Living with…Jay-z…for a week
Halfway through The Blueprint, it suddenly came to me – where would Jay-z be without the original Notorious no81B.O.B?
The ego, the aggression, the fierce defence of their territories, the chicks…well maybe not the chicks. Pride in who he is.
Let me explain who the original Notorious no81B.O.B. was. He was our first cat. Called Bob. We lived at Number 81. Hence he was known as no81bob. Simple.
His life started in a menagerie of cats, dogs, fish, scorpions and other assorted creatures who scrapped for the little food there was. Dad we think was a Pekinese bruiser, mum used to visit us when she was pregnant and we were keen to have one of the litter when they were old enough.
As a small kitten he needed to fight every inch of the way to survive, and he brought that attitude when he moved in with us. My first memory is of a tiny, scrappy black creature perched on a sofa arm spitting and hissing at us- and that was when he was being nice.
I’d like to say that he mellowed with age but as he grew older his capacity to inflict damage merely increased. The walls of our living room became lined with blankets and at one stage foil in a vain attempt to salvage the wallpaper that was left. In the end we gave up and painted the walls. We still live with his legacy on some of our furniture.
Woe betide a visitor whether animal or human – senseless violence awaited them. If human, you were prey to be savaged. Someone to hunt down and leap upon with claws extended. Attacks may be from below, the side, above. Particular favourites would be those that approached with their guards down in ‘hello kitty’ mode, but departed bemused, scratched and bleeding. Dogs were adversaries, and there would be no backing down.
Like a New York rapper, no81B.O.B. was very very territorial. He marked his patch systematically and regularly. A particular favourite was to climb on to the terrace roofs and then mark from on high as this afforded maximum coverage. If a visitor stood still for too long in the garden, they too could become another element that needed to be marked. We had to apologise.
no81B.O.B. never had a Beyonce in his life, the early operation ruled that out and there’s a good chance that fuelled one of his mottos – to get revenge in first. If we had a weekend away, or a holiday could be followed by several days of recriminations or sulking. Never leave the case out after you return. We learnt that after the first time.
His one adventure in to the world of drugs was short and dramatic. We worried about his overly-territorial behaviour and took him to the vet. The vet was grateful not to deliver an injection on this occasion (she’d remembered the previous) and instead prescribed some tablets to ‘calm’ our cat. They worked too well. Several days later no81B.O.B. was found rolling in the middle of the busy road with not a care in the world, while nervous drivers tried to steer around him. We preferred our original cat, and his brief hallucinogenic adventure ended then, although he did have the munchies for several days after…
And yet everyone loved him. Bob died after a typically hard-fought battle with cancer in 2004.
And so you see, I have to ask where would Jay-z be without the attitude of the original Notorious no81B.O.B? Don’t know why but that’s what I thought.
And so on to the music.
There’s two halves to Jay-z for me. The music and the lyrics.
The music on The Blueprint is sheer brilliance. I don’t think I’ve heard a better sound in a long time – classic soul numbers from Al Green, The Jackson 5 and others are given a brilliant hip-hop makeover and form the backdrop for Jay-z’s rapping. Its chilled but intense at the same time. My favourites are Izzo (H.O.V.A), Never Change and the duet with Eminem Renegade.
Yet I struggle with the lyrics and the Jay-z persona though. Look up The Blueprint on Amazon and you’ll only see THE BLUEPRINT (EXPLICIT VERSION). Carry out a search for the non-explicit version and unsurprisingly there isn’t one. They just wanted to tell you that its EXPLICIT in big capital letters. And it is. With a capital X. And an F and an N and a…. As for Jay-z – he can’t spell modesty – he is “the 8th wonder of the world”, “Jay Hova” and he continually spouts aggression and violence against his rivals…and let’s not got there on his attitude to women…
And so by the end of the week, where was I with Jay-z?
If as is alleged this album was just cut in a couple of weeks, I’ll repeat again – its sheer brilliance. The production and sound improves with listening and at the end of the day I am just left struggling with the Jay-z persona .
Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, but in the week that a US congresswoman is shot in the head and six people killed by a disturbed gunman in Arizona I can only struggle with an artist who encourages violence and hatred towards others, and at the time lived out that lifestyle. The album was released on September 11th 2001.
Last year Jay-z and his wife Beyonce supposedly cleared $100m in earnings and are two of the most influential people in the music world. His collaboration with Alicia Keys on Empire State of Mind was arguably one of the best songs of last year. Its evident that more recently he is using his incredible influence more positively both with his audience and in charity works. As someone commented to me, you can’t really have a nice rapper – it doesn’t really go with the territory. So its probably best for me to view this album as a moment in time and enjoy it/ treat it as such.
Couple of links to recommend: firstly a very personal blog on Jay-z’s appearance at Glastonbury two years ago (although its as much a rant about Oasis!): Jay-z at Glastonbury
And secondly, if you haven’t already, find out how I got on Living with…Public Enemy…for a week
Glee Watch – With the 2nd series of Glee back on our screens, just wanted to observe the brilliant rendition of Jay-z’s New York Empire State of Mind, but nothing else from my list <insert link here>
And no Emma Pilbury, so no fashion tips to discuss with M.