Friday, March 21, 2008

Best Bragger Alive!

My name is Hov', H to the O.V.
I used to move snowflakes by the O.Z.
-Public Service Announcement (Interlude)

VH1 Classic ran a Jay-Z special a few months ago, around the time I silently committed to sacrificing my first-born son to the self-proclaimed “best rapper alive.” Predictable and obsequious, the documentary chronicled Jay-Z as cool (rapper, driver of cars, dater of women) and commendable (rags-to-riches, brilliant, enterprising). The show was a 60-minute failure, in that it omitted the salient characteristic that elevates the New Jersey Nets part-owner above all others: he is honest.

While pedestrian rappers bluster about bullets and bitches, Jay-Z is a stripped-down newsman, the embodiment of a man, a microphone, and his turmoil. His concerts are stripped-down affairs, with the audience charged to cling to every couplet. Jay-Z is rap’s most austere artist, an amalgam of truth and street.

The Black Album, his 2003 release, introduced the hit “99 Problems,” an overstated rap-rock mash-up that leaves more than a little to be desired. “99 Problems” is a good song, yet easily the album’s worst. It’s certainly the least honest, and it drips the faux machismo that Jay-Z typically forgoes.

“99 Problems” aside, The Black Album is a case study in badass. 14 tracks long, it says dozens of way cool things about growing up on the street, drug dealing, and—above all—hustling. Jay-Z may be honest, but he is hardly modest, and the man who corralled Beyonce nary misses a chance to toot his hustle horn.

From Bricks to Billboards, from grams to Grammys
The O's to opposite, Orphan Annie
-Dirt Off Your Shoulder

He doesn’t have Biggy’s flow, or Tupac’s fire, or even Eminem’s articulation (as Chuck Klosterman said, Eminem’s greatness lies in his ability to clearly enunciate his words), but Jay-Z has what none of them ever did: more than half a billion dollars.

And that can buy a lot of bling.

Stay Serviced, Public
DJ Dirtless Shoulder

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