Jay Z be gettin’ caught in a RIP Tide

Posted on October 28, 2013


The problem with the race card is that it always shows up again in the next hand that’s dealt and you might get it yourself.


Jay Z not feelin’ the love.  Jay Z aka Shawn Carter, is getting a different look from a different angle at the Racial Identity Politics (RIP) movement and agenda in America.  Depending on how inclined he is towards looking at the big picture, this may be a ‘teachable moment’ for him.   Jay Z,  I should point out to my readers who studiously avoid pop culture, is the Google of hip-hop.  I’m not particularly any more interested in that entertainment form than you are perhaps, but there’s some delicious irony in this latest incident that should not streak past without being exposed to the strobe effect of Blasted Fools.

As little interest as I have in hip hop as a matter of personal taste, looking at Jay Z from the lens of a musician, I must credit him as being the most talented among today’s mainstream of that genre.  Unfortunately it is largely wasted.  As a point of reference – the only other rap artist(s) I liked way, way, back were Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – bestowing a beautiful mix of melody and rhyme infused with humor, social commentary and ironic mockery of rap chauvinism – and largely devoid of  political undertones.  Well, I shouldn’t forget Will Smith’s successful efforts to mainstream rap – again, relying on comedic and other more universal themes – ruining his ‘street cred’ in the process, but launching a mega career in films.  For Will (in his persona as the ‘Fresh Prince’), the street cred was entirely fictitious anyway.  I give him huge style points for growing up and moving on.  His analog of an earlier generation of Black entertainer would have been Bill Cosby, but even then most would agree that Will has eclipsed the ‘Cos’.

Jay Z’s stuff is musical and has crossover appeal, but beyond that, even he doesn’t care to break away from the hackneyed and thread bare motifs of bling,  trappings of conspicuous consumption, upscale partying, narcissistic posturing and macho braggadocio – but I repeat myself.  Even so, he’s making a product that more than a few want to consume and the image he projects has a following.  What mystique still remains in any of that is beyond me, but his business empire is of the same magnitude as Oprah’s and  Z has even branched out into managing professional athletes.  Jay Z is marginally interested in politics,  and has only paid it casual lip service, including the perfunctory nod of the celebrity head to Barack Obama and the obligatory visits to the White House .  He’s quoted as saying:

“I’m not interested in politics. I have zero interest. I have interest in hope and people.  Politics – I still think it’s a bunch of liars and a bunch of self-interest.  It’s not about people, it’s about themselves and their rise to power…[politicians] don’t have the balls to say, ‘I believe in this, I don’t care what happens.’  And until that happens, nothing is going to get fixed; you’re still going to have 14 year olds in cities with AK-47s.”

I guess I’d ask him if “it’s a bunch of liars and a bunch of self-interest”, why were you doing photo-ops with Obama?  Then, there was this comment in an interview with Bill Maher:

On whether we need increased police presence: “More jobs would be better than police.  I don’t want to scare America, but the real problem is there’s no middle class; the gap between the have’s and the have nots is getting wider and wider.   It’s going to be a problem that no amount of police can solve.”

He may have stumbled upon something there.  Beyond that, there is the well publicized scrape with Harry Belafonte.  Belafonte, who, if he needs an introduction, I can either roll out a few verses of the ‘Banana Boat Song‘ or suggest you save us some time here and wiki him.  He (Belafonte), has always been one of the most persistent trumpets in the black victimization and incessant racism horn section. Harry would be adrift at sea if not for the comforting anchor of the racial politics of woe and black disenfranchisement.  For this reason, the success of Oprah,  Beyonce (Jay Z’s wife), Michael Jordan and others like them, undercuts his narrative of the impossibility of escape from disadvantage.  In this, Belafonte is in the orbit of the Sharpton / ‘Reverend’ Jackson / Congressional Black Caucus constellation.  Belafonte expects Black celebrities to expend a substantial degree of energy playing the race card.  This came to a head, in an interview Belafonte granted a European newspaper:

Q:  Are you happy with the image of members of minorities in Hollywood today?
A:   “Not at all. They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. We are still looking. … And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking.  I really think he is black.”

In Belafonte’s mind, if you are Black, you are born with a ‘social responsibility’.  Trimming that down to simple ‘responsibility’, could be a game changer for a lot of Blacks, but that wouldn’t jibe with the message of the Democrat party.  The bit about Bruce Springsteen being Black, was bound to cause a few Black jaws to drop.  Is Bruce Springsteen the “son that Bill Clinton never had”?  Because we all know that Bubba was an honorary Black before Mr. Belafonte conferred African heritage on ‘The Boss’.  There’s some irony – since when has ‘The Boss’ been Black?  One other question I have in all of this.  If the goal is to eliminate profiling, wouldn’t the first thing you would do, be stop focusing on somebody’s skin color as their identity and discuss them as a person, an individual?  I know, I know – stop making sense.  A response from Jay Z, was not long in coming:

“I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity.  Just who I am.  Just like Obama’s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough.  Just being who he is.  You’re the first black president.  If he speaks on any issue or anything he should be left alone. … I felt Belafonte … just went about it wrong.  Like the way he did it in the media, and then he bigged up Bruce Springsteen or somebody. And it was like, ‘whoa,’ you just sent the wrong message all the way around. … Bruce Springsteen is a great guy. You’re this civil rights activist and you just bigged up the white guy against me in the white media.  And I’m not saying that in a racial way.  I’m just saying what it is. The fact of what it was. And that was just the wrong way to go about it.”    

“My presence is charity”? Yes, that did sound arrogant, Jay. Isn’t this the oh so typical attitude of the celebrity?  I’m so important and the planets revolve around me – aren’t you euphoric just to be a tree in my forest, a drop of water in my great lake?  I couldn’t let that one go unnoticed.  You just “bigged up the White guy”?  Why do I suspect that if Jay Z was just chillin’ with his pimps, the “White guy”, would be ‘cracker’?

Clearly, even the Counterfeit In Chief, is not playing race poker like he should according to the R.I.P. cartel.  Black celebrities are Black, first and foremost – and whatever it is they do is secondary to that.  Any reasonable person would give Jay Z credit for cashing in on his Black identity when it suits him. The entire entertainment industry has constructed a ‘separate but equal’ array of awards and events that call attention to Blacks celebrating their strangely sequestered status as a fostered sub group of Americans.  If  Z hasn’t played that game with enough intensity, that’s probably what contributed to the PR problem confronting him at the moment. The Associated Press reports that,

Jay Z, under increasing pressure to back out of a collaboration with the luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers — said Saturday he’s being unfairly “demonized” for just waiting to hear all of the facts. “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion,” the statement said. “I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?” he said, referring to local newspaper headlines.  “I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?” he asked. “I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”

“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion.” ???  Wouldn’t this mean you re-registered as an independent and left the Democrat party – the political party of utopian myopians?  (Don’t touch that, I just copyrighted it!) 

What is immediately obvious, or should be, is the ‘payback is a ‘B’ word’ paradox of Jay Z’s complaint, contrasted with his reaction to the Trayvon Martin verdict. “I was angry. I didn’t sleep for two days.  We all knew there was still a bit of racism in America but for it to be so blatant.”  Jay also spoke about the prudence of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws, scoffing, “You can have a fight with someone and they’re running way, you can shoot them and kill them and you’re fine?  What?!  Come on.  Come on, man.” 

Z thinks he knew more about the evidence in the trial than the jury did, but is not going to jump to any conclusions regarding his business partner y’understand?  Jay Z and his wife Beyonce, also attended a rally protesting the Martin trial verdict.  Apparently, unlike when Zimmerman was found innocent by a jury, the jury should still be out when a business partner of Jay Z’s is accused of a racially motivated episode.  Maybe, as I said, this will be an awakening to the reality of how unproductive and monotonous the repetitive racial ‘beats’ can be. I suspect that Z’s protestations of careful deliberation, may simply be  his concern for the viability of the clothing line he partnered with Barney’s of New York on, plus the 75% of the income stream from it that is not going to charity.  What do you suppose, hmmmm?

The alleged profiling incident inspired another fashion ‘collection’.

As to the ‘Reverend’ Sharpton’s opportunistic crusade against Barney’s, Sharpton and his minions, for their part are scrupulously handling Z with kid gloves, because you don’t want to alienate someone of his magnitude, y’all.  With regard to the charges of profiling on the part of Barney’s and also in a few other incidents, Macy’s – they may very well be factual.  It will all come out in the civil cases that have been filed, but with Sharpton’s track record, even an accusation that sounds credible on its face, gives you pause when you know the ‘Reverend’ is exploiting it for the usual purpose of feathering his racial nest.

For now, Jay Z (as is the ‘Reverend’ Sharpton) – is still a member of the Blasted Fools’ fraternity.  To work his way out of perdition, he must ‘bring forth fruits meet of his repentance’. That would have to consist of a message repudiating racial identity politics.  I’m not placing any chips on that number.

“Hey Blasted Fools, quit yo’ hatin!”