What Do You Want From Jay-Z?

This is a very simple editorial to write.

At this point, Jay-Z has had the longest reign (key word reign) from a single artist in Hip-Hop history and that is a good thing for a genre that is still young in relationship to all others.

So, when I see a rapper make it to 40 years of age (on Dec. 4) with 11 albums, countless freestyles, battles that, for the most part, range between classic and rock solid, I feel proud. Be clear, this is not "jockin' Jay-Z” (even though I admit he is in my Top 5 Dead or Alive).

Hip-Hop's memory is a bit like that dude out in The Bay - too short - so its time for a refresher course. You know, what scratch the refresher course, because you already know what it is, right? We know the music, the business, the awards, the accomplishments and the other frivolous stuff that we likely have tucked in the recesses of the mind.


So, what is up with all the hate directed towards Jay-Z? I don't mean hate as in jealously, because that’s something different. I don't mean hate as in skepticism of a rapper that is moving into the next phase of his career. I mean, straight up loathing like calling him an "Old A** N***a" or "Gray-Z" with malice. Now, if you hate, call it that, but if you do, its probably time to check yourself as a member of Hip-Hop.

In the year 2009, Jay-Z is one of a few that still represents a "its bigger than Hip-Hop" stance that we have to hold dear. The notion is we can do things bigger and better than is expected of us. I have to admit, I was one of the people that wanted to see Jay-Z go toe-to-toe with The Game. Why? For the sport of Hip-Hop, even though the root of the "beef" was as base and petty as it gets. For me, it was a bit selfish as I am sure it was for a number of people.

But, then I saw Jay-Z on Bill Maher's HBO show representing the culture (and promoting his new album) with intelligence and wit. Then, I saw him pushing the September 11 concert at Madison Square Garden, where he would be giving back to the still-grieving families. Strategically from a Hip-Hop standpoint, it’s challenging to properly engage with a battle cat like Game and have a relationship with the president of the United States. And then there is this new album - Blueprint 3.

I've heard it.

I like it a lot. There are certain songs that are perfect and others that are not-so-perfect. But, what got me was that the album was a departure from the norm and it exuded growth from an individual that has actually grown as a person so many years. He once sold drugs. Jay's made his money. He found his wife. He's got his team, his friends, his associates. Hey, I admit, I'd love to hear a Blueprint 4 with only Just Blaze, Kanye and Preemo, but that's not likely to happen. BP3 does not mean recreate BP1.

Jay-Z's doing what artists - key word artists - are supposed to do. Evolve. Isn't that what we are supposed to do as human beings, move onward and upward? The album's got gems on it too even though upon first listen, you may miss them or mistake them for something else like raw arrogance. I'll admit, after the first listen, I got up from my computer and took a 30-minute drive. I came back and listened again and I've been listening ever since.

Lets continue on with the notion of growth and the idea of that Jay-Z’s success being bigger than Hip-Hop. It is interesting that a number of newer artists are represented on Jay's album and I would venture to say that Kanye West and Alicia Keys are the youngest people on Blueprint 3. None of these guys, save Drake, has seen any meteoric success yet and the verdict is still out on Drake from a commercial/mainstream viability level. Jay's success is J. Cole's success is Kid Cudi's success is Drake's success is Hip-Hop's success.

Jay-Z's an older artist for sure, but don't thing one second that his success doesn't represent the viability of Hip-Hop has a whole. Sorry to say, but Slaughterhouse sold a paltry 18,000 records and that was a damn good album from four of the best emcees in the game. “We” didn't run out and support it even though we pretended we did on the Internet. I did and I will support BP3 too.

It is high time Hip-Hop decide what it wants to do. Do you want to live or do you want to die? Do you want to hoist up your stars or do you want to drag them down like literal crabs in a barrel. It’s bad enough that the mainstream has continually doubted Hip-Hop since its inception and we have defined the odds every step of the way. Why are we doing it to ourselves now? I never heard of a young rockers like Blink 182 attempt to tear U2 a new one just because they came out in the 80's. I don't see Britney Spears messing with Madonna’s life and Madonna's over 50...still doing it. Jay-Z, at his worst, is still a better artist that 99.99% of all rappers in existence. Come on, son.

Jay-Z had a song from the Blueprint 2 that said, "I'll show you how to do this, son." I believe he's doing it now, but I question strongly whether a Hip-Hop Nation that could benefit from this example is actually watching what he's showing. I advise the young and the old to pay closer attention and make the distinction between hate and criticism.

Before I finish, ask yourself: What do you want from Jay-Z? You want something, that is clear. I just can’t determine what it is.

Digital Bonus:

There has always been this comparison of Jay-Z to Michael Jordan. I thought it was interesting that 46-year-old Jordan – in business attire - recently took the time to school a young Slam Ball player named Chris "The Ghetto Bird" Young. Hmmm…reminds me of Jay-Z and some of his young contemporaries.

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