Fuckin up my money so yea, I had to act sane. -Kanye West, “Monster”
Wall Street Journal: What would you change about hip-hop if you could?
Jay-Z: We have to find our way back to true emotion. This is going to sound so sappy, but love is the only thing that stands the test of time. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was all about love. Andre 3000, “The Love Below.” Even NWA, at its core, that was about love for a neighborhood. We’re chasing a lot of sounds now, but I’m not hearing anyone’s real voice. The emotion of where you are in your life. The mortgage scandal. People losing their jobs. I want to hear about that.
It was about love wasn’t it? See, this is why I adore Jay –his ability to simplistically express the feelings I can’t quite verbalize. So woke up this morning & turned on Hot97 to be graced with his voice from their interview today. They then announced that there will be a supposed book signing with Mr. Carter at the Barnes & Nobles on 46th today at 1pm. My heart raced and I tried to figure out how long I could be away from my desk before everyone noticed. Ain’t happenin’. I rolled out of bed. Groggy, raspy and with a panuelo over my doobie (that’s Dominican for “scarf over wrapped hair”) I swung open my bedroom door. I surprised my sister, her husband and the dog as I stood in the door way. “What’s wrong?” my sister asked. “Jay-Z is gonna be a Barnes & Nobles. I should have taken the day off,” I responded. & took my ass to the shower to sulk and mourn my loss.
Here’s where it gets serious: I didn’t mean “mourn” to be funny. I meant mourn in its literal terms as in grieving. I’ve always wanted to meet Jay-Z. And not so that I can fawn over him… so that I can know him. So that he can know me. Actually, in all seriousness, so that he can know my brother. I might sound a bit crazy right now, but I’ve mentally rehearsed what I would say to him if I got the chance. I’m still stuck at whether I should call him Jay-Z or Mr. Carter or Jay or.. Shawn (nah.. that might be disrespectful, but would Mr. Carter be too formal? And Jay isn’t even his name.) but I do know what will follow. My brother’s name. All I want is for him to know my brother’s name. No particular reason. I just want to hear Jay-Z say it. To recognize that my brother was a person. To make Enver Rodriguez exist in the mind of Jay-Z, like Jay-Z existed in his mind.
It’s not for the actual autograph because I already have one. My brother got it for me when I was in the 10th grade and while he could have kept it for himself, he gave it to me. I remember he handed it to me in a white tab envelope the night Gianni slept over & we fell asleep on the living room couches. Enver woke me up by hitting me on my head with the autograph itself. If I get my book signed, I want it dedicated to my brother. (Actually, I’d buy two books, like I always buy 2 CDs. One for me, one for Enver. ) Out of love. Not for the monetary value. Not because I can even give it to my brother. But because my brother showed so much love to Jay, I’d want a little bit of that reciprocated for him. All I want is the love.
Not only is Hip-Hop different from an inside view (as described by Mr. Carter), it’s also different on the outside.
There’s no more love in the fan spectrum either. Hip-Hop used to be more personal. When you had a favorite artist, you defended him to the death. I was trying to find out if Jay is really at Barnes & Nobles (don’t think he is) and searched “Jay-Z” on Twitter. I came across statement after statement about how “even Jay-Z fans can admit that Nas won that battle.” Who are you people talking to? First of all
so there is nothing
to “admit”. Secondly, real fans would never
. A real fan defend his favorite artist even in times of doubt (for realer
fans, this also applies to the time of
The Great Doubt, Reasonable Doubt,
that is. #TeamDayOne). Your favorite artist was like your best friend, whom you defend even when they are wrong. No matter the evidence piled up, you remain true to that person and never let them be disrespected. Similar to how a mother, confronted with evidence of her child’s wrong doings, would still
never turn her back on that child. There is no changing your mind. There is no “he used to be nice”. And now, there is no loyalty
in Hip-Hop. Jay knew 9 years ago
that there ain’t no love in the “Heart of the City
“. But he loved us enough to ask for it. Now I’ll ask you again: Where’s the love?
There ain’t none. That’s why it’s his Achilles’ heel. Loooove. The industry don’t get enough of it. There’s 3 options for “love” in Hip-Hop right now. A. Pick the newest, “hottest” rapper out -at one point it was Eminem, Lupe, 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, Drake. These artists rotate with the times. If he has enough songs in rotation, he’s a pretty good bet. B. Pick no one. Don’t decide and stay out of the argument entirely. C. Biggie or Tupac –Then no one will argue with you because, in all honesty, my generation didn’t hear enough of them. They were unfortunately stopped in the middle of their tracks. But no one contests. D. Jay-Z (you will not lose). Artists are gaining more and more in common with the subway system. They come in all different colors, but the path is predictable. Still, each individual train goes to its own destination. Some veer off the path. Some stop short. & We all have one fear in common: No one wants to be on wrong one.
And so they [artists] talk about nothing. And, in turn, we [fans] talk about nothing.
Because there is nothing to say no one has opinions on anything anymore. I hurt me like hell that Kanye apologized for his statement about Bush during Katrina. He didn’t
care. That was one of the strongest things Kanye had done in my eyes and now that he’s taken it back, it’s taken me aback. Kanye used to hurt for us because we hurt for him. His College Drop Out
album is all about injustice and making it through. His love
for the people. This album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
, [while amazing] is about his love for himself. While I’m glad he’s gotten to this place, I know that the reason he no longer loves us is because we failed to love him.
If there were one thing I could change about Hip-Hop, it’d be the the listeners.
Hip-Hop is too… cool
now. It’s “dance-party” music now embraced and, in my opinion, debased by majority listeners who once complained that the music was too violent for them. Perhaps because they’re reality was & has (for the most part) been an easier, less graphic ride. So now, to appease them and sell records, music means nothing. I apologize for the offense some might take at my next statement, but I don’t apologize for the statement: I wish Hip-Hop was still ours. By ours, I mean those in the struggle. Honestly, at some points skin color doesn’t matter –Eminem knows what it is to struggle and economic strife is (or was)
a major theme in Hip-Hop. But sometimes it does matter. I don’t know how to explain it but, it is a feeling
. And white people don’t know what it feels
like to be black. Not saying it’s the same experience for all people within a given race, but there’s something there. Like why it was a big deal for Jay-Z to say, “My gear if in now. I’m in the in crowd” coupled by “All the wavy light-skinned girls is loving me now”. How do you explain to a white boy how big of a deal it is for a dark man to get the light-skinned girls? How do you explain the light/skinned dark skinned…. thing
… we struggle with as a society? Sensibly? How do you explain what it feels like to not be
wavy & light skinned? I sure a hell can’t explain to a white girl what it feels like to be the opposite of her.
Greatest bar of [recent] time: “Niggs be writing bullshit like they gotta work. Niggas is going through real shit, man. They outta work. That’s why another god-damned dance track gotta hurt.” I thought he was going to spit some stuff with a “purp” but that was just followed by the chorus: “Champagne wishes. Dirty white bitches. You know this shit is. Fucking ridiculous.” I feel Kanye on these bars, the only ones I thought spoke beyond himself. But then again… would rappers rather be underpaid or overrated?
Not so say there aren’t some good albums still floating around out there (Rick Ross destroyed Teflon Don). & Drake says things sometimes… but’s more of an R&B cat to me, to be honest. No one has been able to so fluidly cross the rap/r&B line like Kanye in 808s and HeartBreak. I just wish people loved Hip-Hop more. I wish it were a movement like it once was. There’s a skit on Lauryn Hill’s Ms. Hill album called “Skit: Lauryn Hill Speaks on Music” where she comments that Hip-Hop used to be the voice of the oppressed. It was the method by which a group of people expressed their concerns and emotions in living a way of live. Hip-Hop was once the only outlet and taken rather seriously. So seriously in fact that there was a point when record stores wouldn’t sell Hip-Hop CDs. It was too much truth. The police brutality was clearly captured in NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” and with “Gangsta Gansta” hitting #11 on the 88′ Billboard Rap charts, no wonder the suburbs were scared. We don’t have that problem today. People are too afraid to say the truth. Look at what happened to Kanye’s career once he opened his mouth. He sank so low he retracted his own voice, just so that he wouldn’t be underpaid. Lauryn goes on to explain that once Hip-Hop becomes the voice of the corporate, that voice is no longer yours. I mean… it’s no longer ours. Not the artists’ and not the fans’. I wish more people cared about whose voice is being expressed. The sad thing is, I am Hip-Hop. But rarely do I hear my voice anymore.
If I could change Hip-Hop, artists would love it enough to speak.
The rest of us would love it enough to listen.