Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jay-Z On Charlie Rose = Weird... but good

I currently obsessed with American Gangster. I mean obsessed. It's the best rap album since Hell Hath No Fury and one of the best rap albums ever (like the latter too), probably.

So, anyway, on my one night off from work in weeks, after some quality family time with the sis, the cuz, and my fav pug-nephew Wilbur, I found myself on the couch watching Charlie Rose interview Jay-Z. I have to say it was a weird interview. I have never seen Jay-Z look so stiff/uncomfortable OR Charlie Rose ask questions so awkwardly/hesitantly. They both seemed to be trying so hard. There were definitely many moments when Jay-Z relaxed for a sec -- when he breaks out into a wide grin the whole mood is transformed. And Charlie Rose definitely got him to share some classic stories - e.g., involving Diddy calling him into his studio to share amazing soulful 70s samples that he had "no one to give to now that Biggie is gone" - samples that he had just been using for blasting in his house to dance around to in his socks. Ha. BUT Jay-Z draws the line for Diddy's involvement: "You can't executive produce an executive producer!" When asked what he thought when he first met "his lady", he said that the first thing he thought was that she was just an amazing talent, that she sang so fast while completely on pitch - that she sang like a rapper. That's a really great way to sum up what's so unique about Beyonce - never thought about her that way. (Charlie was like THAT's what you thought about first? her talent? Jay ignored that though, to his credit -- that says more about his respect for women than any lyrics ever would.)

Every time Charlie Rose asked him to do a few lines from a song, he would be like: "oh, that's good" -- in a sort of an awkward, almost patronizing way. I don't think Charlie Rose actually gets hip hop, despite having Jay-z on his show. Even while I do give him massive credit for having Jay-Z on his show, pushing himself out of his comfort zone.

And I give Jay-Z credit too, for going to talk to an old white suit -- I'm sure it was in the service of being a good ambassador for hip hop much more than it was about selling records. Part of his whole plan of "chasing history". Russell Simmons should be proud, despite their arguments about lyrics. Still, when Charlie Rose put him on the spot to make his case for hip hop's being "something special/contributing to popular culture", I cringed on Jay-Z's behalf - I was seriously embarrassed for my fellow white upper middle class, overeducated brethren - you know, the collective NPR-listening crowd. Are you kidding me? Of all people, Jay-Z should not have to defend hip hop in interviews. Just listen to the music, people. I don't totally understand how people can't feel the music, because so much of it moves me personally... but even if it's not your thing, if you really listen, I don't know how you could possibly not appreciate the artistry involved. Just listen to the music for a few minutes. Buy American Gangster.

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