So, the battle over whether Magna Carta is the holy grail or a holey fail rages on.
Jay-Z supporters scoff at the “haters” who don’t understand the rapper is a “business, man” who managed to go platinum practically from the gate. His flow is flawless, they insist, and compared to anything else out now it’s immaculate.
Jay-Z detractors think he and Samsung, who bankrolled Hova’s latest effort by purchasing a million copies, are worse than the NSA and the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover combined. They scoff at the overt and aggressive materialism in the lyrics, lament his continuing departure from everyman-ness, and deride the naked capitalism of his musical moves.
Even I initially entered the fray. Peeved at a jacked up Samsung download that did NOT start at midnight on July 4, and the tinny sound coming out of my phone speakers, I too decried Hov, stating on Facebook that songs like “Tom Ford” made him sound like a QVC personality. Even now, after hearing it at proper decibels via Spotify, I admit I’m not falling over myself in awe of the effort, but there is something super important that we are all forgetting in this war of words.
Quality music is winning. Finally.
Whether Jay-Z’s latest is pristine or not, the fact remains that one of the GOATS who puts thought and effort into his lyrics is on the charts, big time and changing the game while doing it. Even though I don’t love it from beginning to end, I concede enjoying, and even being touched by, some of his work, including “Part II” and “Jay Z Blue.” And if you ain’t for Jay. What about ‘Ye? Kanye West also topped the Billboards in recent weeks with his highly experimental and at times, deeply provocative, “Yeezus.”
His Yeezesty’s reign was short lived, but who is it who knocked ‘Ye off his throne? Not the clown prince known as 2 Chainz, the disgraced Rick Ross or yet another raspy-voiced member of Cash Money’s collective, but J. Cole-- an earnest and emerging MC who has earned the admiration of Nasir Jones in addition to the ear and co-sign of Jay-Z. And lest you call this coincidence, I point you to Wale… Yes, his “Love Jones” style themes can grate a bit at times, but he is undeniably lyrical and pushing the envelope. More importantly, he is making money…not just earning kudos, but actual cash money for introspective anthems like “Bad.”
I remember, years ago while I was at the RedEye, interviewing the Washington D.C. MC who was outright baffled by his inability to top the charts. Wale told me that if he couldn’t make mainstream with bouncy fare like “Pretty Girls,” with features from the then-white hot Gucci Mane, he might have to hang it up. Exaggeration born of exasperation? Probably, but now look at him. He is doing it.
We. Are. Winning.
Even the rise of Mac Miller, whom Big Ghostfase once cruelly and comically described, as making music repping for hobbits in the Shire is encouraging. Miller’s album, “Watching Movies with the Sound Off,” features none other than Jay Electronica, the elusive and reclusive wunderkind. To see a project associated with Electronica on it period makes my eyes mist up. To have said project clocking serious sales, well, I dang near needed two boxes of Kleenex.
You may call me an optimist. You might even think I’m a fool for so openly celebrating what might be a fluke. It’s not like the garbage MCs have vanished. Today, I heard a song with inane references to so many designer labels, I thought maybe the artist was a buyer for Macy’s. And of course, there are multiple odes about women’s posteriors. The godawfulness that is “Bubble Butt” is not lost on me. Even Wale teams up with Juicy J on the obvious ass-tastrophe, “Clappers.”
But alongside these nonsensical tracks, there is Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail.” There is Wale’s introspective “Love/Hate Thing.” There is Kendrick Lamar, still riding the wave of his incredible album, “g.o.o.d. kidd m.A.d.d. city.” J. Cole is offering audio inspiration with “Crooked Smile.” By God, there is actual factual lyricism pouring from radio speakers at long last. All reasonable rap fans ever asked for is diversity, and increasingly, we are getting it.
So, let’s not waste another week trading barbs about Sean Carter. Let’s revel in what just might be the revival of rap music.
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