Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some Real Time With Jay-Z

I set up the DVR to record HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher last night before I went out, and had a chance to watch it this morning. I watch the show regularly. I like the panel discussions, "New Rules", and even though Bill Maher does come off as a pompous, arrogant prick that sometimes belittles people, he often makes a great deal of sense. Plus, maybe people do need to be talked down to sometimes. He's not lying when he says this is a stupid country, and some tough love is probably needed to at least try to get people to wake the fuck up and stop being so thoughtless.

But, anyway back to hip hop. Jay-Z was on the show. No panel. Just he and Maher for maybe twenty minutes or so. It was fine to watch, but I was disappointed. I thought about it, and I realized why. It seems whenever he is interviewed for a non-hip hop audience we get the same interview. I guess because most of the people watching, it is assumed, do not know Jay or his music. The same questions are always posed, the same issues discussed. Inevitably, we have to hear the interviewer ask him to talk about how he doesn't write his rhymes down at all, and whether or not that's true. Well, all of us have known this since like the late 90's, so this topic is pretty annoying by now. And, I couldn't really tell from the way Maher posed the question if he knew how this came to be or not. He said he has been a long time fan though, so I'd think he would've came across the spoken intro to "Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)" on The Blueprint. Which brings me to my own question: How many people are really listening to what is being said? Or, more importantly how it is being said?

A detailed breakdown of Jay-Z's above average rhyme skill is a subject for another post entirely. However, I noticed Maher mentioned how clever many of his rhymes are and was going to ask about some of them. But then, he didn't. He mentioned several rhymes that meant something to be sure (i.e. "I ain't crossover, I brought the suburbs to the hood", "I used to take for granted why I was put on this planet"), but he didn't delve into the intricate rhyme patterns, use of alliteration, consonance, allusion, etc. that make up so much of Jay-Z's best work. Instead, Maher chose to keep it simple for whatever reason, and Jigga did not help the conversation to go where it needed to either. And, that was his fault. The result was a wasted opportunity to really explore what makes the rhymes of Jay-Z better than everyone else's (most of the time, anyway).

When I said all of this to my wife, she joked that she would much rather see Jay go on Inside The Actor's Studio because James Lipton would break-that-shit-down. I had to agree. People actually in the hip hop community, and who's audience is the same have the ability to do a much better interview because they don't have to cater to those who are nowhere near being "in the know". All that surface shit has been covered already, so now we can go deeper and further. I've heard a few good interviews with Jay-Z over the years and even recently, but not nearly good enough. They spend too much time talking about beef and trends, and not enough talking about the art. What we really need is a hip hop scholar on the level of a James Lipton with all things acting, who can really explore what it means to be a great MC, and who can interview hip hop contributors in this way.

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