Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jay-Z Biting [Again]?

For years now Jay-Z has had accusations of biting hurled at him from every conceivable angle -- the media, fans, his rapper peers. Since his 1996 debut he's been charged with copying everything from lyrics (at 1:36 in the video) to song titles to an underling's rapping style to his latest album cover.

It got to the point that Jay, who normally ignores the so-called haters, took the time on The Black Album to mention that he's "not a biter [he's] a writer" and that when he says "a B.I.G. verse he's only bigging up [his] brother," a response to (and acknowledgment of) all the finger-pointing in his direction.

It was also a likely response to the scathing diss track "Ether," in which NaS reasons: "First, Biggie's ya man, then you got the nerve to say that you better than B.I.G. ... why don't you let the late, great veteran live?"

Nas was, of course, referring to the first Blueprint album, where after five straight years of extolling B.I.G. as the greatest rapper of all time, Jay now claimed to occupy that same throne: "If I ain't better than B.I.G., I'm the closest one." (3:20 in the video)

Jay, even though he won the war, still found himself licking his wounds from that battle before he decided to extend an olive branch to NaS, signing him to Def Jam and rewarding him with a lucrative multi-album contract.

Fast forward to September 2009 -- Jay is readying his Blueprint 3 album when the album's track listing leaks online and reveals a curious title for a song: "Empire State of Mind." Very similar to NaS's debut album-opening song, "N.Y. State of Mind," which is widely considered a classic.

Coincidence? Probably not, considering that Illseed posted a rumor about how Jay wanted NaS featured on that song. Alas, NaS declined to participate, no doubt providing a blow to Jay's ego -- or, at least, that's how the rumor goes.

It's almost as if Jay intentionally invites the controversy by "borrowing" from other people. Or maybe he just doesn't care.

The two tracks sound nothing alike, and both are very dope in their own rights, but because of the allegations that have dogged Jay for much of the past decade, I have no choice but to raise my eyebrow in suspicion at the song's title. Jay's track record indicates that he is once again in violation of Hiphop's biting code. (Never mind the fact that NaS also called Jay out for naming his Blueprint album the same name as an album released by BDP in 1989.

But the public wasn't fooled. We know about Jay's relentless quest for power, and signing NaS to Def Jam, as well as their subsequent collaborations, was just another way for Jay to prove to the world that he got the last laugh; that despite losing the battle of words to NaS, Jay ultimately won the war -- the girl, the money, the fame, the awards ... the list goes on and on.

The move also allowed Jay to finally record a song with NaS, which many people saw as a way for Jay to portray himself as NaS's boss, another jab in the ongoing boxing match between the two rappers.

Is Jay a biter? Does Jay envy NaS? These questions can only be answered by the listener, but at first glance (and listen) it would seem that Jay is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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