More than a Songwriter: What Jay Z Means To Hip-Hop Today

Ight so check it out. I had this real corny plan to cease the DG hiatus. Tomorrow, trap easter (Good Friday, while tempting, is not a complete analogy), Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls drops, and I was going to kick off the summer by beginning a series of posts in honor of the return hip-hop’s slick mvp. However, symbolic gestures like that must be abandoned in the presence of meaningful movement in the culture.

Jay Z, fresh off the birth of his twins and induction into the songwriter’s hall of fame, unleashed a very rare series of tweets. That sentence could’ve functioned as a legitimate, chuckle inducing onion article seriously like 4 hours ago. Anyway, Jay Z ungloved the twitta fingas to let fly with a procession of Faulkner-esque stream of consciousness tweets, thanking every artist to ever inspire him. At times the acknowledgments read like prose poetry organized in 140 character blocks.

The first one covered the predictable bases; it bigged up legends and pioneers, his peers and rap pilgrims alike. Three Stacks and Nas to Kendrick and Chance, it was a recognition of multigenerational innovators and icons.

The second one continued the theme, it shouted out some more OG’s but primarily focused on women and titans of the 21st century —Ms. Lauryn Hill, Nicki and Queen Latifa, ‘Ye, Drake and Meek (lol, let the legend rock).

The third one marked the shift from highlight to historic. He raised his glass to Quavo, Future and Travis Scott, young generals in rap’s contemporary civil war.

Is there anything particularly courageous or impactful of acknowledging those three artists? Fuck no. You and I and every other open minded enthusiast appreciate modern greatness when we see it. But for Jay Z, a towering figure in traditional rap mythology, to publicly reach across rap’s generational isle is a catalyzing instance in rap’s arrival to the forefront of global pop culture. To unify an art movement is to legitimize it. This is one step closer to rap’s maturation and both society’s and its own status.

Hip-Hop is youth culture. Forever it has been an expression of adolescent and young adult emotion that was long neglected by the exclusive ivory walls of our restrictive high art canon. The voice of young black and brown people across the world, hip-hop is the outlet for the unheard, and an assault on the unwilling.

All expressions of brown existence suffer from internalized racism that stems from universal, pervasive white supremacy. In a culture that has, from jump, delegitimized and denounced hip-hop as an art form, it has been left to languish in and struggle through the growing pains of being young gifted and brown alone. This is a common and well known theme in our collective consciousness. From Pac to Uzi, it has always been hip-hop against the world.

Hate is learned. As one has to learn to hate another, one has to learn to hate oneself. Hip-Hop, perpetually asked to fit in a shape that it simply is not, learned to hate itself from an art culture that taught it to. Indoctrinated, we spend so much time bickering over what it is and isn’t. Too often, our mentors and icons decline to empower the forebearers of the culture.

Our global society is deeply entrenched in a generational feud that worsens daily. Our politics, culture, beliefs, are hyperpolarized, combative and rigid. Black culture, at yet another crisis point, suffers from a generational divide that is alienating, toxic, and more often than violent. Hov’s tweets are an olive branch, a statement of solidarity in a turbulent world rapidly approaching radical change.

I have a dream of a rap community excited for its future. A community that recognizes the time it is in, that believes that its golden age is a myth; It hasn’t happened yet.

It never will.

I have a dream of culture that understands its lack of a ceiling.

No raindrops, just clear skies above the drop top. Doing the dash since day one.

It’s like the first time your parents say they’re proud of you when you’re grown and you actually think they mean it. The confirmation you need in a lifetime of cartography, blazing trails and writing the way.

I’m doing the most, I know. But we’re currently facing the last heaves of the old guard. In the dying moment of a culture that enslaved our ancestors, lynched our grandparents, imprisoned our fathers and is trying its hardest to destroy us, we have to make a big deal out of the little things. We have to love each other and appreciate progress. Thank you Jay.

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