Monotony Monday #12 – Made Man Makes More
“Kill Jay Z,” or the Death of Stale Z
The short of it: In the opening track of his latest album, Jay-Z manages to shake off the rust of years of success to share his pain.
Despite all the uncertainty around his name (Jay Z, or Jay-Z, or JAY Z), his status as one of the greats is certain.
Unfortunately, his past string of features and singles have all been pretty lackluster. Dated references and weak brags made him more of a track liability than a legend.
It’s been a shame having to hear him go through these stale bars, knowing his distinctive sound is going to waste. He’s got that voice that sounds like it’s always on the cusp of laughing or crying– and after hearing his laugh, I tend to hope it’s crying.
But finally, here his crescendoed enunciation becomes this great conveyor of decades of emotional stress.
Upon seeing the title, I wrote this track off as being some other braggadocios cut from Watch The Throne, another, “I’m rich / they tried to kill me / never gonna scratch that itch” track that’s turned Jay incredibly boring. But instead, it’s about killing his ego. And it’s the opposite of WTT– it’s the loss of Ye and Jay over the success that’s now become a burden. It’s about the personal and public mistakes Jay’s made without addressing. It’s a lifetime of pain hidden by mainstream success that he’s finally facing head on.
Cry Jay Z, we know the pain is real / But you can’t heal what you never reveal
And these lines are for real. There’s no joking about Bey’s album or about any of his problems with the Knowles. As Anthony Fantano put it in his review, he effectively drags himself through the coals the entire song. It’s this mix of self-flagellation and recognition that he must open up to heal. It’s not pity, it’s reclamation. He’s taking credit for his mistakes and personal life, stepping up to the figure revealed by Lemonade and paparazzi. I’m not sure I can think of any other song like this. Sure, Boosie’s got his songs about his mistakes, Gates tried to clear the air about his assault case (and failed, hard, despite the fact the song bangs), Ye gets vulnerable and defends his actions, but none of them accept their failures so openly and honestly. For Jay, this seems like new ground, a sign of the softening he’s gone through as a father.
If this is killing Jay Z, then let’s hope there’s a spree.