Although it was a forgettable song (well, forgettable sans for Pharrell’s hook) on an even more forgettable album,Â the video for “Excuse Me Miss” remains underrated in regards to how much ofÂ an influence it had on pop culture.
There’s a scene in it that shows Jay-Z typing on a very cumbersome and very cool looking device that was far too big to be aÂ MotorolaÂ two-way and far two small to be a laptop. This mysterious device was the first T-Mobile Sidekick, and it’s inherent coolness combined with the coolness of Jay-Z using one made it the “it” electronic device of the year. I bought one a week after seeing the video. (And, because of T-Mobile’s draconian termination fee and contracts, I hold the dubious distinction of being the only person on Earth to own a Sidekick in 2002 and in 2009)
If you remember, at that time cell phones were getting smaller and smaller — a point parodied in this hilarious SNL skit.Â The Sidekick was the first phone to start the shift back to big Â — leading to today’s behemoths — and Jay-Z deserves (at least) partial credit for spearheading that trend.
I’m bringing this up because, regardless of how you feel about Jay-Z the artist/former drug dealer/freemason/”business, man” you can’t deny the fact that he’s wielded a major influence on Black culture in the last 15 years. If the Sidekick story isn’t proof enough for you, think about this: Remember how cats used to spend hundreds of dollars on throwback sports jerseys; rocking them to night clubs, weddings, proms, and funerals and sh*t? Jay-Z managed to pretty much dead that trend withÂ half of a bar .
“I don’t rock jerseys, I’m 30 plus…”
Now, unless you’ve been hiding in James Harden’s beardÂ over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Jay-Z came out in support of same-sex marriage.Â I’m not going to spend today breaking down the apparent hypocrisy and lack of sincerity of someone who has repeatedlyÂ used the word “faggot” in his workÂ denouncingÂ people who oppose gay marriage. Whether this is a political move to impress (and keep) his high society friends is not my concern.
What I am concerned about, though, is whether Hov has the type of pull to change the attitude of what is arguably the only billion-dollar entity in the world where it’s not just ok to be violently homophobic, it’s encouraged: Hip-Hop. (And yes, today, in 2012, Hip-Hop/Rap is more violently and vehemently homophobic than any other major “thing” you can possibly name. Nothing else beats us it right now.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hova isn’t the first prominent Hip-Hop artist to start the homophobia is bad train. Both KRS-One and Chuck D have spoken out against it, and Drake’s entire career seems to be a pro-gay PSA. Eminem’s Grammy performance with Elton John still remains the awkwardest five minutes of TV I’ve ever seen.
Also, Jay’s protege has done more to spearhead this current era of skinny-jeaned Hip-Hop androgyny we live in than any other person, and the most popular female rapper everÂ has cultivated a persona that’s somehow asexual, bisexual, and hyperheterosexual all at the same time.
Basically, while I won’t go as far as to say that hip-hop was already becoming more gay friendly before Jay-Z’s statement, it does seem like it’s been progressively less antagonistic towards homosexuality. Will Jay-Z’s considerable voice and presence be enough to help hip-hop evolve past accepted homophobia? I don’t know. I do know that the fact that I’m somehow still tied into my T-Mobile contract means I wouldn’t bet against it happening.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)