H to the izzo, V to the izzA
By now you've heard this chorus from Jay-Z's latest track, H.O.V.A. (Izzo). Jigga has outdone himself again, this time sampling the Jackson 5's "I want you back." He's a master of pop culture. Over the last 5 years he's created some of hip-hop's catchiest tracks. He first captured the public's fascination when he sampled the classic musical "Annie" for "Hard Knock Life." In the days of pimps, hoes, hustlers sellin' crack and two-way pagers his tales of New York life have captured the frenzy of violence and rampant capitalism infesting our cities.
From standing on the corner poppin
To driving some of the hottest cars New York has ever seen
To dropping some of the hottest verses rap has ever heard
From the dope spot, where the smoke lock
Fleeing the murder scene
Jay-Z's celebration of greed and hedonism makes him the head cheerleader for the latest evolution in consumer culture. The growth of information technology in the late '90's has resulted in the booming new economy. Celebrity and technology have joined through electronic media to make uber-superstars. Whether it's Princess Di, NSYNC, P. Diddy, Leo Dicaprio or Slim Shady, we live in a world that worships celebrity. Pop culture is quickly globalized, this is an age of spectacle. Jay-Z's flashy lyrics have captured this fever, celebrating lust and the latest tech gadgets.
Ma, but you really gotta ride nice dick
Know how to work your hips and your head's priceless
Profess you love the Hov', and I'll never let you down
Get you bling like the Neptune sound
Okay, hot Hov', too hot to hold
Ladies love me long time like 2Pac's soul
Only way to roll, Jigga and two ladies
I'm too cold, Motorola, two way page me, c'mon
Jiggy-rap has reached it's apex in Hova. Jiggy-rap can loosely be defined as rap celebrating women, glamour, jewelry, champagne and the high life. There are other jiggy-rappers like the Ca$h Money Clique, DMX, Ja-Rule and countless Dirty South camps; but Jay is the master. His polished delivery is clear, easy to understand, rhythmic and witty. His production is formulaic like P. Diddy, but even better, 'cuz P. Diddy can't rap. Jay uses bass-heavy beats that have some outstanding feature whether it's a clever sample of a familiar track (Hard Knock Life) or crafted by the Neptunes (I just wanna love you (Give it to me)).
It gets better, ordered another round
It's, about, to go, down
Got six model chicks, six bottles of Crist'
Four Belvederes, got weed everywhere&
I just wanna love you (Give it to me) is perhaps the greatest hip-hop party track since Snoop's "Gin and juice." When Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes starts to sing
I'm a hustler baby
I just want you to know
It aint where I been
But where I'm bout to go
it's like Nate Dogg singing about smoking indoe and sippin' on gin and juice. Jay has created an anthem for millennial hedonism.
When the Remi's in the system, ain't no tellin
Will I fuck 'em will I diss 'em, that's what they be yellin
I'm a pimp by blood, not relation
Y'all be chasin, I replace them, huh?
Drunk off Crist', mami on E
Can't keep her little model hands off me
When he hits, it's hard not to nod your head. Even with his repetitive subject matter he grabs the listener. His graceful cockiness is similar to LL or Snoop, but one step further. There are others in the hip-hop world that match his wealth and power -- Snoop, Eminem, Puff Daddy, Dr. Dre, Master P -- but Jay-Z in all of his grandeur embodies the complexities of 21st century hip-hop most completely.
Snoop became the first larger-than-life figure in hip-hop in the early '90's. Taking the momentum started by NWA one step further, his gangsta lifestyle and music were so intertwined that he quickly captured the fantasy of listeners worldwide. His charismatic voice, lanky frame and name made him a cartoon character right from the start. His debut album "Doggystyle" in '93 was the first rap album to enter the charts at #1. After his real life criminal case, Snoop fell off for a while in the mid '90's and has only recaptured his ultra-largeness again in the last few years, although he still rhymes about the same topics. Nonetheless he paved the way for hip-hop superstars like Biggie, Tupac, Eminem and Jay-Z.
Tupac and Biggie followed just on the heels of Snoop. Similar gangsta personas made them both large like him. Their early deaths sealed their legendary status. Eminem has taken the cult of celebrity to the next level. Since 1999 he has already sold in upwards of 15 million. With his recent D12 project, cartoon series, and film projects, he's gettin' paid. He appears with Jay-Z on a track called "the Renegades." Once again, Shaheem Reid of M-TV reported,
"Eminem, who also produced the track, provides a dementedly savory piano-chord backdrop while he and Hov release some stress. "Do you listen to music or just skip through it?" Jay asks critics who call his tunes one-dimensional. He then blasts the government, saying that he was "influenced by the ghetto you ruined." Slim Shady, who likens himself to a "modern day Shakespeare," tells everyone (this is a shocker) that he's "never been afraid to say what's on his mind."
Eminem has a dynasty of his own, but since he first came on the scene only a few years ago, he has yet to establish longevity like Hova. Master P is a very wealthy entrepreneur with his filmmaking ventures and record label, but his music sucks. Following on the heels of Little BowWow, P has released an album by his 12-year-old son, "Li'l Romeo."
Jay's discography since his 1996 debut, "Reasonable Doubt", is thick. He has put out "In My Lifetime: Volume 1" , "Volume 2: Hard Knock Life" , "Volume 3: Life and Times of Sean Carter" , "The Dynasty: Roc La Familia" and now "The Blueprint." He's sold over 11 million records. His prolific productivity over such a short period is remarkable for any recording artist. His 6th album in 6 years, "The Blueprint," dropping this September has tracks with Q-Tip, Slick Rick, Biz Markie, Eminem and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. Jay is at the top of his game. He recently told M-TV, "I'm already mayor of the streets, and I'm up for re-election."
A recent article in "The New Yorker" on Jay-Z and corporate rap called Jigga a synthesis of Biggie and Puffy,
"Most people thought of Puffy and Biggie as opposites---the executive and the thug, the businessman and the artist, the pop star and the rapper---but Jay-Z's insight was to seize upon the avarice that united them."
Just as the quote above states, Jay-Z is the ultimate fusion of the artist and mogul. He skillfully combines P. Diddy's formulaic business savvy with the lyrical flair of Biggie.
I'm from the school of the hard knocks, we must not
Let outsiders violate our blocks, and my plot
Let's stick up the world and split it 50-50, uh huh
Let's take the dough and stay real jiggy, uh huh
Let's sip the Cris and get pissy pissy
Flow imminently like the memory of my nigga Biggie, baby!
Shaheem Reid of M-TV recently reported,
"Staking claim to the title of "king of hip-hop" on the cut, Jay's letting everybody know that although he's reaped the benefits of reigning supreme in the rap world, he's still "representin' for the seat where Rosa Parks sat."
I flow for those droned out
All my niggas locked in the 10 by 4 controlling the house
We live in hard knocks we don't take over we bomb blocks
Burn 'em down and you can have 'em back daddy, I'd rather that
I flow for chicks wishing they ain't have to strip to pay tuition
I see you vision mama...
Is Jay a hustler or a hero, a renegade or a capitalist, or both? The jury is still out. He is for now the "king of hip-hop", but to what extent he really represents for Rosa Parks seat, remains to be seen. The only sure thing is that he's adept with metaphors and can make the club swing.