Yes. Yes. This is happening.
It’s a little bit ridiculous for me to post about this right now, speculating about an event that’s going to happen in a couple of hours, that may have already happened by the time you read this. But I just found out that I’m going to the Jay-Z “I Declare War” show tonight, and so I can’t even think about anything else long enough to write about it. And I’ve talked vague shit on Jay before on this blog, how I don’t like the way he comes down off a mountaintop to bless people with guest appearances, how a just-OK verse from Jay in 2005 qualifies as a crushing disappointment. But allow me to dick-ride for a minute: Jay has put himself into a position where every public move he makes is instantly scrutinized across the internet, and so a prearranged beatdown like this show becomes something huge and epic, something like the 2001 Summer Jam where he showed pictures of Prodigy in ballet clothes on the big screen. Jay is important enough that the Cam’ron shooting won’t be the biggest story in rap anymore in twelve hours. I’ve never seen Jay live before, but I’ve watched Fade to Black enough times that I have some idea what kind of authority and Clintonian charisma he brings to a stage. To channel all that stature into a broadside against somebody, to enlist a mystery cast of rappers in this broadside, this is big. People have been speculating about this show for months. I fake-speculated about it a while ago, but now it’s time for a good hard look at what might be going down tonight. Jay is going to go at someone tonight, and it could be any of these guys:
50 Cent. Allhiphop Rumors reported this morning that 50 was going to be the guy, that Jay mended a few bridges to bring a cast of G-Unit foes to the stage. This makes a lot of sense; 50 is the only target big enough to make this whole spectacle worthwhile. Even during the Rock the Mic tour in 2003, Jay and 50 were subtly sniping at each other, 50 taking up Jay’s stage time and then a few months later moving up the Beg for Mercy release date to the same Friday as The Black Album. And of course Jay has been dissing 50 for, what, six years? More recently, 50 bizarrely took credit for Kanye West’s success. And 50 is plenty prominent right now, with his movie coming out in a week; a Jay-Z attack could conceivably affect the opening-weekend gross of Get Rich or Die Tryin’. And more importantly, an attack against 50 would be a great excuse to bring out some high-profile guests. Nas and Jay have been teasing a team-up for a few months, saying nice things about each other for the first time ever; Nas has even been spotted in the Def Jam building. And there’s any number of people who have problems with G-Unit who could come to the stage: Lil Wayne, Game, Jadakiss, maybe (maybe) Cam. This would make me happier than any of Jay’s other potential opponents; can you imagine how hard 50 would have to come to respond to a united front of Jay-Z and Nas?
Game. Game has been beefing with Memphis Bleek and the Young Gunz for about a year now, and that’s what got Nas on Jay’s bad side more than four years ago. And Game has been really weird with the subliminal disses, saying “I don’t wear button-up shirts or drive Maibachs” on “Westside Story” and then backtracking, inexplicably insisting that he meant the line for Ja Rule. Jay probably shot back at Game on “Dear Summer” (“If it ain’t directed directly at me, I don’t respect it”). And Game is just a temptingly huge target; Jay would just have to bring out a clip of Game on Change of Heart to top the Prodigy-in-tights bombshell. Game’s manager Jimmy Henchman told Allhiphop Rumors that Jay was definitely not going to be dissing Game, but I have no idea whether he’s a remotely reliable source. But then, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for Jay to handle Game; even after “300 Bars,” Game isn’t even close to Jay’s level. And with Game already beefing with half the people in rap, an attack from Jay would just look like bad sportsmanship, kicking someone when he’s down. Jay could probably get a much bigger reaction from bringing Game onstage than from dissing him, so Game isn’t a likely target.
Cam’ron. Cam and Jay have always been on cold terms ever since Dame Dash made Cam the Vice-President of Roc-A-Fella when Jay was on vacation. Since Jay took the Roc-A-Fella name from Dame and Cam split with the label, Cam and Jim Jones have been throwing subliminal jabs at Jay. And Cam is maybe the only New York rapper with the eloquence to give Jay a really memorable battle. But Cam just got shot less than a week ago, and even with the conspiracy theories flying around, it’s just not a good look to go at an injured dude. And in Juelz Santana Def Jam still has one Diplomat left on its roster with serious earning potential; I can’t see Jay putting his money in jeopardy like that.
And so there it is. There’s always the possibility that Jay will go left and bash someone totally unexpected like Nelly or Mike Shinoda or something, but I’m going into the arena tonight expecting to see 50 Cent get smeared. Check Status tomorrow for the real report.
Voice feature: Elizabeth Mendez Berry on Jay-Z