Friday, November 20, 2009

H.O.V.A. (Hollowed Out Venerable Appearance)

The hype that surrounded Jay-Z's recent show at the Assembly reminded me of something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a little while. Why does Jay-Z always get grouped with the classy, respectable rappers? How does a guy that refers to himself as "HOVA" (short for Jehovah) consistently get the good guy wrap?

I always here people say things like, "I don't really like rap, but I like Jay-Z. He's different." Now I want to make it clear, by no means do I dislike Jay-Z. I have a couple of his albums on my itunes and listen to him from time-to-time. I don't think he's worse than your average rapper who turns out songs about booties and bling for a quick buck. But it's started to bug me that he gets credit for being something he's not.  

Here are some lines from his song "Moment of Clarity": 

I dumb down for my audience
And double my dollars
They criticize me for it
Yet they all yell "Holla"
If skills sold

Truth be told
I'd probably be
Talib Kweli
I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
(But i did five Mil)
I ain't been rhymin like Common since

Maybe I'm just being overly-critical, but it's hard for me to put a man on a pedestal who brags about being a sell-out. He makes it out like he's being admirable by being honest about it, but that doesn't mean anything unless he's willing to change. 

Anyway, I'll probably check out the next album he comes out with and will continue listening to his music, because he isn't a bad guy. But I won't be duped into thinking he's the Savior he claims to be either. 


  1. It’s all about context man. You can’t compare Billy Joel to Tom Waits or Weather Report to Rahsaan Roland Kirk any more than you can compare Jay-Z to Talib Kweli, Mos Def, or Dead Prez. Unfortunately, there is a very distinct line (though it’s becoming more blurred) between corporate music and independent music. True, Jay-Z may not have the same lyrical ability as other rappers but he has a strong gift for being one of the more substantive main stream rappers. In other words he’s apt enough to combine mass marketability with genuine artistic merit – not an easy task. So yeah, you and I might not think he’s the best around, but as far as corporate rap goes (especially in the late 90s) he is about as close to as a Messiah as you’re going to find.

  2. he got rich and gave back, that's the win-win.

  3. Josh- I would disagree that he's close to a Messiah
    Krehbs- great line


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