Thoughts from My Recent Jay Z “Experience”

Did you ever have a toy or videogame that you had to share and you didn’t want to? Multiple times throughout my childhood, I had my younger cousins believing that they were playing Playstation (although I left the controller unplugged). I had them truly thinking that they were layin’ the smackdown with The Rock in Smackdown or almost catching the football with the Florida State Seminoles in NCAA ’00. Everyone has a period of selfishness that pops up now and then. I came to a realization last week that I can’t be selfish with one of my favorite artists anymore. I had to take a few days before I wrote post to figure out my own feelings about what happened to see if anything would change, but nope, still feel the same.  Finally, I came to the conclusion that Jay Z is no longer the hood hero that he once was to me. I’m conflicted with this current iteration of Jay (family man, superstar, businessman, “woke” conscious) because at the same time, after seeing him in concert, I can see that he transcended into this pop culture figure.

Last week, my wife surprised me with tickets to the Jay-Z concert over in San Diego and I was excited. This concert made three times that I’ve seen Jay Z, but the first I’ve seen him by himself (I was supposed to see him in DC years ago, but my hatin ass supervisor at the time stopped my shine). I was interested in seeing how Jay Z would voice new thoughts and perspectives with everything that’s been happening in his life in the last few years. There were parts of the performance I was intrigued, but most of the night, I found it hard to enjoy the show. Here are a few thoughts from the concert:

“G” for Gentrified:

When I looked into the sea of people in the arena, the sheer number of wypipo in the crowd took me aback. In particular,  a few seats over, an older white male, no older than his 60s, well dressed, and was taking notes on his phone throughout the entire concert.  It was so weird to see him not singing any songs and just sitting down taking notes. Jay performed the hits and had people out of their chairs, yet, this guy stayed seated the ENTIRETY of the show. It felt like he was an outsider analyzing Jay and the crowd. On the other hand, there were the wypipo that didn’t know a lick of a Jay song, yet was turning up to some of the most intimate moments of the concert. For example, there were some wypipo at the front of the stage jumping up and down during the “Smile” portion of the concert when Jay is talking about his mother coming out as gay. I was befuddled to say the least. It’s almost as if they didn’t get “it” nor cared to. They didn’t understand what was going on, yet, felt obligated to turnip like Jay was singing “March Madness”. All I could do was shake my head. My wife has such a way with words that by the end of the night, she proclaimed: “this concert is rated G for gentrified”! I couldn’t have articulated the experience any better!

Non-Black people cannot wait to say the “N” word:

One of the struggles of being “woke” aware is not enjoying certain venues/events because you understand that there’s going to be moments of racism and oppression that you can’t always avoid. This tends to happen when I’m out at concerts, clubs, and lounges, when those in attendance are not predominantly from the same hue as me. Jay Z’s concert was no exception. As the instrumentals for “Jigga My N***a” started, I looked around and it seemed like every non-Black person pursed their lips getting ready to yell the N word and as soon as the Jay said it, they let it out! Not a care in the world, no kind of thought to it. Their passion for yelling the N word was even more pronounced when Jay started doing  “Story of OJ”. The song that was touching on a lot of things in the Black community, yet here was a sea of non-Black people screaming at the top of their lungs without understanding the song. It’s weird the sense of entitlement that others feel to say the word. I refer to Coates’ well put explanation about how this isn’t for everyone.

Jay Z invited everyone to the “cookout”:

Don’t know what cookout I’m talking about? The Black cookout was an event where Black people come together to bbq and kick it. You’d find Black families connecting with one another and doing a lot of trash talking over a game of spades or bones. Need a guide how to enjoy yourself? Check out this nice little guide. Anyway, at one point where Jay Z was talking about the issues in the Black community (shootings of Black bodies, racism, etc.), I was with him until he said something that I understood his spirit, but not the execution. Jay proclaimed: “EVERYBODY INVITED TO THE COOKOUT! EVERYONE CAN COME TO THE COOKOUT!”

Immediately, my wife and I looked at each other and said hell naw! It was interesting to see the differences in reaction as wypipo near us was cheering yea whereas my wife and I said nah! We was with Jay up until he said all of that. I don’t understand this want, hell, need, for us to want everyone to come into our circle. At a time where the song “I’m not Racist” makes it seem that systems of oppression can be dismantled through a hug and dialogue, this particular part of the show was troubling. Jay Z inviting everyone to the “cookout” and having them believe that they’re fine is worrisome. I won’t press this issue as Alexander Hardy from VSB wrote a great article on this last year that I encourage you to read when you get a chance.

Jay Z is truly a superstar, but at what cost?

It’s official: Jay transcended into a level of stardom that I’m sure many people never thought he’d ever get to. I recall on Jay’s “So Ghetto” from Volume 3 (underrated album for sure), where he talks about dropping a young woman back off to her place because she tried to change him.  He curtly replied, “thug n**** to the end…” That Jay Z is no more and I’m happy for him.  But like many entertainers at his level, I felt like he danced around some hard-hitting truths when he started discussing issues of Blackness. I understand that he has to play to the crowd in a sense, but I felt like I walked away from the show feeling like he was faux-aware. I wished he used his platform to really address what’s happening out in the world and not skirt the issues. The crowd that was at this concert is not the crowd that came to the Hard Knock Life Tour (one of the best selling tours ever)! I wasn’t old enough to attend HKL, but I’ve seen enough footage of it to tell the difference. I’m happy that hip-hop is being digested by more people across the world, but at what costs? I wonder how Jay feels looking into the crowd and seeing people yelling the N word right back at him. How does he feel knowing that people in the crowd was yelling “No!” when he was praising Black people and the obstacles that we, as a community, overcame.

I think back to that older white man that sat down taking notes the entire show. I wonder what he gleaned from the concert? It’s almost representative of the crowd that night:  close enough to experience “it” for the night, but never will truly understand “it”…




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