Hey you guys,
I was watching Monday Night Football a while ago and they showed the new Nascarriffic Jay-Z video during halftime. Who knew Jay-Z had such a hard-on for the official sport of hillbillies and crackers? Then, during a commercial from the extended commercial that is halftime the Jay-Z video reappeared in a commercial for Budweiser Select.
What exactly is Mr. Cristal/Armadale doing in a commercial for cheap beer? Well, it appears in addition to running the biggest rap label in the world and being one of the biggest rap stars in the world Jay-Z is now Co-Brand director of Budweiser subsidiary brand Budweiser Select. What a coup! What exactly does said position entail? According to an article in SOHH (shout out to SOHH!) "Jigga will participate in Budweiser Select planning sessions and collaborate with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development".
How exciting! I can just imagine Jay-Z lying in bed at night thinking "you know, fucking Beyonce and running Def Jam and selling millions of albums is cool and all but what I'd really like to do is participate in Budweiser Select planning sessions and collaborate with the company on strategic marketing programs and creative ad development. That's where my heart is really at now." Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure Jay-Z's input on strategic marketing decisions will be off the hook but seriously, what part of the game is that?
A few days later I saw a commercial for a basketball video game that allows players to harness the incredible basketball playing prowess of Jay-Z by "unlocking" him as a player but only if they first purchase a Jay-Z brand basketball shoe (a shoe I'm guessing comes with a collectible signature Jay-Z mixtape).
Here's my question to you. Is there anything Jay-Z won't do to sell his albums? And why does Jay-Z still command such respect in hip hop? I don't have a problem with MC Here Today Gone Tomorrow whoring himself out during his fifteen minutes of fame. He's probably not going to get much in the way of royalties so he might as well line up that sneaker endorsement and role in Halloween 17 and crank out a cheapie DVD.
But if anyone can afford to conduct themselves with dignity and self-restraint it's Jay-Z. He's the guy the Kanye Wests and Lupe Fiascos and ?uestloves look to for guidance and inspiration. He's one of the most revered figures of his generation. He has all the money anyone could want. His place in the hip hop pantheon is secure. So why is he out there hoing himself out to any corporation or entity willing to throw a little scratch his way?
I suppose a lot of this comes down to promoting his album. He's talked extensively about the need for big "event" CDs in hip hop and I think he'd be pretty mortified if his big comeback (following his much-vaunted bullshit fake retirement) CD sold something two hundred thousand copies the first week out, then sunk like a stone. Considering all the high-profile flops out there and the lukewarm buzz around his album that doesn't seem like such an unlikely scenario (hey it happened to Outkast, Pharell and Busta & Dre). At least this way if his album under-performs he can say to his bosses "Hey I did everything I could to promote it. Even the cheesy-ass Nascar stuff. What more do you want?"
The sad thing is I think Jay-Z feels more of a responsibility to shareholders than to hip hop as a whole. I think Jay-Z's fairly overrated (definitely in the top five most overrated rappers of all time) and much of his success comes down to beats. You know who else sounds good rapping over Jay-Z's production? Just about everyone. It's not that hard to make good albums when you have Timbaland and Just Blaze and Kanye West and The Neptunes giving you their best work. But I respect what Jay-Z's accomplished and that respect dies a little with each cheesy endorsement or opportunistic business move.
I came of age pop-culture-wise in the early nineties, when "careerist" was a dirty word and artists were terrified of being labeled sell-outs. Now it seems like the whole dynamic has been turned on its ears and the only real shame comes from not selling out at a high enough price.
I'm not asking for a return to the cult of authenticity (which was phony and ridiculous in its own right) but a line must be drawn somewhere and Jay-Z crossed that line (possibly while in a car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Danica Patrick) ages ago. Whether he likes it or not kids look up to Jay-Z and when his message is "Buy Budweiser Select, use Visa, pick up the S. Carter basketball shoe, watch Nascar and buy Apple computers, The Gap and Roc-A-Wear clothing" that's pretty damned dispiriting. What do you guys think? And please don't condemn all of hip hop in broad strokes (which is one of my big pet peeves). Jay-Z's sell-out antics don't make the MF DOOMs and Phonte Colemans and Ghostface Killahs of the world any less awesome. I've argued that a line must be drawn: Do you disagree? Agree? If so where do you think that line should be drawn? Discuss
Hey you guys,