This Friday Jay-Z, the greatest rapper of all time, popped up on a cut off of Meek Mill’s first album since he has been released prison, Championships. The song, What’s Free, sampled the beat from the Notorious B.I.G.’s classic track What’s Beef. It also blew up on Twitter for a couple of hours on Friday.
Much has already been made of Jay’s line about Kanye West, his first since Kanye has had his dramatic yet infinitely dumb phase. So, so dumb.
“No red hat, don’t Michael and Prince me and ‘Ye
They separate you when you got Michael and Prince’s DNA, uh”
Because the internet has no real brain or skill when it comes to critical thinking, they assumed all sorts of things about the line. So much so, that S. Carter had to jump on his personal Twitter to set the record straight. What a strange time we truly are living in.
The line clearly meant don’t pit me against my brothers no matter what our differences are (red hat) now go pick up Meek album . Drake and Meek on there together .
— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) November 30, 2018
In any case, that line no matter how provocative or headline grabbing, only scratches the surface of this wonderful era of Jay-Z we are all witnessing, the fuck you money Era.
When someone gets to a point of having Fuck You Money, that is to have so many assets and money that they can burn everything else down, they try to walk away, like Dave Chappelle.
Jay-Z has tried to do that multiple times, whether it be actual retirements or just phoning it in on his albums, but he, like Chappelle, just can’t walk away from this thing of his. He keeps getting pulled back in.
See Jay, like Chappelle, can’t turn this shit off. When Chappelle quit his show, he would show up in LA randomly and do five hour sets where the audience was essentially held captive by the comedic genius and spectacle of Dave Chappelle. He needed an outlet that bad.
Jay, as some may know, does not write his rhymes down. He spits them all of the top of his head. That’s why at the end of the song he says:
“On god, it’s off the head, this improv, but this no comedy”
He is wired to be a rapper. He puts on a beat and it just comes to him, he can’t turn it off.
Ever since Jay cheated on Beyoncé and she made it public, we have begun to experience a renaissance of the Jay. He is now coming out with classics at the ripe old age of 48. He is out-rapping youngsters who should be far hungrier and motivated than him. But he has that fuck you money.
“I’m 50% of D’USSÉ and it’s debt free (Yeah)
100% of Ace of Spades, worth half a B (Uh)
Roc Nation, half of that, that’s my piece
Hunnid percent of TIDAL to bust it up with my Gs, uh”
He makes his money outside of music. So, Jay has all the power in his life and can say anything he wants. There is no fear anymore. In the song he takes a shot at Billboard and the streaming system, two entities that currently define a modern musician’s livelihood.
“I ain’t got a billion streams, got a billion dollars
Inflating numbers like we ‘posed to be happy about this
We was praisin’ Billboard, but we were young
Now I look at Billboard like, ‘Is you dumb?’”
He attacks the inconsistency in the streaming system and the royalties one generates artists from them.
In both instances, as he is the owner of the Tidal music streaming service, Jay attacks the distribution and sales arm of the modern business. He criticizes how people make money and also how these numbers are judged.
He also criticizes the modern music record deal, AKA the 360, in which the label gets a percentage of off all of the artist’s livelihood, including film/tv, live tours, and merchandising as well as the usual record sales and album streams. It is a way that labels draw young artists into the industry but end up taking a lot of their revenue as they have their hands in all aspects of the musician’s life.
So what Jay is doing here is threefold. The first is that he is establishing just how much he owns and what his worth is. Secondly, he attacks how other artists sign these record deals expecting to gain wealth and independence when the reality is that they will be enslaved to the label and lose a considerable amount of revenue from it all. And lastly, attacks the current system used to judge music sales and music revenue. That these numbers are so massive, yet it is near impossible to actually still make a profit off of music.
And that’s ultimately what he is trying to say. That’s what he tried to say on slightly The Story of OJ off of his album 4:44. On the song he gives advise buying property, art, and looking at long-term, profitable investments.
“I bought every V12 engine
Wish I could take it back to the beginnin’
I coulda bought a place in Dumbo before it was Dumbo
For like two million
That same building today is worth twenty-five million
Guess how I’m feelin’? Dumbo” – The Story of O.J.
Jay is in a period of his life now where so little of his revenue is actually dictated by the music. I mean after all just look at his portfolio again. So, what does that mean for his music?
It means when he raps, we should listen, because he’s free.
After Magna Carter Holy Grail, I was ready to hang Jay up. I feel like he may have been too.
In reality the man had nothing to say, nothing of value or interest. All of the interesting stuff in his life happened about 15-20 years prior.
But then he got married and had a baby. That was something. His marriage hit the rocks. There was another idea. He grew his investments considerably. A third thing.
What we have been learning in this new ac of Jay is that he is a story teller. And it doesn’t matter what the story is, it just matters that he is the one telling it.