I have almost zero opinion on his performance other than I love how much people seem compelled to talk about it but this seems like a lot. A rap guy that rapped about getting rich and became more popular than anybody raps about his thoughts on becoming (stupidly!) rich despite nagging memories that, and yea this kinda sucks, at best makes him endlessly fascinated by the business man turned rapper to clean his coke money trope.
I'm admittedly far from the "modern Jay is trash" train. I'll admit that every verse post, say, Kingdom Come definitely demands skepticism, but aside from 4:44 (which I thought was great, though I admit I already found the Lemonade album to be cynical so I also heard 4:44 as a baseline capitalist rebuttal far more than, y'know, married couple works their shit out through pop music) bucking everything I just said in the parenthetical to be one of the more interesting, honest albums in all of Old Guy Rap I think Jay usually kinda gets this and it's why he does guest verses so sparingly.
Though if that sounds generous, I do see that Jay often misunderstands caricature'd performances of his longest tenured fans' deepest cutting satire for what he views as insights from on high that break class barriers. I appreciate that his insane class ascension pretty much demands he see his raps that way, if he insists on doing it as sparingly and with such pomp as he does.
(And why not? I'd love to be as baseline decent as he is at a job he hasn't taken seriously for over a decade while making hand-over-fist-money in another field I never had any business being in. Shit is wild.)
But when I hear these verses, sometimes I can't help but get the feeling that deep down he's trying to make a point that's not only Deeper Than Rap © or bigger than himself, he's just trying to be big Unc outside the bodega...and to me it's so misdirected by his insistence on dropping these verses for status quo rappers over status quo beats.
If he really wanted to turn his catalog into a gallery he should be spotlighting Standing on the Corner, billy woods, JPEGMafia, Milo/R.A.P. Ferreira, hell just buy up and champion all the shit that never got its due while the Roc, Bad Boy and Ruff Ryders were shuffle-stepping all over cooler shit. The dude has proven again and again that he has great taste (despite actually signing many mid talents) but he's content to go where the ears already are rather than make them find him.
Whenever a guy like Jay tries to make a try-hard verse like this (that, again, I like, for better or worse) become the highlight of a DJ Khaled album, to me it just spotlights how many other artists who are ACTUALLY ARTISTS, would benefit from the sort of attention this kind of performance gets. Obviously the "God Did" prompt provoked something in Jay and props to Khaled for that (as long as you care about the verse, or the attention it's provoked), but he clearly still has enough fun rapping that I doubt he needs inspiration as lofty as Khaled's "keys open doors" weaponizing of aspirational, mega-church religiosity.
Sometimes when I hear something like this, or "Neck & Wrist" (which I felt was way more facetiously impressive until you locked the words in) I can't help but feel bad for the dude. I still enjoy hearing him rap but he should probably stop, because his history in the game itself clashes with his status in life in such a way that the only people that can relate to what he's trying to say are such abstract monsters.
I'm not in the "grown man Jay sucks" camp either, necessarily. But this WAS a dude who solidified his fame outside of the east coast with the line "Let 'em play with the dick in the truck" while letting Bun B anchor an insanely expensive music video with yachts and more models than any shiesty EP would ever pay in full. You'd like to think he'd do more with his money, status, and clearly undiminished passion for rapping to do more than float the status quo.
"This is the streets, and I am the trap." � Jay Bilas
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