Perhaps You’d Enjoy An International Relations Perspective on the Jay-Z/Game Feud


Yup, an article called “Jay-Z vs the Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate” does in fact exist. And it’s pretty good! (What Jay-Z/Game feud, you ask? Listen to this, and then this, and then have a moment of silence for the Game’s career. And a slightly shorter one for Jay’s, which will survive, though what he’s doing right now talking about the Game is anyone’s guess. Nobody is winning here.) Anyway, Marc Lynch:

    The changes in Jay-Z’s approach over the years suggest that he recognizes the realist and liberal logic… but is sorely tempted by the neo-conservative impulse. Back when he was younger, Jay-Z was a merciless, ruthless killer in the “beefs” which define hip hop politics. He never would have gotten to the top without that. But since then he’s changed his style and has instead largely chosen to stand above the fray. As Jay-Z got older and more powerful, the marginal benefits of such battles declined and the costs increased even as the number of would-be rivals escalated. Just as the U.S. attracts resentment and rhetorical anti-Americanism simply by virtue of being on top, so did Jay-Z attract a disproportionate number of attackers. “I got beefs with like a hundred children” he bragged/complained on one track.

His ability to respond actually declined as his power and enemies list grew, though. As a young 50 Cent spat at him (twisting one of Jay’s own famous lines), “if I shoot you I’m famous, if you shoot me you’re brainless.” He’s generally avoided getting embroiled in beefs since reaching the top, only occasionally and briefly hitting back at provocations from rising contenders like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and others. Responding to every challenge does not become a hegemon. Indeed, it would be counter-productive and exhausting, and would likely trigger even greater resentment among other rising rappers. Better as hegemon to rise above the fray and accept the sniping of the less powerful while reaping the rewards of a status quo which he dominates and profits from excessively. And that’s what happened: his wealth, status, and structural power rose inexorably despite the potshots and abuse and unmet challenges — indeed, the only real hit he’s taken was self-inflicted, the critical shrug given to the middling “Kingdom Come” album.

And onward, into a discussion about Jay-Z’s response options in this newest conflict. Lynch eventually recommends the “Realist approach”–sitting back and waiting for Game to fall apart. But, adds Matt Yglesias, sensibly: “One thing worth noting is that even when restraint can be identified as the best strategy, it’s often emotionally difficult to choose this path. When someone comes after you, you get angry.” And, not to be outdone, in chimes Lynch’s fellow Foreign Policy blogger Christian Brose: “Also, aside from his recent acquisition of so much soft power, his hard power coin is seriously declining. I mean, the guy peaked at the Black Album.” May this all continue for several days.

Jay-Z vs the Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate [Foreign Policy]
The Game vs. Jay-Z Through an IR Lens [Matthew Yglesias]