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Rappers are like Born Again Christians: the person whose life was the worst before their “conversion” wins. I call it the Rasputin Complex, after the Russian monk and royal advisor who claimed you can’t really repent unless you’ve really sinned. Which sounds like a great excuse for a party to me! Where was I? Right. The internet’s all a-twitter with “news” of rapper Jay-Z’s confession about shooting his own brother. As far as I can tell, this “revelation” is pure fiction. And it started with the UK’s ultra-left leaning Guardian newspaper . . .

He describes shooting his brother, who had stolen his ring, and tells how he felt after pulling the trigger: “I thought my life was over. I thought I’d go to jail for ever.” In fact his brother, addicted to crack at the time of the shooting, did not press charges and apologised to his little brother for his addiction when the future star visited him in hospital. “It was terrible. I was a boy, a child. I was terrified,” he said.

So, conveniently enough, Shawn Carter’s bro didn’t tell the police about the attempted fratricide. And yet Jay-Z’s blood relation went to hospital, presumably due to his gunshot injury. If so—and I’m not buying this any more than I would a loaf of anthrax-infected bread—I wonder how Shawn Carter’s brother explained the wound to the police? There should be an official record of all this, right? Moving on . . .

The shooting is explored in the lyrics of You Must Love Me. “Saw the devil in your eyes, high off more than weed, confused, I just closed my young eyes and squeezed.”

More evidence that this is pure B.S. Whenever an artist uses his “real life” to perpetuate his public persona, you can bet that embellishment is the dish of the day. Especially if the genre demands a certain attitude for maximum sales. I mean, props. Get fibbin’ or die tryin’. Like that.

In the interview he also describes his surroundings. “Guns were everywhere. You didn’t have to go far to get one. Just everywhere,” he said. In a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, shootouts were commonplace: “[Guns] were around every day. There were shootouts, but I never shot anyone else. Most people in shootouts don’t get shot.”

Despite being shot at three times, he was unscathed. “It’s like there was some rogue angel watching over us,” he said.

While I’m down with the non-effectiveness of most gangsta shootouts, again, where’s the evidence that Mr. Carter was anything other than a model student—as his business acumen would indicate.

Seriously. The Brooklyn papers, at least, should be looking into this one. And anyway, when a rapper has to pretend (my guess) that he was a pre-teen gunman to earn respect/sales, what does that tell you about today’s role models for the African American community, and beyond? Elvis, where are you when we need you?

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  1. Sorry Robert, you are too good a writer to waste time on the latest rapper badboy, who had a troubled past bla bla bla. This story is to inform us that rappers and people in the music industry are full of crap? That they create this street thug / sensitive guy persona to sell records? Next you be telling me that there is no Santa Claus.

  2. Jay-Z is a business man and his product is Image. More specifically, it’s a “bad boy” image.

    The dude has probably noticed his record sales leveling off so he needs to spice things up. Since his clientele falls for the “gangsta” thing, he needs to keep up his street cred.

    Once his record sales start declining, he will probably do something to earn some jail time so he can rap about that. That’s the next level. Stay tuned.

  3. “And anyway, when a rapper has to pretend (my guess) that he was a pre-teen gunman to earn respect/sales, what does that tell you about today’s role models for the African American community, and beyond?”

    It tells me your ignorance in regards to anything outside of a typical Eurocentric, hierarchical way of thinking. Firstly, hip-hop, through the exploitation of the music industry, is largely consumed not by the “African-American community”, but white, suburban youth, so I hardly understand the correlative nature you suggest between record sales and Jay-Z’s position as a role model. But, I mean, since the African American community “seems” to need a role model because we so desperately need one, I’ll tell you how Jay is. Jay-Z’s music, and other music like his that deals with the socio-economic disenfranchisement of inner city black youth, is meant to give voice to those who have grown up under such conditions. His success as not only an artist, but as a multi-million dollar entrepreneur and brand shows us that it is possible to succeed in a capitalist society (which, historically, isn’t meant for the black or poor to succeed).

    Point is, who knows if he is telling the truth. I’m responding to your writing, which seems to be riddled with preconceived notions and presumptions about rappers and their narrative.


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