W.W.H.D? (What Would Hova Do?) by Steve Siddle
August 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
(What Would Hova Do?)
by Steve Siddle
Summer is playoff season in Hip Hop. Every rapper and producer strives to create the song or album that will forever be remembered as the joint of the season. To make the beat that will be heard bumping out of car windows across the country. To write the song that defines the zeitgeist.
This summer has had some serious contenders. Mick Boogie, an Ohio D.J. with a Master’s Degree in marketing, has had his name on two of the hottest mixtapes of the summer. Summertime 2 ,the second annual collaboration with the Legendary D.J. Jazzy Jeff and Excursions a Tribe Called Quest mixtape inspired by the super dope documentary movie about the group. Beats, Rhymes and Life, directed by cool white guy Hall of Famer Michael Rappaport- is fast becoming the Don’t Look Back of hip hop. Check it.
The other potential king of summer is a D.J. I don’t know much about other than he is somehow down with the Beastie Boys. I first heard Max Tannone’s MOS DUB last spring and loved it, but I was totally blown away by this summer’s GhostFunk. Keep an ear out for this dude.
Of course there were other great hip hop albums this summer including; perennial cool cats the Beastie Boys, L.A.rapper Kendrick Lamar, and even a banging mixtape by Lil Wayne called Sorry for the Wait.
Far and away though, the summer of 2011 will be known for Watch the Throne. This much-anticipated, much hyped full length album by Kanye West and Jay Z was a classic before it ever dropped. I have often referred to Jay and Kanye as the Dylan and Miles of my generation, and I have sworn to cop just about anything these cats do.
A historic collaboration between two of the most loved and respected names in hip hop, Watch the Thrown is an important moment in hip hop history despite its lackluster reception. Unfortunately, the album itself is only mediocre. Far from the rappers best. Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Jay’s American Gangster are still the pinnacle albums for these artists, but Watch the Thrown is more than just an album. It’s the high water mark for a generation; it’s the rallying cry for a nation of aging hip hop heads. It’s a victory flag raised on a conquered hilltop.
From this point on I will refer to Jay Z as HOV. A derivative of “J-Hova” (Jehovah), HOV is as much a title as a name. Sean Carter’s ambitious dream has reached apotheosis in HOV, God MC. A modern day Great Gatsby, HOV is the embodiment of an entire generation’s frustration, intelligence, and passion. (Only imagine if Gatsby had kicked Tom Buchanan’s ass, married Daisy and made Nick a millionaire.)
Like Fitzgerald’s creation, HOV is a true American Son of God, a self engendered extension of Emersonian ideals. Like Whitman and Melville before him, Sean Carter has brought to life the American Ideal. And we love him for it.
If HOV is the reincarnation of Gatsby, then Kanye West is the resurrection of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. (Only imagine if the Invisible Man came up out of his hole, bought the Electric Co. and made Ras the Extorter CEO.) He gives voice to the dark undercurrent of Black Rage in our American River. Like Mark Twain and Jack Johnson before him, West twists the knife in the side of the status quo. And we hate him for it.
The most common misunderstanding of Rap is that it is materialistic and gross. “Who, in this economy, wants to hear a couple of rich guys brag about how wealthy they are?”
What outsiders don’t understand is that when HOV raps about Hublot watches and Maybach rides, we are meant to share in his feeling of triumph. I walk down Newbury Street and look at the rich people dining at Stephanie’s and awkwardly parking Audi A5’s and feel rage because I feel so distant from them. It seems like rich people are different when we hear about CEO’s with golden parachutes and watch Kardashians spend millions on ass implants. Success seems alien to those us of us still struggling.
But HOV is one of us. We grew up together, we have made the same mistakes, and we have been through it all together. That he has succeeded inspires us to believe that we might. Or even if we never become millionaires, at least a hip hop head, a hustler, a renegade made it. That’s why Watch the Thrown feels so good. To listen to it is to feel, if only for an hour or so, that the good guys are winning.
Read more by STEVE SIDDLE