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Jay-Z Trump Tweet War

Tags: jayz trump brand

I woke up to a minor tweet war between Jay-Z and Donald Trump over black employment and other matters of importance in this morning's headlines.  I've never really been a fan of Jay-Z, but I have never doubted his intelligence or strategy.   I respect his genius, business mind,  and brand management skills.  When I realized that the President had just tweeted about him,  I thought well done Jay-Z, well done.   For a tweet war with Donald Trump for Jay-Z seems like it might help the Jay-Z/Sean Carter brand expand into the activist/respectable black market. As Jay-Z has grown older, I have noticed a transformation. I am sure I am not the only one.

I knew the gig was up, when my son started giving me strange quotes from Jay-Z attached to an admiration for his genius and intelligence.  Jay-Z and I are about the same age, so the rapper turned businessman or businessman rapper is old enough to be his father. I could see him grabbing some nuggets of wisdom from Jay-Z, but then again as his father, I couldn't help but imagine what Jay-Z was doing when my son was born that was admirable, outside of making more money than me.

Hip-Hop is a difficult currency to dance in.  What makes it beautiful is the way in which the skills, profanity, and straight up real approach defy other forms of American success.  In many ways Dr. Dre, Snoop, Jay-Z, and the icons of hip-hop seem to have already accomplished the impossible.  But there also is something like longing in some of their quests.  One of the most difficult parts of a rags to riches narrative is the inner consciousness of the traveler.  Things revert to their opposite.  One might imagine poverty in their skin or soul even with all the money on the table.

Some inner striving, that could be at odds with Jay'-Z's exterior was what first came to mind, when I saw the article in The New York Times with the lead "Jay-Z discusses marriage, race, and being a black man in Donald Trump's America."   I noted the shift in brand towards something that was family orientated, and leaning towards activist.  I also found Jay-Z discussing race.  Even Cornell West's recent attack on Ta-Nehisi Coates, trifling as it was,  wouldn't convince me to take Jay-Z's race opinions over those of Cornel.  Race of all things. 

I'd noticed a shift a while back when here on Free Black Space, when Decoded came out, we took note of Jay-Z's misogynist lyrics.  We didn't pick him out, but instead honed in on him  when he told the world he wasn't going to use the world bitch anymore in reference to women because he saw things differently with a daughter.  Even then, it seemed like a brand switch, though at the time more innocent.  A man like Jay-Z, any man, is bound to be transformed by contemplating their children and marriage.   We took it as Jay-Z growing up.  A little late, but growing up.

Then on Saturday this week as I hung in the man cave of an old friend drinking beers and chilling, I saw this dude on Van Jones' show who looked just like Jay-Z, but seemed to speak calmer than I imagined Jay-Z speaking.  He had the "gotta make this song cry voice" instead of the "ball so hard" I connect with him.  His suite was finely tailored but fashionable in a slightly different way that what I imagined for Jay-Z.   In the Times article or somewhere recently, I had heard him say, "the most powerful thing a man can do is cry."  I told my man, "that look just like Jay-Z."  He was like "it is Jay-Z."  I was like "but don't he look different, I mean isn't his skin lighter or something." 

I confess, I really didn't listen to much of what he had to say.  Jay-Z has never struck me as profound, and even when I listen to his hip-hop I am more impressed by the rhythm of the words and the sync of things than the profound nature of what he and most rapper says.  If hip-hop is America's CNN as I've heard folks say, repeating Public Enemy's Chuck D, I don't really watch it like that.  CNN is CNN, which in these times is really important,considering Trump's call for fake news and ongoing battle with the media. 

Jay-Z is like Hip-Hop.  He sounds good, is extremely funky, extremely successful, and and important part of America's cultural fabric, but also not as important to the world of ideas as some of his ego doused songs may suggest.  His most recent work the 4:44 seems to capture the Black Lives Matter, Obama, Donald Trump moment with a bit of activism and politicized talk along with with some heart to hearts on marriage and fidelity.  I listened to it a couple of times.  My children had recommended it.  In China, while I was out of the country for about a year, I did at one point crave Jay-Z.  He is so American, classic, hip-hop, and maybe the GOAT.  With great nostalgia I downloaded "Niggas in Paris" with Kanye on the track and had some great workouts to it. 

It seems Jay-Z is crossing the threshold into celebrity activism.  Obama, Black Lives Matter, Hillary's defeat, Trump, and the seemingly divided country seem to offer celebrities an opportunity to add dimension to their brand by engaging in some form of activism.  Colin Kappernick is the best example, though some would argue he is unemployed or has encountered hardship because of his decisions. I'll leave the debate for others, but don't imagine folks who got paid a million dollars in any year of their life to be in the unemployed category.  And correct me if I am wrong, he was GQ's Man of the Year for 2017.  In some ways, his taking a knee has expanded his brand, though I will concede Kappernick did not engage in his protest to do so.  Beyonce's Lemonade, or the quick acceptance speech by Jessie Williams at the BET Awards are other examples of celebrity activism.  Trump makes activism a bit easier.  Though many side with him, the country is politically charged; and activism makes money.  The crossroads of race are where many of the ad hubs and activity on the internet mix with activism and the news.  No matter your stance, you seem to need to know; and if you are black in these times your position on activism-especially if you are successful can round out your brand and image. 

Trump electrifies the scene even more, because he so easily represents a known opposition to the black, the left, the LGBTQ community, and women.  He is the known enemy and seemingly solidifying force for those in opposition to him.  He is so trigger happy and over concerned with ratings, he is also often an easy target.  One can't imagine Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, or George Bush disagreeing with Jay-Z or any celebrity publicly, but with Trump, Jay-Z is not the only one.   

Before Trump one might argue how such back and forth over lessor matters would effect the image of the Presidency and the Nation.  Little does that matter now as we have grown used to tweet after tweet of confusion.  In fact, under Trump, things have become even more dangerous with  one of the infamous Presidential tweets suggesting the President obstructed justice.  Trump's tweet that he had to fire General Michael Flynn for lying to the Vice President and the FBI raised the question of a tweet as evidence in court case/impeachment trial.  We can get stuck or debate who is right and wrong in the debate, but things are probably deeper than that for Jay-Z.   I imagine Jay-Z as extremely shrewd and managing some long term game.  I'm actually sorta excited to see what he is up to.  At the least his confessions and exchange with the President creates some calculated transformation in his brand.

Oprah, Jay-Z, and Trump are now occupy similar houses in my mind.  Oprah of course made the news recently when after her Golden Globes Speech people imagined she would run for President.  If its true, Trump has opened up a Pandora's box for celebrities to enter into politics.  There's Arnold Schwarzenegger, the once-actor Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, and others.  I throw Jay-Z in the mix, because the glimpses I caught of him suggested that he was trying to do something else besides rep his brand or show he is the GOAT of hip-hop.  To suggest him dreaming of President or some political office would seemingly be impossible before Trump, but post Trump literally anyone with a public image and close to a billion dollars can dream of being President.  At the least Jay-Z is contemplating his legacy from a different perspective and attempting to give his brand more reach in realms outside of hip-hop.  Oprah, Jay-Z, and Trump are all in the billionaire category.  Oprah seems to be the most sophisticated, but each one represents a media extension into a political realm.  Of course, Jay-Z as a black man traveling from hip-hop may have the most difficult job to do-the farthest to travel.

Of course even if he were American dreamin' politics or President, he would never make it; but the Sean Carter/Jay Z brand is definitely shifting.  Let's watch him from Free Black Space and see what he does.  No matter what he does, I imagine this interchange with the President as engineered by the former street wise narcotics dealers.  Trump seems easy to trick into such.  And if black America imagines that Jay-Z is waging a verbal war with Trump, he is sure to gain some popularity points.

This post first appeared on Free Black Space, please read the originial post: here

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Jay-Z Trump Tweet War


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