Proud new pop Jay-Z says he’s sworn off calling women “b——” in his raps now that he has a “wicked-a– lil’ ‘B’ ” of his own, but he’s still brandishing the n-word — the one he built his multi-million-dollar empire on — in a lullaby to his baby girl, featuring such linguistic plums as “Your Grandpop died of n—- failure,” “G——, I can’t deliver failure” and “So there you have it, s— happens.”
It sure does and one fallout is that this homeboy has an ego bigger than his vocabulary. Shawn Carter demonstrated as much when he took over Lenox Hill Hospital last week for the birth of his child without a thought to other pregnant moms there. That conceit wouldn’t be acceptable even if the self-proclaimed “Jay-Hova” had done something positive for humanity besides promoting social indignities and vulgar behavior to make a buck, not a difference.
No doubt Jay-Z is successful if marketability is the yardstick of excellence, parlaying his gangsta grooves into lucrative businesses in fashion, cuisine, sports and advertising, making him the world’s second wealthiest hip-hop artist, according to Forbes magazine. Low-brow black intellectuals even portray “Jigga” as Christ, with Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson justifying his pop culture course — “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” — by stating, “It’s like Jesus talking to the woman at the well. You ask for a drink of water, then you get into some theological discussions.”
If excellence is judged, however, by a person’s impact on humanity, then Jay-Z is a failure. His stock-in-trade is peddling negative black stereotypes for his own profit while hawking T-shirts at Occupy Wall Street rallies without sharing the proceeds, and engaging in lofty partnerships with the U.N. to fix the world’s water crisis because, “I was looking for a cause.”
How about pursuing the cause of giving some real hope to disenfranchised youngsters by showing them the way out of the ghetto, Hov? History books are full of African-Americans overcoming their humble roots without resorting to the gutter; among them, singer Louis Armstrong, human rights activist Sojourner Truth, clockmaker, surveyor, and astronomer Benjamin Banneker, and Garrett Augustus Morgan, who invented a precursor to the gas mask and a traffic signal — all of them born in a ghetto or children of slaves.
By comparison, Jay-Z is a herb who owes his fame and fortune to lousy lyrics such as “I’m like f— critics you can kiss my whole a——” (“99 Problems”), “Rap music let these m———— know what we about, I know these gay a– record labels keep f—–’ n—–” (“Real N—–”), and “Aint no n—- like the one I got, no one can f— you betta” (“Ain’t No N—–”).
In Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s biography, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office,” rapper Johnathan “Jaz-O” Burks says, “[Jay-Z’s] done so well, many have forgotten he started as a street hustler, who sold crack by the kilo, was nearly murdered by a rival and narrowly escaped jail after cops pulled him over when his car was loaded with cocaine, [and later] plunged a knife into the belly of a man he thought was stealing music profits from him.”
Then, again, many haven’t — sadly for baby Blue Ivy.
Columnist Shavana Abruzzo's opinions appear every Friday on BrooklynDaily.com. E-mail her at [email protected].