Black History Month 20 for 20: Jay-Z - The GOAT
Monday January 30th I was shooting the shit on Twitter as usual, and turned my attention to the love I have for Master P. My friend Courtney with a K inspired me to start this series (as you can see below). For every weekday in February, I will profile Black persons in celebration of Black History Month. #BHM20for20 Why only 20? Y’all too busy sinning on the weekend to read (I’m joking but not really). Thank you Kourtnee.
“This is much more than rap, this Black entrepreneur, clothing, movies & film, we come to conquer it all…” – THE GREATEST OF ALL-TIME
I generally don’t write about music because I’m too emotionally invested, and I would never express myself without bias. Music is my therapy; when there’s no one to talk to because I can’t or don’t feel like communicating, music is there to talk me off the ledge, and the greatest rapper of all-time, Jay-Z saved/saves my life. I was only 12 when Reasonable Doubt came out but Jay-Z automatically became my favorite because he had Biggie in the Ain’t No Nigga video. I figured if he was cool enough to have a superhero like B.I.G. in his video, he was cool enough to be a fan of; 21 years later here I am thanking him for saving my life. Go ahead & listen to Can’t Knock the Hustle, did Jay-Z lie about his intentions? Did he not fulfill his self-prophecy? In this social media world where everything has to be seen in order to be believed, Jay-Z had/has the foresight to deliver on his words from 1996; seeing is believing. One of the things I’m driven by is to always be a man of my word; whether I deliver tomorrow or 10 years from now, I always keep my fucking word, and you’ll never be able to say this brother lied to you jack.
When In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 dropped, I was a freshman in high school, and being from Queens pissed me off because when I heard Where I’m From, I wanted to recite that shit word for word, and be telling the truth. While Reasonable Doubt was my introduction to Jay-Z, Vol. 1 was the confirmation that I made the right choice, and my favorite rapper was the fucking man, which counted for a lot because we really had the, “who’s the best, Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?” argument.
I have an older cousin whose birthday is 9/29, and that’s always reason to celebrate/remember that day but in 1998 my favorite album ever, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life dropped on that date. The J train from Parsons & Archer on Jamaica Ave., my red Sony Discman, and my 14-year old ass cutting school to buy the real copy of Vol. 2 (I don’t buy bootleg Jay-Z albums). The feeling of hearing Money, Cash, Hoes & wanting to run to my best friend to make him rap DMX’s part is something I’ll never forget. Maybe the 2nd or 3rd time we heard the song together, my best friend & I were at some girls basement party, and of course I rapped both Jay verses, and my man was on deck to rap the X verse but some kid from our school tried to rap it instead. I paused the music, and my friend 7 I beat the kid up; I’m not proud of this but we were 14 so it was funny as fuck because we took that shit so seriously. That’s a true story, and one of the many reasons that Vol. 2 is still my favorite album ever. Another reason is because of Jay’s 2nd verse on If I Should Die, where he questions what will happen if he were to meet his demise; that verse makes me wonder about my own experience in the next lifetime. Also, Coming of Age (Da Sequel), where Bleek is the young, hungry dude on the come up, and Jay-Z is the king who gives great advice, and for me at 33, I’ve lived on both sides of that relationship; that fucks with me a little bit but in a good way.
Vol. 3…Life and Times of S. Carter, and The Dynasty: Roc La Familia are both really good Jay-Z albums but when I listen, I hear someone who is frustrated, and wants to grow; something I can relate to. Speaking of relating, on The Blueprint, the album where Jay fully bloomed so to speak, he said, “How you rate music that thugs with nothing relate to? I helped them see their way thru, not you…” I am the thug with nothing who Jay-Z helped see his way thru. And when I say nothing, I mean direction in life, and on the song I just quoted, Renegade, Jay again spoke directly to me, “Just know I chose my own fate, I drove past the fork in the road, and went straight…” My 2nd book is entitled Forks in the Road, as an ode to Jay-Z for that very line. In fact, also related, my book covers are mostly an ode to Jay-Z album covers (as you can see in the photos below).
I’m going to jump to Magna Carta… Holy Grail real quick; July 1, 2013 there was a book release party for me in NYC, and I hated everything about it because I’m a behind the camera guy. People swear I love attention because I get it; I can’t help being fucking handsome, and really great at what I do. Anyhow, that next day July 2, 2013 I was with a friend just really ready to not write anymore, I honestly didn’t know what was next but I just know I hated all that attention. Then, July 4th came, I was supposed to go to a BBQ over my cousin hose but I didn’t go cuz MCHG just dropped, and listening to the album start off with Holy Grail made me cry because there was no fucking way this shit was real. I was just complaining/contemplating quitting all my artistic endeavors because the attention was just too much; I didn’t know if people were at that party for me or if they were there because it was a “thing.” Then Jay-Z came, and delivered, “If this is all you have to deal with, nigga, deal with, this shit ain’t work, this light work…” HOW? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU KNOW I NEEDED TO HEAR THAT EXACT MESSAGE? That July 4th I locked myself in my room, played MCHG on loop for about 8 hours, and wrote part 2 to the book that was just released 3 days earlier; no lie. That is who, and what Jay-Z is to me, he’s my fucking pastor, my preacher, and prophet. When I heard F.U.T.W., and Jay said “…little bastard boy, basking on top…” I changed my IG name to littlebastardboy that same moment because he was talking about me. I changed the name of my company from what it was to Little Bastard Boy Productions, I got the logo of the company tatted on my left bicep over a picture of Jesus that I had got done when I was 19 & locked up. Then I heard Nickels & Dimes, and it automatically became my favorite song ever because of the layers of the song. Simple, and complex, there’s a lot of perspective, and reflection, 2 things I am very fond of. While people may say I think “too much” I’m just rubbing my nickels & dimes together.
The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse, The Black Album, Kingdom Come, American Gangster & The Blueprint 3; imagine having all of these in your discography? Imagine being so good, that an album like Kingdom Come is called “trash” because it can’t measure up to your CLASSICS (which Jay-Z has 5 of in my not humble opinion). The words that are said on these albums resonate deeply, and when people say Jay-Z didn’t show himself to be vulnerable until Lemonade, I know they’ve never listened to his albums. And if they did listen, they didn’t feel it in their soul, which makes them cornballs anyway. Jay-Z albums aren’t just music, they’re events, and I remember where I was, who I was with, and what I had on for every single Jay-Z album release. When I’m on Twitter typing out Jay-Z lyrics, and saying ‘I’m in church”, I really am because these words are my therapy, and I know someone probably needs to read them.
Everything here is just a small example of the impact Jay-Z has had on my life. For the last 20+ years, when I need something or someone, Jay-Z is right there for me at the push of a button. Everyone talks about how important representation, and I’d be a fool to think it wasn’t important but I do not feel represented by a lot of Black people because they’re the same ones who call me uneducated, ghetto, loud, a thug, and that used to hurt more than when white people did it because at least I expect that from them. While understanding that jay-Z was/is out for presidents to represent him, I know he went on MTV with durags to make them love me, and I will forever be indebted to him for that. Jay-Z, you saved my life, and I’m only 1 of MILLIONS who feel this way about you; thank you. If I am ever fortunate enough to save another person’s life, they will only have you to thank for inspiring me to pay it forward. You are the GOAT, and it’s much more than rap.
*Plays Encore* This is the last article I’m ever going to write/post on OPUS. I’m not going to get a Frappuccino or something.