Dear Jay-Z: You’re Not “The Michael Jordan of Rap”
There’s something interesting about that part of society where music and sports overlap. We’ve seen professional athletes regularly (and hilariously) attempt to achieve musical success, just as often as we’ve watched music videos or heard lyrics referencing sports across all musical genres.
This has gone on for as long as both music and sports have been cash cows of what is essentially the same entertainment industry. And in fact, one of the things we at SpreeGoogs lament about the current state of the NBA is the lack of athletes crossing over into other areas like TV, film and music, as was so common in the 90’s.
However, SpreeGoogs is very serious about its role as cultural guardian of everything that was awesome about the 90’s. And as we have taken issue before with hailing anyone as “The Next Jordan”, we can’t help but feel that anyone masquerading as the “Michael Jordan of Rap” is equally in the wrong. The biggest offender is none other than Jay-Z, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, this pseudo-Jordan recently released a new album as a testament to himself in collaboration with Kanye West. Of course, we’re talking about Watch the Throne.
But how do we know Jay-Z thinks himself the “Jordan of rap”? Well, Jay-Z and Kanye tell us so. Repeatedly. WTT is full of sports references, because apparently success in the rap game is exactly the same as dominance in athletic competition. Much respect to recording artists and to professional athletes, but these are two completely different things and the modern entertainment industry is a multi-faceted arena with each sector requiring its own special blend of talent and skills. Since we’re about to be treated to the beginning of a new NBA season, let’s take a closer look at Watch the Throne and exactly how it goes wrong by invoking Jordan:
Song: “Illest Mother[SpreeGoog]er Alive”
Sung by: Jay-Z
Lyric: “11 in a row / Bill Russell rings / Michael Jordan swag / Y’all think Michael Jordan bad / [SpreeGoogs] I got 5 more rings than Michael Jordan had”
Right here Jay-Z compares #1 albums to NBA championships. Specifically, in having 11 Billboard #1 albums, Jay-Z contends he is on the same footing as Bill Russell’s Celtics dynasty that won 11 championships, giving Jay-Z a greater total of “rings” than Jordan’s 6. Everybody knows the only person who could have gone on to win 11 rings in the modern era was Todd MacCulloch, had his career not been cut tragically short before he could fulfill that destiny. But, the primary fallacy Jay-Z makes here is that #1 albums (determined on a weekly basis by Billboard) equal NBA championships. Instead, the closest thing in rap to an NBA championship would be the Grammy Award for Rap Album of the Year, since it is an annual award only one artist can win (WTT is among the 2012 nominees, as is Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Re-evaluating using this criterion leaves Jay-Z with 9 nominations (including WTT) winning 1 of those, for 1 ring. Kanye gets 5 nods and 3 rings (4 after MBDTF wins), and even the leading winner Eminem, falls just shy of Jordan’s 6 rings with 5 Grammys.
Bottom line: nobody is as dominant in rap as Jordan was in basketball. Kanye is definitely showing potential by putting up some big numbers, but I don’t think anyone would be comfortable labeling the person responsible for autotune and bringing back shutter shades as the “Jordan” of anything.
Song: “[SpreeGoogs] in Paris”
Sung by: Jay-Z
Lyric: “I’m liable to go Michael / Take your pick…Jordan / Game 6”
Here, Jay-Z compares his rapping ability to one of the greatest efforts in NBA Finals history: Jordan’s clinching “Game 6” of the 1998 Finals. Going up against a stacked Utah Jazz team that would include multiple HOF’ers, Jordan decided on a whim that he just felt like winning an NBA championship on his own. So, MJ took the rock and silenced Mormons everywhere by putting up 45 out of 87 points for the Bulls, including an insane final minute capped by a game-winner with 5.2 seconds left to play.
When’s the last time Jay-Z was on a song with another rapper and totally took over? Other than songs with Kanye, who should be seen as the Rodman to Jay-Z’s pseudo-Jordan, Jay-Z is largely overshadowed when sharing tracks with other rappers, which incidentally is why WTT actually works pretty well.
Finally, to give us some perspective, this one’s from Jay-Z’s “The Black Album”, which was supposedly his last album before “retiring” from rap.
Sung by: Jay-Z
Lyric: “When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 45 / It ain’t to play games with you”
This lyric definitively proves that Jay-Z has a Michael Jordan complex. If you look at what Jay-Z is saying here, it’s clear that he intended to retire then un-retire simply to prove that he was the Jordan of rap. Unfortunately, Jordan didn’t accomplish much in his time with the Wizards, which doesn’t bode well for WTT’s Grammy hopes.
All the same, give WTT a quick listen through—it’s a fine album and there are plenty more sports references where those came from. What’s more is that Jay-Z is clearly a successful rapper, with a distinguished career as a maven within the music industry.
However, it’s quite another thing to go around claiming to be “The Michael Jordan” of anything, even if you are from Brooklyn. If you do so, you’re probably a [SpreeGoogs]-hole. So while we enjoy events like celebrity sports games during All-Star weekends and pro-athletes giving music a try, we here at SpreeGoogs feel that it’s best not to take these things too seriously. Even if you’re on top of the game, there’s nothing wrong with living out your pipe dreams by just having fun with those crossover moments.