When Rappers Aren’t Heroes, Part III

Man must have a code.

Allegiance should be made to people, not dollars. The ties that bond cannot be based on dead presidents and bottom lines. To have power and influence is no longer impressive. Do the right thing for your people and be the example of how to change the world. Making money does not make you special, but building a reputation on transparency, fortitude and receptiveness is what’s needed, now more than ever.

In 2005, Shawn Carter told us he wasn’t a businessman, he was a business, man and no one doubted him. Fast forward less than 15 years later and he’s hip-hop’s first billionaire, as evaluated by Forbes. For the last two decades of Jay-Z’s career, we’ve brought his music, drank his champagne and wore his clothes. The moment he told us to abandon our throwback jerseys, we gleefully swapped them out for terrible, ill-fitting button-up shirts, with cuffs and collars the size of Texas. When he told us to boycott Cristal for Armand de Brignac, we obliged. We he took a stand against the NFL and supported Colin Kaepernick, we were proud and it, by proxy, renewed our commitment to Colin. So, it turned out painfully disappointing that the man turned out to be a business all long.

On August 13, news broke that Roc Nation and the NFL formed a partnership. During a joint interview with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Jay pushed the narrative of players being past the point of protesting. “I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.” But the only action this deal is looking to take is to generate money. So far, the plan is to sell merchandise under the NFL’s Inspire Change apparel line and select artist (Jay-Z/Roc Nation being the ones who will do the picking) will perform music on select NFL platforms and proceeds will go back into the Inspire Change initiative. “I’m not interested in how things look on the outside… If you have a vehicle that you can inspire change and you can speak to the masses and educate at the same time.” What change can be brought by shilling NFL gear and listening to Meek Mill perform “Dreams and Nightmares Intro” for the 50th time because this ain’t it.

You want it one way, but it’s the other.

No one told Jay-Z to wear Kaepernick’s jersey during his SNL performance two years ago. No one told Jay-Z to rap “I said no to the Super Bowl; you need me, I don’t need you” last year to re-insert himself back into the conversation on protesting the NFL. No one told him to stand next to Kaep’s image but he did, only with the hopes of gaining notoriety with the public and his core fan base. Now, he’s reaping the benefits of playing both sides: he heightened his public persona by championing Kaep, used this newly acquired leverage to gain a foot-in-the-door with the NFL, culminating in the Roc Nation/NFL deal, and is, reportedly, looking to gain an ownership stake in an NFL team.

Shawn Corey can’t have it both ways. In good conscience, you cannot align with the same corporation that you acknowledge blackballed Colin and then use your leverage and power to strike a deal with the same corporation and not even include Colin in those negotiations nor get him back in the NFL. Kaepernick’s position was always about protesting police brutality and bringing social change. Though he wishes to be in the NFL, his higher purpose of bringing awareness to social injustices has been put into motion. Before now, Jay was never used a social justice platform to make money and it feels gross that Jay found a way to profit off of Colin’s sacrifice.

You equivocatin’ like a muthafucka.

To put a cherry on top of this Roc Nation/NFL controversy, a snippet of a panel interview with Jay-Z and Van Jones surfaced on August 31. In the video clip, Jay woefully makes the generalization that being black in a single-parent household automatically makes you challenge and resist the police.

Make it make sense, Hov. In his comments, he disregards the power and importance of black mothers (and grandmothers and aunts), generalizes black folks feelings toward the police and, amazingly, gives polices a pass for being aggressive toward black youth. Triple entendre; don’t even ask me how. The level of disappointment when conservatism starts to creep into people we thought had the pulse of the youth is profound yet feels, sadly, inevitable. Watching Jay make those comments on single-parent households reminded is reminiscent of when Bill Cosby would chastise black youth for having eclectic names or stealing pound cake and of Dave Chappelle’s current transphobia being on full display in his latest stand-up comedy special Sticks and Stones.

You disappoint me, String. I had such fucking high hopes for us.

Only time will tell if Roc Nation/NFL/Inspire Change will do anything worthwhile. However, it’s telling that billionaires are running the same play in the billionaire handbook: they aren’t going to use their money to do anything productive but they will put the pressure back onto society to save itself. If Inspire Change shirts don’t move units and generate cash, it’s our fault. It’s a system of billionaires relying on thousandaires to buoy this program when the billionaires can keep the program afloat easily on their own. That’s not change nor does it inspire anything but causes resentment. No one is cancelling Jiggaman (because who really gets cancelled in this era of “cancel culture” and don’t say Cosby; that bastard went to jail and folks were still clamoring for Cosby Show reruns) but it’s permanently tarnished his reputation in the eyes of many. The cerebral awareness of 4:44 seems to be lost.

Jigga may be Stringer Bell: someone that wasn’t strong enough to take the long stance against the NFL and not smart enough to recognize he’s being used as the NFL’s pawn to flout a false narrative of change. Shill… tokenism… turncoat… are the only words that make sense in describing Jay’s and the NFL’s new relationship. It makes me sick, muthafucka, how far we done fell.

For When Rappers Aren’t Heroes parts I and II, click here.

3 thoughts on “When Rappers Aren’t Heroes, Part III

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