I believe. Do you truly believe? If not, who’s better than Hov? Riddle me that.
Who you gone find doper than him?
With no pen, just draw off inspiration.
Soon you’ll see you can’t replace him.
With cheap imitations for these generations.