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Friday, April 12, 2013

Open Letter - My take

So everyone is weighing in on Jay-z's new release, "Open Letter" which came about as a response to right-wing criticism to he and Beyonce spending their fifth wedding anniversary (seriously, five years already?) in Cuba. The outcry came fast and furious, and loudly by Stacy Dash who seems to be still reeling from the revelation that she is a republican and supported Mitt Romney. It got so much that during a white house press conference, the President's staff was questioned about the lyrics.

In a vacuum, with nothing else in mind, the song is ill and the first verse is serious. The beat knocks and is still free enough where you know Jay is going to come with lyrics that are ill enough to listen to. My only issue is that damn Swizz Beats who annoys me to no end but he doesn't ruin the song at all.



Now let's address the overall issue, should Jay be doing this? That is a more difficult question to try and answer. When it comes to where hip-hop has gone and the ultimate growth you can have, you have Jay-z and you have Will Smith. Those are our two elder statesmen who have reached the pinnacles of influence on whatever they touch. Thus they are always walking on new ground because they represent us, and Jay even more just because of his image as a hustler and street kid. So when you drop a song like this, in this position, you have to question the wisdom because you give a group of people fuel to question and attack you and attach someone else to this who has nothing to do with a particular situation, this time the President, Barack Obama.




So while I get the double entendre of "I'm in Cuba /I love Cubans" and how you refer to the threat of jail time and fines (empty as they may be) and allude to if thats going to happen you might as well really do something that is detrimental like provide Chief Keef with more fuel to destroy the youth or get war popping off in our streets even more, you have an entire class of people who take the chance to presume you are speaking literally. We all know you know better, you put out 'Decoded' to explain your lyrics to such people and they are digging up the exact songs you broke down in the book as if you haven't explained it because they don't want to accept the truth of different rules for different societies in your case. I just covered this talking about the difference in complaining about Rick Ross dropping bodies on record and Rick Ross committing rape on record and the nuance we must take when breaking down rap lyrics, especially when looking at an artists stature and relevance.

As a fan of hip-hop I love to see our artists transitioning to higher levels and eschewing stereotypes until a moment like this arises and when it needs to be dealt with delicately, it is met with abrasiveness. I know most of our generation will say it's about time they recognized and we're not going to cower and back down in their faces. In reality though, the way the message is conveyed confirms whatever negative opinions they want to have and they totally give themselves a reason to ignore the message itself which is in short, "Don't single me out I had permission to go and there are worse things I could be doing".

When it is all said and done, any artist in rap needs to be aware of their words, what they mean by them and how they can be interpreted. Everyone isn't always going to get it and everyone doesn't have the same freedom to say and do anything with no expectations, the same way anyone doesn't get a million bucks from a tennis shoe company to be an endorser or get to call the treasury office and go to Cuba. You don't have to like it, but it is the reality, with great money, power and influence comes great responsibility.

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