Friday, July 20, 2012

Are Jay-Z and Kanye West Revolutionary?

Much has been said and written about Jay-Z and Kanye's "Watch the Throne" record.  With the 2012 release of the video "No Church in the Wild," Jay and Kanye straightforwardly invite the comparison between themselves and revolutionary historical figures.  In fact, Jay-Z has stated on the record that because he is a black man in America that has become wealthy despite racism and discrimination, that fact alone makes him a revolutionary.  Yet, with all of the bling glorification that permeates "Watch the Throne," the question remains, can you fully embrace riches and excess and still lead a revolution?

Writer Cord Jefferson takes up that question in his provocative article "What's 50 Grand to a Revolutionary Like Me?: Watch the Throne and the New Black Power."  Within, Jefferson writes: "If you're wondering what Jay and West have done, exactly, to deserve the title of neo-black power icons, the answer appears to be both straightforward and confusing: They've gotten rich. Today's black power, today's black revolution, seems to be indistinguishable from, say, Donald Trump's power, the power that comes from being able to possess a lot of stuff. You needn't take my or Global Grind's word for it; just listen to Watch the Throne for a whole host of revelations about what its creators deem worthy of celebrating. The album's second single, "Otis," finds Jay-Z proclaiming, "New watch alert!" in reference to Hublot, a Swiss watchmaker whose wares go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Later on the same song, West boasts about his "other, other Benz." On Watch the Throne's biggest hit, "Niggas in Paris," which Jay-Z and West have been performing several times a night on their current European Watch the Throne tour, Jay says he's totally forgotten the worth of $50,000."

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