Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jay-Z: The Godfather

"The Michael Corleone of the microphone/ The Michael Angelo of flow/ I paint pictures with poems..." Shawn Carter

I find it comical that we are in this situation yet I am not surprised. P and I often speak on the fact that most people don't understand Jay-Z so it always amazes us how much people like him. Recently the jigga man has been brought to trial on all sorts of charges from his marriage and thoughts of children to his affiliation with the free mason society. Earlier today a 7 minute track by Beanie Sigel entitled "What you talking bout?" was the hot topic on twitter. The tweeters thoughts varied, from why Sigel was saying these things about Jay-Z to why Jay-Z would do these things to Sigel. In order to understand the situation you must first understand the man involved, that man being Shawn Carter and in order for one to understand Shawn you need to decode the messages in the lyrics of Jay-Z. They are two very similar individuals but as any dictionary will tell you "similar" is not "identical". If you don't believe me google images of "Jay-Z" then google images of "Shawn Carter" you will see that completely different sets of photographs will show up for each respectively. 
If you have followed the career of Jay-Z as long as I have think back to his first album "Reasonable Doubt", to me the album cover is foreshadowing what is to come from Mr. Carter. The shot seen above includes Dame Dash and Kareem Burke the co owners of Roc A Fella records but the shot that was selected for the album cover was a solo shot of Jay-Z. The theme for the album and those to follow are obviously very heavily influenced by 'The Godfather' trilogy. This movie in combination with: 'Scarface', 'Goodfella's' and a bit of 'Casino' are the keys to understanding the rhymes of Jay-Z and the mind of Shawn Carter. The moves that led to the break up of "The Roc" would have been predictable if people were more observant. In the first installment of "The Godfather" three important things happen to allow Michael Corleone, the youngest out of three brothers and a sister, to become 'the godfather'. The first being the murder of his older brother Sonny, then the death of his father and finally the extermination of three don's and a major player from Las Vegas. These men that were murdered  under Michael's orders were men that worked with his family in the past that he saw as threats to the survival of his family. Once these men were strategically taken out of the picture Michael Corleone received the title of "Capo di tutti capi" or Boss of all bosses. There was no one left to stand in his way and his family was now the strongest with him as the sole controller.
This is a plot that Jay-Z knows all too well, his songs are sprinkled with the ideals from the depicted mafia lifestyle and even specific terms. In a 1997 freestyle done for the "Bad Boy Mixtape Volume 3" Jay-Z says in the first line "Roc A Fella's Capo unflappable" now for those of you whom don't know the word "capo" is short for caporegime which is a high ranking ''made'' member of a family. Owning this title grants you certain privileges, for one you can't touch a made man without an approval from a boss; so your basically bullet proof unless someone has the resources to handle being the target of an entire family. A capo is head of his crew and has some influence in the organization or family however he is not the boss. As a matter of fact the Capo is under the underboss whom is second in charge only to the boss. Jay-Z knowingly admitted in his '97 freestyle to being third in charge of the Roc A Fella family, however as his popularity grew and the family ventured into new avenues he realized that he would always be in that position unless he took action. When Dame brought on Cam'ron and Dipset as the newest members to the Roc, that was a very pivotal point and could possibly being viewed as the move that led to the separation. The problem Jay-Z faced with having Dipset on the label is the fact that he wasn't in control of them. Cam'ron was not a soldier, he was a leader and if you pay attention to everyone that was previously signed to the Roc they are soldiers. If Jay-Z said shoot, they shot. If he said take this bullet for him, they did it without question. This is the point when Jay-Z realized that he had to up his position in the family and there was only one way to do that; eliminate Dame. The tragic assination of the Notorious B.I.G was like the death of Michael Corleone's father, I believe that B.I.G played that role to Jay-Z. I hear a lot of Biggie's lines in J's rhymes but I see it more as the knowledge that B.I.G left him with that he is passing on, just as Michael Corleone passed on the knowledge that his father left him with. So now with Dame out of the picture & Burke continuing to play the background Jay-Z is now the "Capo di tutti capi". Doesn't every other rapper respect him as the best rapper alive? Isn't he the most revered rapper alive? Kanye West refers to him as "the god of rap". Lil Wayne was content with being second on MTV's best rappers of 09 list once he found out that Jay-Z was number one. Oh and think about this for a second: How relevant is Dame Dash? How relevant is Jaz-O? How relevant is anyone else that got dropped from Roc A Fella records? 
I understand everything Jay-Z does including the things he has been accused of by Beanie Sigel in this new track because I have seen the aforementioned movies (Godfather, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino) and I see what power did to those characters, he is not exempt and he knows that he is not without fault. As he said in a freestyle over Kanye West's track "Grammy Family" "I got my face to the ceiling/ got my knee's on the floor please Lord forgive him/ has he lost his religion is the greed gon get him/ he's having heaven on earth will his wings still fit him?" Do I agree with all of Mr. Carter's decisions? No. However I can say that as long as a man is aware of the mistakes that he has made, he can learn from them. I hope that after reading this everything makes that much more sense.
"I'm spiteful/ If I don't like you I'm liable to buy you and drop you." Shawn Carter



  1. This post is soo fly and well articulated! Your mind is above and beyond SoHo.

  2. Thank you. I've been thinking about this topic for a while and I have even spoken with P about it many times and the last time we spoke I said that I would never do a post on it, I was just going to let people figure it out on their own and when they do I'll have the self gratification that I knew years before. However when the Dwight Grant track dropped and people were confused about what he was saying a couple individuals asked my opinion and I like to answer engaging questions but twitter wasn't the proper platform for me to really formulate my ideas so I said maybe I should do a blog post about it and a young lady agreed so this post is for her and everyone else that hadn't solved the puzzle yet. Thanks again.

  3. Jason Burke'.... his mind is beautiful'... i love this guy 4 what i am not. he inspires me & his culture. Respect, success, & nothing less... God Bless' -Scott D. Mckenzie aka Great $cott

  4. This was beautiful. No meandering sentences needed. Keep On.