Jay-Z is feeling all vulnerable lately. First he sat down with The Wall Street Journal to discuss his new book, Decoded, and his business dealings, and now he’ll be sitting down with Dr. Cornell West to discuss his upbringing, musical influences, and meteoric rise to the top of the game.
When I heard about the conversation, and that Brown University Professor, Tricia Rose, would be live-tweeting the event, I was excited. Jay is one of the most prolific emcees of our time, and Dr. West is well-versed and adept at drawing out nuanced points about life, politics, music and history from those with whom he speaks. This conversation, if approached honestly, has the potential to be very transformative.
Recently Jay-Z made news because he apologized for his past misogynistic lyrics. Apparently Jay, who is famed for flowing from the top of his head when recording, was taken aback at the harshness of his words when he saw them on paper.
“Some [lyrics] become really profound when you see them in writing. Not ‘Big Pimpin.’ That’s the exception. It was like, I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.”
When I initially heard of Jay’s apology, I dismissed it. My thinking being, how are you going to apologize for calling women 50-million hoes after you’ve made nearly half a billion dollars doing it?
But my suspicion is only tempered by the fact that Jay wields serious power over hip-hop and popular culture as a whole. And if he is honest about seeing the error of his ways, who am I to discount his apology simply because it didn’t come sooner?
Hopefully, the conversation between Dr. West and Jay-Z will get into some of these serious issues. I hope Dr. West will challenge Jay-Z not only to offer apologizes for past lyrics, but also push him to consider changing his tone and perhaps influencing some of his peers to do the same.
The conversation between Dr. West and Jay-Z is sponsored by the New York Public Library and will be broadcast live by FORA.TV. Watch it, and then come back to discuss it with us.