So, I have a ton of things that I SHOULD be doing, considering I graduate from college in less than 3 weeks and start Grad School in less than 2 months, but such is life. Haha! I had this thought when I was at the gym earlier and decided to blog about it... Enjoy!
We all know the saying, "there's nothing better than free publicity", right? Well, this is definitely the case for the catchy summer anthem by pop princess Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA," which gave a shout out to Jay-Z and Britney Spears. And while Brittney isn't doing to bad for herself (post K-Fed was rocky at first, but I am proud of her for her stellar comeback), we all know what's going on with Jay-Z these days. Numero uno: He is married to the amazing Beyonce, herself. The fact that he gets to talk to Solange makes me totally jealous. Haha. He has his eleventh number one album, and his first number one single on Billboard w/o being a featured artist (see "Crazy in Love," "Heartbreaker," and that one song that made Rihanna a superstar... "Umbrella"... I think that's right. :D) He and Alicia Keys performed their hit at the World Series, for crying out loud. And most impressive in my opinion, Jay-Z was on Oprah. Let me say that again... Jay-Z, Shawn C. Carter, was on Oprah Winfrey's show, the woman who notoriously refuses to allow rappers to grace her set or gives them a hard time if they do. Do I need to mention how Ludacris was not going to be allowed on the show at first with the rest of the "Crash" ensemble, and then when he did appear, he was lectured for his lyrics when plugging the movie and discussing racial discrimination? Yeah so clearly, bro is doing good for himself. And yes, I just know these things off the top of my head... The man is my idol. Hehe!
While a brief review of Jay-Z's career accomplishments may be interesting, the reason I wanted to discuss the song is because I feel it plays well into the the topic of the racial politics of music. Huge jump, eh? It all goes together... Let me take you on a journey...
If you all could rewind your clocks back to late June/early July of this year, the King of Pop passed away from unfortunate circumstances and everyone from President Obama to P. Diddy (or just Diddy... I don't know. He changes his name toooo often) had a comment on his death and his legacy as a musician/humanitarian. And despite the horrid accusations against him for the last decade, Michael Jackson was a seemingly good man and one of the best performers to ever grace this Earth. A lot of the conversation after his death, rightfully so, had to deal with his impact on American culture and I remember watching an award show this summer where several prominent Black musicians said that without Michael, there would have been no President Obama. While I am not going to even touch that with ten-foot pole, even President Obama himself stated that Black entertainers and athletes paved the way for easing racial tensions, because White America now has a sense of familiarity with the formerly unknown. While I don't disagree with this sentiment at all, Michael Jackson dominated in the 1980s and was the first Black musician on Mtv, but is that still true now? Can't be? We are so closely connected nowadays with blogs, Twitter, Facebook, video phones, etc, that still can't be the case?
Well, I beg to differ.
While the circumstance are slightly different, I think there is something to be said about Cyrus' hit song and the comeback of "The Best Rapper Alive." I know some hip-hop heads would probably tear me a new one for insinuating that this 17 year-old Disney star has anything to do with his return to dominance in the rap industry, but think about it for a second. And I would never want to take anything away from Mr. Cater's accomplishments and putting out an amazing album, esp. a beyond catchy and inspiring single with Ms. Keys. And, I love hip-hop. I truly do. I get the genre/culture and I respect it. As a a feminist, I don't feel the need to villify these artists anymore, because I understand where they are coming from.
With that being said, let me point out a few things. Jay-Z had been working on BP3, The Blueprint 3 for the non-believers, for a good amount of time and after the lackluster success of his last two albums, many critics and younger rappers *cough* haters *cough* claimed that the rapper was aging, losing touch with the trends in music, and "falling off." Some foolishly said that he was only known for his marriage to Knowles. Also in an unprecedented move, Carter became the President of Def Jam around mid-decade, but was leaving that position also to create Roc Nation. Money and romance were obviously a-ok, but in all honesty, he needed something to secure the crown and rightfully boast that he was the truly best.
Cue Miley Cyrus. Whatever she touches becomes gold. Just call her Midas. And while she has recently stated quite openly that she had never heard a song by the artist she helped return to mainstream relevance before and that "Party of the USA" was written by someone else, she did him a favor by crooning about a Jay-Z song being on in a taxi while she was getting ready to party. She planted a seed. The title of the song mentions the country and out of all of the artists in the US that could have been been used to epitomize American music, a rapper and a pop superstar were choosen. And yes, Cyrus did not pen the song, but she gave a bit of validation to the rapper by giving him an ever-present pop culture reference. She brought him back to the mainstream. The pop princess gave props to the rapper. On even more basic terms, the young White girl gave the ok to the older Black man's music, his livelihood. Is that a stretch? Not to me. Cyrus exposed him to a new audience, both racially and generation-wise. If we are truly to believe that she had never heard a song, she still did him an subconscious favor.
I don't think that anyone can deny the role that music has played in bringing together people of all races/ethnicities, but who would have ever thought that this song could have sparked something and led a triumphant return of a rap superstar. And while I am well aware of the D.O.A. craze from this summer, the Cyrus record was already out and in heavy rotation when this occurred. I was sitting at my computer that Friday night when Hot 97 debuted the song and Twitter went nuts. Oh wow, I really admitted that... Yikes! But those who were excited by that particular song, were true fans and possibly not even aware of Cyrus and her hit. Needless to say, there is something interesting about the fact that this teenager legitimized the rapper in the eyes of some and to me, made a statement in doing so.
And while I think that the sheer mention of Jay-Z in the song was a great positive for using music to bridge the gap, here is an example of it taking an opposite turn: the Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle at the VMAs. I remember clear as day when that occurred and while I do recognize that "Kanye is Kanye" and he pulls stunts like that because he is an opinionated person, the bottom line remains that he still had no right to take her moment away from her. That incident will live in infamy, because he was the well-known arrogant man i.e. the aggressor ganging up on the sweet, blue-eyed country chanteuse. That's enough to make everyone dislike him, but amazingly race was brought into it as soon as it happened. Posts on Twitter and Facebook evoked shame for the Black community because of his actions and how this was setting back race relations. Really now? I think everyone was disgusted by his behavior, but just to note, West has rightfully apologized multiple times to Swift since the outburst. Once again, I was sitting at my computer reading all of these comments about Kanye and annoyance with his behavior, but the unexpected happened with Beyonce, herself, outclassed everyone and invited Swift back onto the stage to give a proper congratulatory speech. Immediately the internet conversations changed. People joked that "Beyonce saved the Black community," and while the statement is meant to be hyperbolic (I HOPE), there is some validity to it. Society judges many off the actions of few, and Kanye, as an artist and highly public figure, maybe the only exposure some kid in Wisconsin has to Blacks. So I understand why people were aggravated and felt that way. I'm glad it didn't turn into something unnecessary, but I will admit that after like a day, I was about to snap if I heard another lame Kanye West joke. Haha. I will openly admit that I do not believe that she deserved that award of Lady Gaga or Beyonce, and some felt that this was a foul move by Mtv in doing so. Such is life tho.
I don't know... I read too much into things. I am just VERY analytical. I dissect music. Maybe it's a stretch, but it makes sense to me! Oh well... Yyyyyeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh, it's a party in the USA.
Peace and Love,