An “Open Letter” to Jay-Z
Mass Appeal's Gyasi Williams-Kirtley writes an "Open Letter" to Jay-Z on his new album, Magna Carta ... Holy Grail.
Flooded with reviews ranging from Rolling Stone to The New York Times, it’s unlikely not to come across someone talking about Brooklyn rap legend Jay-Z’s latest album, Magna Carta … Holy Grail, yet few address Jay directly. A stream are floating around on the album, Mass Appeal contributor, Gyasi Williams-Kirtley has one of her own. Here is her “Open Letter” to Jay-Z:
An Open Letter to Jay-Z July 13th, 2013
Dear Mr. Carter,
Long gone are the days of “standing on the corner boppin.” 15 years to be exact.
It’s a challenge breaking free from Brooklyn, let alone any hood, but it is possible. You’ve proved that tenfold. For that, I respect you. Most of us common folk won’t be able to hang “Basquiat’s in the lobby of [our] spot,” but we comfortably live our posh fantasies through you Mr. Carter, with no complaints until now.
Whenever my mother asked me if I’d jump off a bridge if my friends told me to, I’d quickly defend myself with a stern “No.” Speaking hypothetically, let’s say my friend was you Mr. Carter. I might take that plunge out of loyalty, despite my mother’s disapproval. I might cop an album, out of loyalty to the Brooklyn concrete that raised us both. I might cop an album off the strength of the one that changed my entire life. We all might cop an album or two…off the strength. I, on the other hand, can’t fix myself to make the purchase or even download, Magna Carta Holy Grail for free.
Production wise, MCHG is immaculate. With your access I wouldn’t expect any less. My beef and disappointment comes in once each verse starts. This is not the legendary Jay-Z. This is a mogul, drained of his lyrical wit. This is Jordan trying to play baseball after retirement. No one will ever step to your face about the issue. Who has the balls to tell a king he’s nothing but a man?
You don’t have to do anything else. You’ve paved our way and installed streetlights so we don’t get lost in the dark. No one will ever deny the “Jiggy Jigga looking gully in the joint,” but I can’t take the Jigga behind “Tom Ford” seriously (no matter how hard the baseline goes).
“Hands down got the best flow/ Sound I’m so special/ Sound boy burial/ This my Wanye Perry flow/ Y’all know nothing about Wanye Perry though/ District of Columbia/ Gun on your Tumblrs.”
– Tom Ford, MCHG
A large percentage of the album sounds just like this. Filled with lines that demand the respect that you already have. Quotes that fight so hard for relevance that they drown in the complex beats.
MCHG is the dumbing down of true lyricism for the sake of radio play. I can’t respect a man who’d refer to the mother of his newborn child as a “bad bitch” at 43 years of age (Tom Ford). I can’t take you seriously Mr. Carter. It hurts to listen to “Part II (On the Run)” after a lifetime of “Bonnie and Clyde ’03.” It’s down right impossible to stomach “La Famila” when I grew up bumping “Streets is Talking” off The Dynasty: Roc La Famila. In my mind, this album is my un-hip uncle’s rendition of Jay-Z. He wants my opinion. I tell him I have errands to run.
Besides the lyrics, my mind can’t fathom the repetitive tone of each and every single track. What happened to the “Godfather flow, the Don Juan Demarco”?
Let me take you back.
“What they gon do’/You got starch in your flow/I flow too many ways, got a arch in my flow/All sorts of flow, Rembrandt, Rilkey/I am art with the flow/Even if I’m filthy, you gotta pardon the flow/Niggas taking it lightly, had to darken the flow/Way I put it together, tear’em apart with the flow/I’m too smart with the flow, you just started the flow/Stop it youngin, you 106th & Park with the flow/I am pro, as you see I’m off the charts with the flow/Actually I’m number one on the charts with the flow/In some places they say this, I am God with the flow/Like my office, but they’re biased, too involved with the flow/(Oh no) I am the youth spirit, I am y’all with the flow/Troubled man, dare I say, I am Mar with the flow/I come up hard but I evolve with the flow/Crossover, slam dunk, Rucker Park with the flow”
– What They Gonna Do Part II, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse
Where’s the flow on MCHG Jay?
Art is art, and I cannot disrespect something that comes from another person’s soul, but I question its purity. I questioned why Samsung would buy a million copies of MCHG before its release. I questioned why the announcement of the album was so abrupt. I questioned why the biggest name is hip hop would need such huge commercial promotion. I answered my own questions with MCHG.
Over the years, my respect for you has doubled. Your accomplishments, philanthropic work and dedication to your craft have kept you relevant. I have yet to be disappointed in any of your releases until this very moment. Magna Carta … Holy Grail was not the effortless creative offspring you made it out to be. It was politics … as usual.