So almost certainly this newly leaked track from Jay-Z is destined for the soundtrack of the upcoming Biggie Smalls biopic, Notorious, rather than, say, the rumored Blueprint 3. Is there something strange about Jay passing up the opportunity to salute Biggie, a la Blueprint 2‘s “A Dream,” for a pro-forma borough salute?
Well, probably no more strange than the “Lighters Up” patois with which he begins “Brooklyn (Go Hard)” (not to be confused with “Brooklyn’s Finest,” where Jay did try harder on account of Biggie) or saluting Big as a “Brooklyn hippy” (or is that supposed to be Jay himself?). And Kanye’s swagger jack of his own “Swagger Like Us” doesn’t seem strange at all. This is the big paradigm shift in 2008 rap that you’d have to point-up no matter what: largely unfinished, mildly de-materialized, goofily indied-out, spookily minimal.
What’s disappointing is that this trend has such an internet aesthetic to it. “Swagger Like Us” had the feel of a fourway email convo, a handful of friendly rappers firing off verses while doing a few other things around the office at the same time. The “Boyz” remix was like a Black Pitchfork post. Kanye did 808s in three weeks, which if you account for weekends and holidays means that at 12 songs and one freestyle, he basically live-blogged his own album.
Depending on whose comment thread you read, Jay-Z either hits once (“I jack, I rob, I sin/A-men, I’m Jackie Robinson, except when I run base, I dodge the pen”) or not at all on “Brooklyn (Go Hard)”–sad, if you’re like me and think that there’s something to this whole people-from-my-high-school-motivating-jaded-rap-stars thing. Multiple friends mourn the death of the posse cut, since email ended the threat of being completely humiliated in a recording booth surrounded by guys who might well be ready to have a better day. Add the fact that the relevant competition here has been dead for 11 years and you get the feeling that Jay feels like no one’s watching him at all. Not a good look.