I am on a music thing these last couple of weeks, but I feel in order for Hip-hop to truly reach a point were people begin to take it seriously, standards must be created for it. It needs a definition, a mold if you will, for it to fit into in order for us to truly discern the shit, from the gold, the apprentice from the masters, the niggas from the solders.
An artist that is starting to shape this mold is the Frank Sinatra of Hip-hop; the Hova; the Jigga Jigga that nigga Jigga: Jay-Z.
Jay-Z has formed an era unto himself, and is cemented permanently as the most influential hip-hop artist of our time. Yes, I said it. No, hes not the greatest lyrically, and not everyone of his albums are classics, but no other hip-hop artist before him or since him has affected and continues to affect American Popular music like he does. On a business side, no other artist in any genre of music has been able to flout an impressive resume of financial success that he has.
Chuck D recently said that Jay-Z is an artist who is constantly changing. The change is subtle, but he continues to perfect his art. He approaches each album as if this was a masterpiece, especially since the Black Album. Not all of them are, Kingdom Come and BluePrint 2 are examples, but the effort is still there. Each album is conceptually different, and each holds a different purpose for Jay-Z as a artist; both personally and for the art as a whole. Blueprint 3, for example was meant to return hip-hop to its gritter roots as well as inspire would be artists to reach a certain degree of aspiration. American Gangster is meant to be an allegory toward the Frank Lucas story, with Jay-Z as Lucas' own subconscious narrating for itself, and using hip-hop as its voice. However most importantly, each album speaks to its audience differently, and each audience member is then allowed to make their own decision on what the album means. Which is the purpose of any form of literature. The depth is there, and yet Jay-Z steps away far enough to give his audience room to go as deep as they chose.
It is also hard to ignore Jay-Z as a financial force within the music industry. The success of Rockfeller made both Jay-Z and Damion Dash (his partner earlier in his career) millionaires. Shortly after the Black album, Jay-Z took control of Def Jam records, the single biggest and greatest hip-hop record label in the world. A number of well known and sought after producers: Kayne West, 9th Wonder, N.E.R.D, etc. accredit their start to the work they did with Jay-Z. Now he is beginning to produce with Will Smith, producing a critically acclaimed Broadway piece known as FELA! (which has its own artistic influences being the first African-Jazz musical). What musical artist at anytime has had this much control over the money surrounding the music industry? Perhaps Frank Sinatra, but even he wasn't the producing force that Jay-Z is turning out to be. To quote a Broadway producer: "Controlling the money, is to control the art". Jay-Z has a grip on hip-hop as an art form, to shape it as he chooses, and is slowly gaining control over pop music as a whole.
I chose not to include Beyonce, because her own influence on pop culture is separate from Jay-Zs, and they as a couple is a topic for another time. However I will not ignore that without her, Jay-Z would not be in the position in American conscious that he is in.
I chose to title this blog, the era of Jay-Z, because that is where music has entered in the last couple of years. Jay-Z has sky rocketed to the top seller in hip-hop and is slowly approaching that for pop music. His theories and opinions of hip-hop are starting to become rap Gospel for certain groups, so much so that his track D.O.A (Death to Autotune) developed quite a stir about the overabundance of auto tune in hip-hop when it hit this summer (It was not as big of a rabble as Hip Hop was Dead was but that's neither here nor there). And his control of the music industry is placing him in a place of significant influence for the American music consumer.
Lastly, the brotha makes you want to get up and do something with your life. He takes his presence in the public eye very seriously, as if he is keenly aware that he is being looked up to by millions of younger black men around the world. Hes a role model, an example of true black wealth and success, as well as a man who continues to buck America's obsession with celebrity by remaining as down to earth and reachable as possible.