oh, jay

Though I pretend to write about politics, conflict and economic development, I know what really draws people to Jackfruity: Aga Khan and Jay-Z. It’s been a while since I last touched on the Hov, and it turns out there’s a lot I’ve been missing.

I’m reserving musical judgement on Jay’s new album until I can sit down and listen to the whole thing, start to finish, but the buzz in the blogosphere caught my attention. Turns out there’s a bit of controversy about Kingdom Come. Jody Rosen at Slate rips him a new one:

The Brooklyn street hustler shtick is anachronistic, and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous songs pay diminishing returns: How many more times can he keep a straight face, rapping about his fancy vacations and his famous girlfriend’s “Birkin bags”?
My boy Jack, on the other hand, sticks up for Jay, comparing Kingdom Come to Outkast’s Idlewild:

In hip hop, much like political debates, how you perform relative to what is expected of you is actually more important than your performance compared to your competitors.
(…)
I’m bothered by how much people are seeming to savor hating on Jay. They were the same way with Outkast. Why are we so quick to trash our heroes?

Geoff Dabelko at Gristmill isn’t. His recent piece on the champagne-boycotting, Maasai-loving hip-hop artist idolizes Jay as a sensitive philanthropist. Quoting Peter Gleick, “one of the world’s leading water experts,” Geoff writes:

Jay-Z underwent a real transition in his understanding of the nature of African water challenges during his recent tour. The documentary that MTV is releasing shows his growing understanding and appreciation of water problems, and reflects in a genuine way his emotional responses to those problems. If only all of our cultural celebrities and icons were so engaged!
I took a closer look to see if I could catch a glimpse of this in the lyrics of Kingdom Come. This is what I found:

What you call money, I pay more in taxes
I got crowned king down in Africa
Out in Niger’, do you have any idea?
Sold out shows, albums his whole career
Jo-burg, Dublin, Tanzania
Lunch with Mandella, dinner with Cavalli
Still got time to get water out to everybody

The emotional response I’m sensing here is less, “I feel compelled to help these people” and more, “Ain’t I the shit? Hey, who wants to go put on one of those red kimono things and take pictures? Yo B. B! Get me a bottle of Dom from the fridge, baby.”