The Jay-Z Guest Appearance as Cultural Event




Young Jeezy looks something like an actual snowman

Jay-Z isn’t retired; we all know that. By the end of the year, he’ll have an entire album’s worth of new material. But this fake retirement has done something for him. Nowadays, every time he steps into the booth it’s an event. Radio and mixtape DJs scramble over each other to play those new tracks first and, failing that, most often, to the point where even a lazy freestyle on an unremarkable beat can extend a track’s radio lifespan far beyond what would’ve been its expiration date (see: “Back Then”). And so Jay has figured out a way to do more than keep himself all over the radio during his fake retirement — he’s managed to create an air of benevolence, like it’s a huge honor that he would deign to bless some other rapper’s track with his presence. But Jay isn’t doing anyone any favors. When Jay put “Dear Summer” on Memphis Bleek’s 534, it might’ve shifted a few more copies, but the rest of the album faded into obscurity just as quickly as it would’ve without Jay, and it’s not like Mike Jones‘ stock went way up when Jay dropped a couple of lines on “Back Then.” If anything, Jay made it even easier to forget about these guys.

And once again, Jay has decided to bestow his blessing. Since it leaked on the internet two weeks ago, the remix of Young Jeezy‘s “Go Crazy” with Jay and Fat Joe has become the de facto jam of the summer. When 92Q in Baltimore got ahold of the track, they played it three times in a row (maybe more, but I had to get out of the car), always cutting it off and rewinding it before Joe’s verse. When I went to buy mixtapes yesterday, the mixtape guy was doing the same thing, wearing out his repeat button, and I never even heard the Fat Joe verse until I sat down to listen to my mixtapes this morning. So Jay has managed to accomplish the Herculean task of getting a down-South rapper all over New York mixtapes, and maybe I should be happy about that.

But Jeezy doesn’t need Jay, or at least he shouldn’t. His Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 is the best rap album of the year, a towering monolith of imperialist overwhelming Stonehenge synth smears and passionately wheezed drug-life clichés. Jeezy is a larger-than-life character in exactly the same ways that Jay is; he’s got the forceful charisma to become something immortal, to personify fears and dreams of People Who Like Rap, and it might be cheesy when he talks about “this is the streets / and I am the trap,” but that doesn’t make it any less epic or triumphant. And when “My Hood” inevitably becomes a single, it’ll be the single of the year, a joyous blast of sunburst synths and self-conscious singsong and incongruous tough-talk. Jeezy isn’t nearly the rapper that Jay is, but he’s every bit the star.

“Go Crazy” isn’t the best song on Let’s Get It; it’s just the most East Coast, with its classicist soul-jack horns and classicist greasy chiffon lope. Jeezy sounds as bulletproof as always on the track, rasping out the same dealer stuff he always does. It fits perfectly on the album, a refreshing burst of old-rap retro boom nestled between the blindingly synthetic “And Then What” and the oppressive doom gurgles of “Last of a Dying Breed.” But when Jay comes through on the remix, talking ridiculous stuff about Cris on a speedboat and how he scares corporate people, it’s an unwelcome distraction. It jerks Jeezy out of his nihilistic drug-prince context and forces him into the uncomfortable role of “guy who raps before Jay-Z on a song.” And Jay’s verse is fine, but it’s also completely superfluous. It doesn’t need to be there. Jeezy was doing just fine without it.

Also, Fat Joe is on the song! And he’s playing at AmsterJam!

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 16, 2005

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