I was a sophomore in high school when I bought Jay-Z’s second album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. His boasting on “Imaginary Players”, reference to Biggie on “The City is Mine” and the belief that my fifteen year old life was somehow relatable to “Sunshine” made him the ONLY rapper alive to me. Then a friend of mine introduced me to his first album, Reasonable Doubt, and that was it for me—Jay-Z was king.
After that came Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life, Vol. 3…The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, The Blueprint…and he still sat on the throne I built for him in my mind. He lost me with The Blueprint² The Gift & The Curse, got me back with The Black Album lost me again with Kingdom Come and got me back again with The Blueprint 3. I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with his music. Still, I always respected him as a businessman and Jay-Z as a brand. How could I not respect a man that got people to wear Reeboks again and introduced the word swagger to urban lingo? With that said, it bothers me that so many people have negative things to say about him and his current projects.
Tweets like, “This coming from a man that used to sell crack” and “Jay-Z is a drug dealer”, in reference to an ad that he’s featured in for the Obama re-election campaign. I was surprised to see more negative than positive comments on articles about the opening of the Barclays Center and the Nets move to Brooklyn. Things like, “I don’t care what this man does, he sold his own people poison”.
Really? It’s like people are saying: “How dare you? How dare you Shawn Corey Carter live to be forty-two years old and still be relevant? How dare you go from bricks to Billboards and grams to Grammys? Didn’t you know you were supposed to have five kids and three baby-mothers that hate each other? Didn’t you know that you were supposed to go to jail for selling crack and then come home and not be able to get a job and lose your right to vote? Are we supposed to believe that you’ve changed? We don’t believe you, you need more people!”
It makes me wonder if people are only upset because Jay-Z has reached such a high social status. Like, it’s okay for a drug dealer to become a rapper but we shouldn’t have him campaigning for the re-election of the nation’s first African-American president. It’s okay for him to put his name on sneakers but we certainly don’t think he should be involved in a major enterprise such as an NBA team and sporting arena.I would be puzzled if this is true since American society treats celebrities like royalty, which puts them in the best positions of influence in this country. Who else should President Obama have gotten to get the attention of young black people? Think about some other rappers and Jay-Z will probably be the best choice.
People always say that black men need to do better. Jay-Z is a black man doing better than he was “supposed to”. I’m not saying that selling crack and then rapping about it is cool, but he’s not doing that anymore. Can’t we just be happy that his story didn’t end in prison or death? Can’t we just be happy for one of them that made it?
I’m hoping that when Tuesday comes he can say that he is a small part of the reason the president is black, again.