99 problems with Jay-Z and 'b----' is one

Jay-Z greets fans Monday at the announcement of the Budweiser Made in America music festival. David Swanson / Staff Photographer
Jay-Z greets fans Monday at the announcement of the Budweiser Made in America music festival. David Swanson / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 17, 2012

AT MONDAY’S news conference announcing Jay-Z’s Budweiser music festival, a fan shouted out, “You’re the best, Hov!”

“I agree,” he said.

I don’t. Not to sound like an old fogy, but hits of his such as “99 Problems” may be catchy, but I can’t get with all the b-words and other misogynistic lyrics in Jay-Z’s music. It felt bizarre to me to see the performer of such awful songs as “Big Pimpin’” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” standing with Mayor Nutter acting like some kind of hero. As I watched, I couldn’t help wondering whether Nutter and the city officials who arranged the photo op had ever stopped and really listened to Jay-Z’s lyrics. A big festival coming to Philadelphia may well be an economic generator, but it still amazes me how people can just let all the other stuff go.

Personally, I haven’t been able to get past it. Yes, I’m curious as to what other musical acts are going to be included when the event takes place on Labor Day weekend, but I felt like choking on my Diet Coke when I read how Jay-Z said that before he takes on a project, he asks himself, “Will it push the culture forward?” Forward? He didn’t really say that, did he?

I’ll admit that I held out a little hope earlier this year when, after the birth of daughter Blue Ivy, rumors famously circulated that Jay-Z had, in a poem reportedly written by him, renounced using the b-word. It read, in part, “Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich/I didn’t think hard about using the word b---- ...” Much was made of the hip-hop music mogul’s so-called change of heart before he ended all the tongue-wagging by telling the New York Daily News, “That poem and story are fake.”

It’s not too late, though. If Jay-Z’s really serious about pushing the culture forward instead of backward, he could take advantage of the groundswell of admiration and support he’s enjoying to advocate for some sort of standards or change in hip-hop lyrics. The mogul who actually gets called “Hova” as in “Jayhova,” the god of rap, could be the one to pull that off. n

Contact Jenice Armstrong at armstrj@phillynews.com or 215-854-2223, or follow her on Twitter at @JeniceArmstrong.

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