Why Nas’ “Daughters” Is 100% Right And 100% Wrong At The Same Time

Full disclosure: I’m a “Nas guy.” 

What this basically means is that even though I recognize the fact that Jay-Z has had a (much) better career, better albums, and generally seems like he’d be a better person to be around, I’m more of a fan of what Nas represents. Now, what the hell does Nas represent? I have no f*cking clue. But, whatever it is that he represents, I’m more of a fan of that than I am of what Jay-Z “represents.”

If this makes no sense to you, good. It makes no sense to me either, but it helps explain why I still feel in my heart that “Ether” was a better song than “Takeover” even though I know in my brain that “Takeover” was better.

I’m bringing this up because, “Daughters” — Nas’ recent ode to fatherhood and raising a daughter — is not a good song, and it truly pains me to admit this. It’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and just overall freaking annoying. Yes. Annoying. This is an annoying song. This song annoys me.

Thing is, although this song annoys the hell out of me, I appreciate it. I appreciate what Nas was attempting to do here. I appreciate his effort. This — the effort — is probably what it is about what Nas “represents” that connects with me in a way that doesn’t with Jay-Z. Basically, Jigga’s a chess player, a person who doesn’t seem to do or say anything without processing the dozen or so moves that will come afterwards. While this has definitely helped him craft the best career any rapper has ever had and become a true “business, man,” there’s a certain tinge of inauthenticity that permeates much of what he says and does. Jay-Z may in fact be a “realer” person than Nas, but Nas’ penchant for artistic implusivity makes him feel realer.

And, despite the fact that it’s pandering, saccharin, cringe-worthy, awkward, and f*cking annoying, “Daughters” is a real song. It seems to come from a man genuinely concerned about the type of example he’s set for his child, and genuinely concerned about his daughter’s well-being.

Now, you can make the argument that this concern may be self-serving. Perhaps he cares so much because he’s aware of how a daughter’s (mis)behavior reflects on the father, and he wishes to spare himself the embarrassment of hearing rumors that his daughter is becoming the type of woman attracted to men who treat women the way he has. Even if this is true, though, this feeling comes from a genuine place, a real place, and it’s understandable and laudable.

Nas’ implusivity gives him huge blind spots though, and none are bigger than the fact that “Daughters” — a song Nas made to protect his daughter and profess his love for her — shits on his own daughter!  He leads both of the song’s first two verses with information putting his daughter’s business and, ultimately, her reputation on full blast.

From verse two:

This morning I got a call, nearly split my wig
This social network said “Nas go and get ya kid”
She’s on Twitter, I know she ain’t gon post no pic
Of herself underdressed, no inappropriate shit, right
Her mother cried when she answered
Said she don’t know what got inside this child’s mind, she planted
A box of condoms on her dresser then she Instagrammed it

Forget about cutting off your nose to spite your face, “Daughters” cuts off his face to spite his face. Mind you, his daughter isn’t a seven year old who won’t quite grasp what her dad is rapping about or a grown-ass 27 year old who could deal with it, but a 17 year old girl — a person at the age where something like this has the best chance of having a negative impact on her life. Oh, and how do I know she’s a 17 year old girl? He leads the video with her f*cking birthday!

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised by the cognitive dissonance Nas’ exhibited when creating this song and the accompanying video. It’s typical Nas (shit, it’s typical “rapper”) and, with all this being said, I do definitely appreciate the idea, effort, and (presumed) intent behind “Daughters.” As far as “rappers rapping about their kids” goes, it’s not in the same league as “Retrospect for Life,” but I do think it has a bit of a chance to eventually become (slightly) less annoying with repeated listens.

But, while I forgave Nas for “Braveheart Party,” “Nastradamus,” and “You Owe Me,” I don’t know if I can forgive him doing the ultimate disservice — making me agree with Carmen Bryan. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

On Saturday, June 2, 2012, we’ve got another edition of REMINSCE at Liv Nightclub coming up! Except this time, we’re gonna be celebrating Panama’s birthday! Please come out and hang the VSB team. Plus, it’s free before 11pm w/RSVP (reminiscedc.eventbrite.com) and $10 after. AND there’s an open bar from 930-10:30 WITH NO DRESS CODE. You can come in shorts because it gets HOT in there.

Hova Speaks, Will Hip-Hop Follow (Again)?: Will Jay-Z’s Support of Gay Marriage Help Hip-Hop Become Less Homophobic?

Although it was a forgettable song (well, forgettable sans for Pharrell’s hook) on an even more forgettable album, the video for “Excuse Me Miss” remains underrated in regards to how much of 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 a Motorola 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. The Sidekick was the first phone to start the shift back to big  — 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 with half of a bar .

“I don’t rock jerseys, I’m 30 plus…”

 

Now, unless you’ve been hiding in James Harden’s beard over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Jay-Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. I’m not going to spend today breaking down the apparent hypocrisy and lack of sincerity of someone who has repeatedly used the word “faggot” in his work denouncing 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 ever 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”)

False Victories Wrongly Decided By Public Opinion

On “tha twittahs” a few days ago, I questioned how it was possible that Pitbull could still be relevant in any way shape or form and T-Pain can’t get a song on the radio. As was expected, folks rained down upon me (no pr0n, R. Kelly, or Mother Nature) the fact that Jay-Z killed T-Pain’s career with his track “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”.

Poppycock. Jay-Z didn’t kill T-Pain’s career. Changing musical tastes did. Jay-Z just made the right song at the right time to take credit for the demise. Think about this. T-Pain came onto the scene in 2005 with both “I’m Sprung” and “I’m In Luv (With A Stripper)”. For FOUR solid years T-Pain was EVERYWHERE on radio. “D.O.A” didn’t even come out until the second half of 2009 well after T-Pain was already on the decline; fact is, that’s a long time to sell karaoke for anybody. Yet, Jay-Z is awarded the victory for murking auto-tune and simultaneously T-Pain’s livelihood (though Mr. Pinnedherazzdown did release and sell albums since then, just not nearly as successfully as his 2005-2008 run). And it’s a false victory. Jay-Z just put the stamp on public opinion. Period.

And in contrast, 50 Cent absolutely did murder Ja Rule’s career. I’ll bet Ja has been constructing a voodoo doll in 50′s likeness since the moment he went to jail.

But Jay-Z killing auto-tune (1) is first up in the line of not quite victories wrongly decided by public opinion.

Here are a few others.

2. LL Cool J besting Canibus in their “battle”

Make no mistake, Bus’ “2nd Round Knockout” was by far leagues better than LL Cool J’s response record “The Ripper Strikes Back”. Canibus lost OVERALL because his career sucked. First he blamed Wyclef for creating the the dismal Can-I-Bus album, which was actually terrible. After that travashamockery, people kind of assumed that because Canibus career sucked despite his abilities, that LL Cool J – who has released more clunkers of albums than dope ones, let’s be real – couldn’t possibly have lost. Even now I’ve got somebody telling me that LL won that battle. He did not. But the people spoke and it was so. Even if it wasn’t.

3. Jay-Z vs Nas

Look, I liked “Ether”, the sheer venom in it made it a worthwhile listen. And it was the resurrection of Nasty. For that I’m happy. But the ONLY reason Jay “lost” that battle (he didn’t) was because he released “Super Ugly” and then tried to take it back. John Coffey. That’s the ONLY reason. “The Takeover” is SUCH a better song overall. And Jay didn’t resort to rote disses like “you’re gay” and “you suck” blah blah blah…he hit Nas where it hurt…with facts. And with only one vesre. But because “Super Ugly” comes out and people were happy to hear Nas so inspired, Jay “lost” that battle to Nas. Never happened.

4. The NAACP versus The n-word

Oh wait…the NAACP didn’t win did it, public opinion or otherwise. My bad. Those n-words were trippin.

5. The McRib’s existence vs common sense

Look, there is no motherf*cking reason why The McRib should exist. I’m fairly certain that even the marketing staff at McDonald’s is baffled by this one. But for some reason, despite the fact that its 1) not a rib; 2) is mystery meat; and 3) comes with pickles and onions; every time they drop the McRib, people lose their sh*t and buy them at an alarming rate making health care practioners who run HMOs happy. So somehow, the McRib continues its reign of terror on our arteries (kind of like the Baconator) because the people have created a false sense of demand for a product that nobody in their right mind needs. See also: The McGriddle. If McDonald’s isn’t the devil, then I don’t know what is. But the McRib stays around anyway. Because we have willed it so. Shame on you.

Alright, those are a few examples of false victories decided by the court of public opinion. What else do you have? VSB, let’s call out the fakers, posers, and bullishers.

And yes…I fully expect to get a gang of comments disagreeing about Jay vs. Nas. You may disagree with me. You will be wrong.

WHAT!

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. DO YOU WANT A VICTORY! aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

 

Jay-Z: Relationship and Marriage Role Model? Eh, I Don’t Think So

Yeah, man. They bought it hook, line, and sinker. It cracks me up too.

Aside from the obvious, the 2008 public ascension of the Obama family had numerous peripheral effects on our culture, including (but not limited to)….

1. We all joked about this at the time, but you can make the argument now that Barack Obama did actually bring light-skinned men “back in style.” Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but at this moment the most popular young rapper, most popular young black entertainer, and most popular young black athlete all easily pass the paper bag test. Hmm.

2. We assumed that seeing the Obama family in the White House would have a panoramic effect on dating and relationships in the black community. It did, but just not in the way we expected it to, as “Wait a second, if Michelle found Barack, how come the rest of you educated black chicks can’t find any men?” became the dominant conversation of the past three years.

While he didn’t exactly sign any bills or pass any laws to make sure that light-skinned black men would no longer be oppressed, Obama’s status as a symbol, a cultural icon is so powerful that he’s able to affect change by just existing.

Jay-Z, the most famous new father on Earth, obviously doesn’t have the same cultural cache as the president, but he’s extremely influential nonetheless. So influential, in fact, that there’s been a burgeoning conversation that Jay’s apparent love for Beyonce and his new daughter might possibly have some peripheral effect on black males everywhere, who’d hopefully stop (collectively) dicking around and finally realize how cool it is to be a loving husband and doting father.

This conversation crescendoed yesterday with the release of “Glory” — a song devoted to his infant daughter and featuring his infant daughter. Saccharin? Sure, but if Google and the blogosphere are any indications, it definitely helped to cement Jay-Z’s new status as a certified positive relationship and marriage role model…a sentiment that’s about as far from the f*cking truth as you can get.

Again, Jay-Z does appear to be in a very happy and healthy relationship, and that’s commendable and enviable. But calling the Jigga Man a relationship role model is like lauding the Nazis for turning Germany’s economy around; you can’t completely eschew the means just so you can lavish praise on the end. In Jay-Z’s case, his super duper awesome marriage is a direct result of the decades of dirt he did to get where he is now.

But, forget about that for a sec. Let’s say that Jay-Z is actually a relationship and marriage role model. Since he’s a role model, a young man would be wise to attempt to follow in his footsteps. In order to do this, the young man would have to do each of the following things:

Spend his late teens and early 20′s amassing a small fortune while being a malignant cancer to his community.

Use the money accumulated by being a cancer to fund a new business venture.

Amass an even larger fortune by unapologetically outlining, in detail, everything he did while he was being a malignant cancer to his community. Do this for 15 years.

Sleep with perhaps hundreds of different women, and amass more of a fortune by unapologetically outlining, in detail, every possible way to diss, demean, degrade, and just generally sh*t on the women he was able to sleep with. Do this for 15 years, too.

Use status and fortune obtained by A) being a cancer, B) outlining exactly how he was a cancer, C) sh*tting on women, and D) outlining exactly how he sh*t on women to bag one of the most sought after women on the planet. Marry said woman.

Ironically, most of the statements I’ve heard about Jay-Z being a relationship role model have come from women.

Why is this ironic? Well, they’re right. Jay-Z already is a role model…for all the men who want to be able to do as much dirt as they can in their 20′s and 30′s and still be able to pull a young hot chick when they’re a decade away from AARP and finally ready to settle down.

These women fail to realize that they’re indirectly praising and promoting the type of behavior they abhor. While it’s true that Jay-Z probably does genuinely love and adore his wife, men like that can only consider “loving” after they’ve made monsters out of dozens of women. Basically, his life is the blueprint for how to be a successful diva dude.

I imagine the tone of this post makes it seem like I’m anti-Jay-Z, and that’s totally not true. I think he’s many positive things. The greatest rapper of all-time. A savvy businessman. An instinctual opportunist. A cultural icon. A real life Horatio Alger tale. A (seemingly) great husband and father.

But, as Panama’s piece last week about Common reminds us, we have to be careful with assigning certain titles to people who don’t deserve or even want them. And, regarding Jay-Z’s new status as the marriage and relationship role model for young black men, be careful what you wish for because it just might happen.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Blue Ivy Carter: The First Black “Celebrity Baby”

Everyone reading this can probably recall two or three news events that impacted you so much that you’ll always remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about it.

These occurrences, forever etched into our consciousness, can be split into two different types, and both types have to do with how we felt when we first became aware of them

Type 1. “This is some historic sh*t.”

Type 2.Damn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but earlier I witnessed some historic sh*t. I should probably make sure I remember this.”

For instance, I was sitting on the couch at my parent’s house during the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl, and from the moment Ron Artest jumped into the stands I knew I was watching something I’d always remember. I immediately knew it would be a landmark event, immediately knew it would dominate any conversation I had for the next 72 to 96 hours, immediately knew it would have a transformative impact on the NBA, immediately knew that I’d always remember exactly where I was when it happened, and immediately knew it would cement Ron Artest’s status as the highest-functioning crazy motherf*cker on the planet.

On the other hand, the “etchededness” of 9/11 — an event I’m sure would be on most American’s lists — wasn’t as immediate. Sure, I remember exactly where I was when first hearing that tower one was hit by a plane, but it wasn’t until later that morning that I realized exactly how historic of an event that would be. (The first thing I said after my roommate woke me up to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center? “They need to stop letting Harlem n*ggas in flight school.”)

The news of the birth of Blue Ivy Carter does neither. I will not remember where I was when I first heard saw it trending on Twitter, and if anyone outside of the Carter/Knowles circle has “Where I was when I first heard Beyonce had a baby” forever etched into their brains right now, they must have some sh*tty-ass brains.

With that being said, I wonder if, 20 to 25 years from now, the birth of Blue Ivy Carter will be an historically relevant moment. I realize this seems like hyperbole — she’s not even two days old and it sounds like I’m already reserving her star on the Walk of Fame — but she’s already made history. She’s the first African-American ever who was famous before she was even born.

Think about it. There have been black child stars (Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis, Raven Symone, etc), black stars who had children at the height of their fame, famous children of uber-popular black people (Malia and Sasha Obama) and even established black stars who had children while at the height of their fame and saw those children become famous while they were still children (Willow and Jaden Smith).

But, never has there been a child produced by an African-American couple while both mother and father were A-list celebrities; a baby whose potential first name, last name, size, facial features, complexion, future, inherited traits, musical talent, business acumen, connection to the Illuminati, and existence (Remember, there was an actual debate a few weeks ago over whether Beyonce was even pregnant.) was discussed, debated, joked on, and theorized about by hundreds of thousands of people before she was even here.

With all that being said, I have no idea what all of this means. I have no idea if her birth is truly the most “post-racial” moment ever. I have no idea if Blue Ivy Carter is truly the most post-modern baby ever. I have no idea what her birth signifies, or if it even signifies anything at all. .

And, aside from the likelihood of Blue Ivy Carter being the first African-American baby to cause a multi-million dollar bidding war for the rights to print her pictures first, I (obviously) have no idea how the life of the first black celebrity baby will play out. I know it won’t be “normal” but I’m not going to assume it’s going to be completely abnormal either.

But while I don’t know what any of this means, I do know that the birth of Blue Ivy Carter definitely matters. How, you ask? I don’t know. I know that it matters/will matter, but I don’t know why. Ask me again in 20 to 25 years.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)