Jay-Z’s Ten Most Shameful Rock and Roll Moments


Yesterday, it was announced that Jay-Z would be joining U2 on the band’s five-date tour of Australia come November. It makes sense: in addition to commingling at the top of the Forbes 2010 Music Earners List, Jay-Z and U2 have performed together before—more than once, in fact. (Never forget the Brandenburg Gate atrocity of 2009.) Bono, for his part, has long since found his way into rap’s highest circles; consider, if you dare, this photo of him dripping sweat all over Swizz Beatz. But it’s Jay’s penchant for collaborating with rock’s most excruciating artists that’s the depressingly familiar piece of news here. Think this is the first time Jay’s lent his impeccable brand to rockers who have no business borrowing it? From Linkin Park to Chris Martin to Lenny Kravitz to “the Grizzly Bear” and beyond, Jay’s been making debatable rock-related decisions like this one for what seems like forever now. You doubt it? Doubt no more:

Jay-Z vs. U2

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, MTV commissioned U2 to perform for a select 10,000 people at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate. And then, mid-“Sunday Bloody Sunday”—!!!—out strode Jay-Z to rap some uncharacteristically radical (“Walls are falling! Revolution is calling!”), Bob Marley-checking bars about elections in Iran and genocide in Rwanda. Huh? Later, the Berliner Kurier would summarize the city’s widespread outrage at the fact partitions had been built to keep the rest of Berlin from seeing the concert: “Only holders of the coveted tickets are allowed in,” wrote the paper. “Everyone else will be turned away. The fans are furious. A new wall has been constructed to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Is that someone’s idea of a bad joke?”

Jay-Z vs. Bono

Wyclef Jean, tear down this wall!

Remember this one? “Haiti Mon Amour,” starring Rihanna, Jay, Bono, and the Edge, live from London and beamed directly to your television in the name of Haitian earthquake relief. Great cause, incredibly unfortunate rapping. As a colleague said at the time:

Jay-Z vs. Chris Martin

Ah, Coldplay’s “Lost.” One of a long lineage of Chris Martin/Jay-Z collaborations, none of them even remotely tolerable. See also: the risible “Beach Chair,” and the below photo.

Jay-Z vs. Linkin Park

Let the record show that Jay did a whole album with these clowns. Never mind that Linkin Park were the culmination of every disgraceful rap-rock trend known to man, or that somehow it was actually Jay who initiated this regrettable relationship. (Shawn Carter would later would go on to executive produce a Mike Shinoda solo album. Read that sentence again.). This is the collaboration that forever ruined the original “Encore”—reason enough to despise Shawn Carter’s sojourn to the land of the backwards hat.

Jay-Z vs. Alphaville/Mr. Hudson

Quite possibly the worst Jay-Z song, ever. Seriously, name a worse one.

Jay-Z vs. Fall Out Boy

“Yeah! What you critics said would never happen—we dedicate this album to anybody people said couldn’t make it. To the fans that held us down til everybody came around…allow me to apologize.”

Jay-Z vs. My Chemical Romance

Among the last great Jay-Z/Just Blaze collaborations, one of the only tolerable songs on Kingdom Come (see again: “Beach Chair), and marred at every listen by the following handful of bars: “I got a Chemical Romance, two left feet/So now I dance with the devil, please G-O-D/Save me from The Black Parade, release me.” Really Jay? You had to go for the album title too?

Jay-Z vs. Lenny Kravitz

After The Blueprint 2‘s actually pretty undeniable Lenny Kravitz link up on “Guns & Roses,” Jay returned the favor on Kravitz’s Baptism. “Storm,” sadly, was entirely deniable, despite the best efforts of Just Blaze (on the remix; the original is irredeemable) and a pretty decent Jay verse.

Jay-Z vs. John Mayer

Jay-Z’s epic Blueprint 3 record release show at Madison Square Garden last year featured a good cause (all proceeds went to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, as befitted a concert held on September 11), Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye, and…John Mayer? He actually kind of rips his part, but we suggest listening with your eyes closed, as this performance also contains some of the most egregious, unsettling guitar-face you will ever see in your life.

Jay-Z vs. Oasis

After Oasis criticized Jay’s inclusion at Glastonbury 2008, Jay struck back…by covering “Wonderwall.” A brilliant idea undermined by Shawn’s poor air-guitar skills and abysmal singing voice. Still, Noel Gallagher probably has nightmares about this one even now, and that’s a win, even if we sort of do too.

Update! Cristina Black alerts us to the thing makes everything else here look like “Where I’m From” mixed with “Brooklyn’s Finest”: