I remember reading somewhere once that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the people that he didn’t exist, not to be another one of those people that compare Jay-Hova to Lucifer but I think that quote is apt here.
In 2003 Jay released the Black Album. It was marketed as his farewell tour, the last rap album in the career of a legend, his victory lap if you will. Anybody who has been listening to hip hop in the last decade knows this is far, far, far, far, far from the truth. But what that illusion did was create this ideal that Jay Z is more than a rapper, almost like hip hop is just his side job allowing the viewing public to see him more as a mogul. This was his second greatest decision.
When you look at the music scene as a whole Hip-Hop is a relatively new genre, we have yet to get to see our legends grow old the way Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Willy Nelson and others have. The abrasive and braggadocios nature of Hip-Hop makes it feel like a young mans game. This decade and the next is really the first we get to see what Rap looks like from 40-somethings.
The questions for me were; Can there be a 40-year-old rapper? Is that even cool? We all know the true global mark of Hip-Hop and black culture for that matter is an vanquishing coolness. On the Kingdom Come album Jay-Z rapped “30 is the new 20 I’m so hot still” giving us a glimpse of how he viewed himself and by proxy the aging generation of rap stars.
His protégé Kanye West is actively struggling with the public identity crisis of wanting to be a fashion icon, reality star, artist, music god and part time genius. He constantly complains that people put him a box. It’s not just Yeezus, a lot of artist deal with this branding issue. In the mainstream media unfortunately rap music is still viewed as a second hand art form. Even for the legends among us its hard to escape this mindset. Andre 3000 recently expressed his mental breakdown steaming from wanting to get away from rap and branch out into other areas where he can use his creativity.
Jay- Z told the game that he was going away, and we believed him even with a somber heart never really actually caring to notice that he hadn’t actually gone away at all. He took a brief hiatus but the length wasn’t that uncommon from what artists always do after a successful album and subsequent tour. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City in 2012 here we are 3 months away from 2015 and the only thing we’ve had to hold us over is a few cameos. *cough cough* Where is Kdot? *cough cough*
In a recent interview with The Breakfast Club in Atlanta native artist Young Jeezy talked about where he stands in the rap game and spoke candidly about wanting to get to Jay Z s level, Jeezy mentioned that he is 10 years into the game and understands that to get to 20+ years in it takes reinvention.
Constant reinvention is the name of the game, an artist’s ability to play 3 card monte with the public is key; you’re looking over here while I’m over there making moves behind the scenes to make my name and brand bigger. At this game Jay Z is a regular Canada Bill Jones.
Jay Z’s rise from successful rapper to successful businessman has been rapid and consistent. Once regarded as the best rapper alive he now holds a throne in the rap game all to himself, this can be directly attributed to the day he challenged us with the line “Maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black”. At the time we thought at best we may one day get an encore, but Jigga did us one better- he never left. -Glass