“Don’t Talk Like You’re One of Them, You’re Not”

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Yesterday, in the midst of a beautiful game of basketball between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, Jay-Z, with the help of Samsung, revealed to the world a teaser of his upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail.

That Jay and Samsung chose to drop the news during the NBA Finals — with Jay wearing a Brooklyn Nets cap with a prominent NBA logo — is telling, for hip hop and the NBA has always gone hand in hand.

It is worth noting, that at first glance, Jay’s promotion of his album is the complete opposite of Kanye West’s approach to his album, Yeezus. The latter hit store shelves with minimal promotion — only that random street broadcast and that SNL performance — while Jay has teamed up with a billion dollar corporation (a foreign one, at that) to push his album on the biggest stage (at least for his demographic), the NBA Finals.

Heck, that deal between Samsung and Jay practically turned Jay’s album platinum before release — Samsung reportedly purchased a million copies of Manga Carta at five bucks a pop, to be released to Samsung Galaxy users (eh, I’ll stick with my superior iPhone and just download that shit and purchase a hard copy later). For a self-proclaimed hustla, this was yet another hustle by Mr Carter.

But different approaches to marketing aside (or at least so they claim), are the two albums that different? I’m not talking about the way it sounds — I’m sure Jay won’t be doing his Marilyn Manson thing, and being married to Beyonce and all, has toned down the stupid misogyny — but is Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail actually on the opposite end of the spectrum?

Much like the supposed differences between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, I say no.

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Bed-Stuy Do or Die

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UPDATE: June 6 — Ok I just got back from Tokyo and — no joke — Brooklyn has indeed taken over Japan’s youth and trendy and good looking. I probably spotted “Brooklyn” shirts in a dozen boutiques and another hundred or so caps/shirts on people in the streets during 5 days there. Two photos at end of this post. Back to the original post, dated May 29:

Though LeBron James is likely two to three weeks away from winning his second NBA title in as many years, his decision to take his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010 remains a travesty to me. I’ll explain briefly, first, let’s take a detour.

Brooklyn, for better or worse, has become a “brand” that is synonymous with being cool, hip hop, street, and “swag.” The New York Times has written about the phenomenon of companies and brands around the world using the borough’s name. So did brand marketing company Counsel.

It’s not like you need these stories to tell you about the aura of Brooklyn. Every young, trendy creative type I know, or know of, who live in Brooklyn can’t stop mentioning that they live in Brooklyn (it’s all over their Twitter bio, Facebook statuses, conversations, etc); rappers can’t stop mentioning their Brooklyn roots even if they live in mansions in Beverly Hills; I’ve seen Brooklyn Nets shirt and caps in Hong Kong, usually on really good looking stylish people trying to do the whole street-thing; I’m going to Tokyo — the city with the best, and most legit, hip hop scene in Asia — in a few days and I already know Brooklyn stuff will be all over the trendy streets and boutiques*; I can’t watch Kpop videos without seeing some sort of New York or Brooklyn gear. I bet 70% of these cats in Brooklyn gear in Asia have probably never even stepped foot in the borough.

It’s not hard to see why Brooklyn is so revered. It’s the birthplace of hip hop, the central part of the “street” subculture that has provided the base from which all things “cool” are based. It’s also the birthplace of Michael Jordan, the workplace of Jackie Robinson, and the subject around which the music of legendary rappers like Jay, Biggie, Beastie Boys, Tribe, and Mos Def revolve. Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon and Radio Raheem, respectively with their Brooklyn cap and Bed-Stuy shirt, have become iconic figures in pop culture (how many parodies of this Radio Raheem image have you seen? 2,000? a million?). Continue reading

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On to the Next One

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“Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free. Except I made millions off it, you fucking dweeb. I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seat. Y’all buy that bullshit, you’d better keep y’all receipt.”

That’s Jay, ethering a bunch of you-know-who’s in Open Letter, a quickie home-made rap track with which he used to answer critics who had questioned his and Beyonce’s vacation to Cuba.

That flow, in particular, referred to Jay’s selling of his (very, very, very, VERY) tiny stake in the Brooklyn Nets, a move that was necessary since Jay’s newest business venture is a sports agency.

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