Back on January 13, a website called Slate ran an article about Jay-Z and his interest in art (http://www.slate.com/id/2241208/pagenum/all/#p2). I found this article and the response to it disturbing on many levels. Where to begin?
First of all, the basic thesis of the article seems to be, “isn’t it interesting that Jay-Z (of all people!) has taken an interest in Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst?!” What the hell is that supposed to mean? What’s being implied here? Lots of people are interested in modern art. Why is it particularly noteworthy if Jay-Z is interested? Considering the answer to that question gives me the creeps. Is it simply because he’s famous? I’m sure lots of famous people like art. Is it because he comes from the lowly world of hip hop where the expectation is that rappers are only supposed to be interested in… I don’t know… porn and guns? Or even more sinister, is it because he’s black?
Why Jay-Z? Would it be a story if it was George Clooney instead? “George Clooney likes art! Fascinating!” Would it be a story if it was a musician from another genre? “Surprise! Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips digs Jackson Pollock!” (I don’t know if that’s true. Just a made-up example). I’m a big fan of Manet. Is that a headline grabber?
Second… The article suggests that what motivates Jay-Z’s interest in art is simply the pursuit of another material status symbol. “I don’t really like art, but I pretend to because it makes me seem fancy…” (not a real quote either). I don’t know what’s worse – being accused of such a thing, or the thought of it actually being true!
I find the whole thing to be so condescending that it makes me want to barf. But it gets worse!
Many of us have our heads so far up our asses that our response is, “Oh, that Jay-Z is so pretentious!” There’s this tide of anti-intellectualism and low culture glorification that has brought us to the point where somehow it’s a bad thing to have sophisticated tastes!
So again I ask, “what’s worse? Making a big deal out of someone reading a book or dissing them for doing so?”
In the last few years I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a website or a magazine go out of its way to point it out when I rapper mentions he likes some indie band. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. “Kid Cudi likes Vampire Weekend!” Jesus! Who cares?! Remember how everyone freaked out when Jay-Z went to a Grizzly Bear show?
Sure Jay-Z’s fame plays into this kind of hype. But whenever I read/see/hear this kind of thing, it always has a whiff of condescension and subtle racism. And when people get up in arms about it because they think it’s a compromise to one’s authenticity, it runs a little deeper. To be super-blunt about it, white people have long fetishized black culture and so when a black person takes any interest in white culture, it upsets our expectations. So we either react positively with “pleasant surprise” or negatively because they’re not black enough for us anymore…
White people can be so retarded.
Just a thought,
ps – follow my ass on Twitter – @bucksixtyfive