Whatever the official sports etiquette line is in terms of fair play and sportsmanship, we can safely say the Yankees organization crossed it, did a fake line off it, and then lit it on fire last night, parading Jay-Z (in a Yankee varsity jacket), Alicia Keys (purple), and backing band (Yankee jerseys) out into centerfield to perform hometown anthem/windblown disaster “Empire State of Mind” before a crucial Game 2 against the Phillies. A game the Phillies would go on to lose (thanks Jay!). The Times was on the scene for the performance, sending (via remote TV signal, anyway) a writer who may or not be able to identify a single member of the Yankees beyond Kate Hudson (hi Jon!). At issue? Wherefore Philadelphia’s equivalent rap talent, a question to which the Times‘ answer is swift and to the point:
Philadelphia has no equivalent rap stars, with most of the city’s top talent having languished for years on — you guessed it — Jay-Z’s old label, Roc-A-Fella Records.
So where was Philly tonight? Ten minutes after Jay-Z finished, a well-mannered rendition of the national anthem was sung by John Legend, who isn’t from Philadelphia, but at least went to college there. Advantage New York, at least until that other Philly carpetbagger, Pedro Martinez, takes the mound.
Commence hilarious comment section debate. “Uh, you don’t know who the Roots are??? Okayyy…” “I hear some Philly kid named “Will Smith” put out a few rap albums that may have sold well.” “I think the Hooters were from Philly. Those guys could bring the funk.” And so on. Is Jon’s point complicated here? No. He might have passed along our suggestion that Beanie Sigel, Freeway, and Peedi Crakk do what they do every Saturday night at Citizen’s Bank Park this weekend, i.e., complain bitterly about how Jay-Z ruined their respective careers in front of an indifferent audience of hundreds or, on a good day, thousands. But the suggestion that Jay-Z is a bigger rap star than Dice Raw does not keep us up late at night. We’re underdogs! That’s what we do! Do we want a hoarse 39-year-old man screaming at our stadium about how he’s more famous than the sports team he’s ostensibly repping right before that sports team takes the field? No. We do not want that. We are happy with our brushes with fame in MC Hammer videos. Our Hooters tapes will remain in our dented, ’92 Ford Explorers. Boyz II Men are good enough.
Although if people want rain copies of Kingdom Come down on the Yankee bullpen come Saturday night, we will not object. Just a suggestion. Or, alternately, Bean could perform his new song. It’s only fair.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 30, 2009