Peace, love and misunderstanding

Jay-Z

Good point made by Chris Burgess below. Now that the dust has settled on Glastonbury and pretty much every white rock critic in the land has declared Jay-Z’s once-controversial Saturday night headliner a palpable hit (I’d love to know from someone who was there – and I mean there, having paid for a ticket), I wonder if we might look at the potential dichotomy of the man born Shawn Carter’s lyrics at a festival rooted in pacifism, ecology, non-violence and face-painting.

Having “answered” Noel Gallagher – who opined from on high, “I’m not havin’ hip hop at Glastonbury” – with a karaoke version of Wonderwall (was Jay-Z deliberately singing out of tune?), he and his band powered into the actual opener, one of his biggest crossover numbers, 99 Problems. Now this is a magnificent-sounding track, and, certainly from where I was sitting on the sofa, it sounded massive. Advantage, Carter! (And, hey, he had a band.)

But as if to open up the chasm between “traditional” Glastonbury and this brave new Emily-Eavis era, the song’s repeated refrain, “If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you, son/I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” sounded suitably jarring as it bounced off the Pyramid Stage. To allow this to pass without comment, it seems, is political correctness gone mad, but I speak as neither a nay-saying disciple of Gallagher, nor as someone sent from the PC Brigade. I only really know a couple of Jay-Z’s albums, but they’re pretty powerful, not least The Black Album, from whence 99 Problems comes. Like all white, non-American apologists for the abidingly raw lyrical content of rap music, I too have 99 problems, and the casual use of the term “bitch” is one.

But as I’m always arguing: first of all, we’re dealing with culture that was forged in bits of cities where most of us would fear to tread, regardless of race or nationality. Carter was raised in those there “projects” you always hear about. He ran with drug dealers, etc. Rap was his salvation. I get more irritated by the raps about how much money the big stars have made than when they deal with the nastier aspects of their upbringing. This doesn’t excuse a pre-enlightenment attitude to women, but when you watch The Wire, it doesn’t do to get upset by the language, or the attitudes. It doesn’t mean you approve of them not to kick the TV in.

I personally enjoy rap in the same way as I enjoy The Wire, or gangster movies. I don’t want to see films about life in Northampton, nor do I always want to hear pop music about the universal themes of boy-meets-girl. So, check out the whole lyric. I can’t even claim to understand a lot of it, but it paints a vivid picture, like all the best poetry. [My footnotes are in italics.]

[Verse One]
I got the rap patrol on the gat patrol
Foes that wanna make sure my casket’s closed
Rap critics that say he’s “Money Cash Hoes”
I’m from the hood, stupid, what type of facts are those?
If you grew up with holes in your Zapitos

I know that a Gat’s a gun – thanks, Ice-T, who never cruises LA without “a Gat in my lap” – but are Zapitos some kind of training shoe?

You’d celebrate the minute you was having dough
I’m like, fuck critics, you can kiss my whole asshole
If you don’t like my lyrics you can press fast forward
Got beef with radio if I don’t play they show
They don’t play my hits well I don’t give a shit SO …

I understand Jay-Z has a problem with the lack of radio play for his records. While it’s true that most traditional guitar bands don’t write songs about this, The Clash made Capital Radio, which was explicitly about the airplay policy of Capital Radio in London, SO …

Rap mags try and use my black ass
So advertisers can give em more cash for ads … fuckers

Yeah, yeah, the multi-million-dollar entrepreneur with the clothing empire and property portfolio is having a go at the capitalists! Advantage, nay-sayers!

I don’t know what you take me as
or understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has
I’m from rags to ritches, nigga, I ain’t dumb
I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one
Hit me

This is a recurring theme of Jay-Z’s work, not exactly uncommon in rap, since “escape” from poverty doesn’t come with the guilt it might do to traditional guitar-based rock music – hey, I didn’t make this a rap-versus-rock music battle, that was Noel Gallagher! I really love this next verse by the way … perhaps because I have been hassled by the pigs, or at least had my bags looked into under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act at two overground stations in South London

[Verse Two]
The year is ’94 and in my trunk is raw
In my rear view mirror is the motherfucking law
I got two choices: y’all pull over the car or
bounce on the double, put the pedal to the floor
Now I ain’t trying to see no highway chase with Jake

This may have been transcribed badly – but who is Jake?

Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
So I … pull over to the side of the road
And I heard “Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo’?
“Well you was doing fifty five in a fifty four …
License and registration and step out of the car.
Are you carrying a weapon on you, I know a lot of you are”

The sin of generalisation!

I ain’t stepping out of shit, all my papers legit
“Do you mind if I look round the car a little bit?”
Well my glove compartment is locked so is the trunk and the back
And I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that
“Aren’t you sharp as a tack, are some type of lawyer or something?
Or somebody important or something?”
Nah I ain’t pass the bar but I know a little bit
Enough that you won’t illegally search my shit
“Well see how smart you are when the canines come”
I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one

This time, the term “bitch” might refer to a police dog?

[Verse Three]
Now once upon a time not too long ago
A nigga like myself had to strong arm a hoe

Here’s a problematic verse. It’s actually about mistreatment of a lady. He says “a nigga like myself,” but is he actually talking about himself, in an unfortunate incident from his own past?

This is not a hoe in the sense of having a pussy

Wait! Here’s a twist!

But a pussy having no Goddamn sense, try and push me

You won’t wriggle out of this that easily, young man! You state that a “ho” isn’t necessarily a lady, but that a ladypart means a lack of sense, which is just as demeaning. Did Ben Elton teach you nothing?

I tried to ignore him and talk to the Lord
Pray for him, cause some fools just love to perform
You know the type loud as a motor bike
But wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight
The only thing that’s gonna happen is I’mma get to clapping
He and his boys gon’ be yapping to the captain
And there I go trapped in the kit kat again
Back through the system with the riff raff again
Fiends on the floor scratching again
Paparrazzis with they cameras snapping them
D.A. tred to give the nigga the shaft again
Half-a-mil for bail cause I’m African
All because this fool was harrassin’ them
Trying to play the boy like he’s saccarine
But ain’t nothing sweet ’bout how I hold my gun
I got 99 problems but being a bitch ain’t one
Hit me

Redemption? It turns out the man strong-arming the “ho” wasn’t Jay-Z, and that Jay-Z had to sort him out, possibly by waving a gun at him – praying to God having failed to alleviate the situation. Despite his money and fame, Jay-Z has been involved in rough stuff in the past couple of years. I’m not sure if this is an incident from his past however, as mention of photographers suggests it’s a post-fame spat. I’m hoping someone will enlighten me on this.

There’s a lot going on in these lyrics. Unlike Wonderwall, which is brilliant but essentially meaningless, a rap lyric is rammed with narrative content and not all of it immediately obvious. Also, you have to get through the patois. I print these lyrics not to make an unequivocal case for or against Jay-Z’s booking at Glastonbury. It looked like a dramatic performance, just not the kind the kids are used to. (I’d certainly rather see him than The Verve.) At least he wasn’t bottled off, as 50 Cent shamefully was at Reading, and, apparently, our own Lethal Bizzle at Download. Shawn Carter was treated with peace, love and all the other things. If he’d censored his own lyrics, as Kanye West was happy to do with Gold Digger at the Brits, what would we have made of him then?

So many questions, and so few hard answers from me. But I’m a liberal goody two shoes.

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36 thoughts on “Peace, love and misunderstanding

  1. I can vouch that a colleague who went to Glastonbury, and isn’t particularly a Jay-Z/hip-hop/rap fan, thought he was pretty good. He went to see him rather than Massive Attack on the Other Stage because he’d seen them a couple of times, and Jay-Z was the act that everyone was talking about beforehand, so it would have been daft not to go.BTW, am I the only person around who deliberately calls him Jay-Zed?Simon

  2. I was glad to see Jay Z at Glastonbury as it is a festival of music and all music genres deserve to be included. From the comfort of a comfy sofa I throughly enjoyed Mr Z although the only track I was familiar with previously was ‘Hard Knock Life’ which has such an annoyinmg refrain I avoided listening to it like the plague. In the hilarious ‘fresh’ pre-gig interview Tim ‘Eastside’ Westwood asked him what he thought of Gallagher’s comments and Jay said that if he had heard his music and didn’t like it he was entitled to his opinion. Which was exactly the right thing to say. I won’t be rushing out to buy Jay Z’s music as I do object to all the ‘bitch’ nonsense but he undoubtedly a fine performer and was well worth his top billing (better than the dull W(h)inehouse anyroad.

  3. What is good girl Christian Beyonce doing with this ho-mongerin’ homie? Oh yes. Rolling in his millions. Millionaire rappers are as irrelevant as Roger Daltrey once he bought the fish farm. Jay Z ain’t Wiley. He’s about as real these days as Pamela Anderson’s tits. If they really gave a shit about their hoods, they’d spend a lot more of their money on social projects within da projects rather than Rolexes, mink coats, bling and Bentleys. I don’t see many Wire-type dwellers drinking Jay Z’s Cristal. When he puts him fat cheques where his fat mouth is, I’ll listen. Ditto Mr posh suit, posh house Geldof. If you really, really care, live in a modest semi and get out there and do something TANGIBLE. Hiphoprisy is the same old hypocrisy. Jay Z is a 21st century pharisee. And too many words in a metre don’t make a good or clever rhyme no matter how big yer record contract.Peace the fuck out, blood.Anna

  4. I was there and it was a really good show. I wasn’t familiar with Jay Z but it was clear that it was going to be something special so it made sense to go. My only criticism would be that the set was only about an hour long so it didn’t really feel like a headline performance.Simon you are not alone I heard lots of people saying Jay Zed, if only we’d organised a crowd chant.

  5. I was at Glastonbury and disappointingly couldn’t get to the Pyramid Stage as Jay-Z was coming on. One thing was for certain Are you / did you see(ing) Jay-Z was the most popular topic of conversation. The people who I know who did see it there said that a lot of people were there at the start and they expected people to drift away after a few songs but he held there attention longer than 20 mins. On the other hand the amount of rumours about potential guests (Chris Martin, Rhianna, Beyonce, Linkin Park and even Keith Richards) meant many were waiting for a slot that never came. They also felt the band was deliberately beefed up to appeal to the rockier spectrum (as well as the soundsystem on the stage likely to be more forgiving on an Indie band then a hip-hop artist. They said the “I’m fucking awesome” stuff was repeated slightly too many times and the set tailed off to sameness at the end (I’ve yet to see it on iPlayer)The media seemed to have said the set was legendary and the intro and the “Wonderwall” part will go down in Glasto lore but I wonder if Noel’s comment that if Jay-Z did do something based on his comments “it’ll be the only thing worth talking about” has a ring of truth.You also need to consider how impartial Q, The BBC and The Guardian are at saying how fantastic it was.Let said, I’m ecstatic that he was well received by the crowd and they got on with enjoying the music.

  6. What’s your point?You haven’t made one.You want Jay Z censored?You don’t want Jay Z playing festivals (though you’d probably go to see him!)?You realise rap personas are carefully exaggerated characterisations (as the rappers themselves are well aware)?You’re liberal but you can handle misogyny in art (as any right-minded individual can, so long as context explains the purpose)?This post is a random set of pointed questions which you then disassociate yourself from.

  7. As you say Andrew, no easy answers.My own favourite reposte to the feelings of ambivalence towards some rap lyrics comes in the form of Ben Fold’s lyrical piano ballad version of ‘Bitches aint shit’Hearing it sung by a white middle-class jewish boy with his sweet sarcastic choirboy voice, works as both a homage and a parody. Which, I think, is apt.PS: Just watched series 3 of The Wire. Really superb stuff. Loved the way they kept playing with us, subverting one of the ultimate black movie cliches, the jaded ex-con setting up the gym. Up there with the Sopranos and Shakespeare. And almost as good as Anne Tyler. Now that’s something.

  8. Wow, a mention on the front page! What an honour. If I get mentioned in the next podcast then that’s two of my life’s ambitions fulfilled in a week!My original point was that Jay-Z certainly seemed to put on a good show, and was one of the top performers at the festival, going from the BBC coverage alone.However there is a vast chasm between the content of Jay-Z’s lyrics and the spirit of the festival itself.As a hip-hop fan, I think it is a strange booking. If Elephant Man or Shabba Ranks were booked for a gay pride event, people would be up in arms, so why not Glastonbury fans against Jay-Z?Maybe this highlights the fact that most Glastonbury goers aren’t truly concerned about the issues the organisers claim the festival promotes, and that the Eavis’s were perhaps slightly more concerned about the ticket sales than the pacifistic, environmental roots of the festival?I’m not sure.My ex-girlfriend is a rapper in a hip-hop/reggae/d&b band in Liverpool (a description which makes them sound awful, but they’re really not). However, she would never use the word ‘bitch’ or ‘nigger’ in any of her songs, as it simply wouldn’t fit their music/her style of rapping.Just as in rock music, there are different levels of misogynistic lyrics involved (look at any of David Lee Roth’s work), I just think that rap music is much more blunt about it at times.I too listen to hip-hop with an almost escapist perspective, as I don’t ‘roll’ with my ‘homies’ in a ‘hood’.There are, however, increasing numbers of ‘drive-bys’ and ‘gats’ in Liverpool these days, so perhaps the escapism has diminished slightly over time.The problem I have isn’t that a hip-hop act was headlining, but that Jay-Z’s violent/sexist lyrics have passed from the underground scene to being chanted by 120,000 ‘hippies’ in a field. Something seems to have gone a bit wrong somewhere down the line.Aside from all that, I bet you never thought you’d see Carter headlining Glastonbury 2008!Chris

  9. What’s my point, Swineshead? That I’m confused! That is my point. I would never disassociate myself from that. People who didn’t want Jay-Z to play probably don’t like rap. Noel Gallagher is an isolationist. I like rap but I am liberal and that’s a very grey area to inhabit.

  10. I must admit this being the first glastonbury in long time that I watched from home and didn’t attend. I was amazed at how uncritical the whole coverage is. I think part of the problem is having schleped all the way down there even the press have bought into the whole thing and don’t want to be negative. Also the main coverage comes from sponsors (BBC guardian) so there;s little distance there. The bbc coverage was every poor with every band being “fantastic” not helped by presenters interviewing their boyfriends etc.Lastly putting aside the rather dull jay-Z why has no one in press mentioned that amy winehouse was rubbish, a dull rambling performance incoherent singing and just poor. Edith Bowman seemed to think it was “classic” ….

  11. The misogyny and violence referred to isn’t to be taken seriously though, just as the gore in violent films is simulated, so I can’t see the problem…I don’t think for one second that Jay Z is sexist or violent (at least not since he got out of Brooklyn). We’d have to ask Beyonce, I suppose – but she seems to be a smart enough cookie. So we can take it his lyrics are all elaborately crafted postures which we can enjoy knowing full well that the character is a construct.Feeling confused about that seems pointless – like watching a horror film and thinking ‘I abhor violence but that eye-popping scene was cool’.

  12. Feeling confused may be pointless, but it’s a honest reflection of my position in the universe, Swineshead. Sorry if that’s not black and white enough for you. I envy your clarity of vision. (And I’m not facetious, by the way.)As I stated in my blog entry, I do not fall in with Gallagher’s apartheid views, nor do I swallow the media line (Jay-Z rocks Glastonbury) without a few questions. I was keen to hear from a few others, especially those who’d actually paid to be there – thanks, Mitchell, Shendy, SB – and, yes, from women – thanks, Anna. Emily Eavis has every right to book whoever she wishes, but even someone who plays with the “character constructs” you mention, Swines, changes the nature of the festival. That doesn’t mean I think Jay-Z shouldn’t play there, but as Chris initially suggested, it’s as well to recognise the change.Perhaps the best point so far has been made by Mitchell: “You need to consider how impartial Q, The BBC and The Guardian are.” True. Not impartial at all, as each has a vested interest in all the major festivals they cover being BRILLIANT!

  13. In reference to BLTP, there’s the crux of the problem: if you’re at Glastonbury, everything’s fantastic. If you’re reading about it in the newspapers, or even watching in on telly, not everything’s fantastic – and yet the people on the farm keep telling you that it is.

  14. Hi Andrew,I was at the festival, and I went along to see Jay-Z. I was ambivalent about the booking prior to seeing his performance. I disagreed that he ‘shouldn’t be playing the festival’ and bemused by people claiming they wouldn’t go to Glastonbury because he was headlining. There’s so much more to do and see; dozens of other alternative options to spending the last hour of Saturday at the Pyramid Stage.That said, I decided that I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. I was quite prepared to stay for a couple of numbers then wander back to catch the end of the Massive Attack set, curiosity satisfied. However, I didn’t. I was really impressed by the performance. I can’t claim to be familiar with his history, back catalogue nor the intricate content of his lyrics. I admit to being conflicted on my views about what I’ve heard in his lyrics – your deconstruction of 99 problems is an interesting exercise… So, I can only really comment on what I saw on Saturday night. What I saw was a brilliant live performance. For all his ‘hip hop posturing’, you could see that he couldn’t help breaking into a grin at the crowd’s reaction. It made me suspect that an awful lot of his act is exactly that. An Act.By the way – despite being at the farm – I wouldn’t claim that everything about the weekend was ‘fantastic’. Some of the acts I saw, whilst putting on a good performance music-wise, didn’t seem to have their hearts in it. Perhaps it was the weather at the time, or they didn’t like their slot on the bill or the size of the crowd – but I expect some sort of connection with the crowd from a live performance. I can listen to a good bit of music anytime, without having to wear uncomfortable wellies whilst standing in the pouring rain. From another liberal goody two shoes.

  15. “The misogyny and violence referred to isn’t to be taken seriously though, just as the gore in violent films is simulated, so I can’t see the problem…”Do you mean in this song specifically? Or in rap music as a genre?What do you base your assertion on? I was of the understanding that it was of paramount importance that the artists were ‘real’Saying an offensive comment’s a ‘joke’ when challenged is the Spinal Tap defence. They’re not saying that she SHOUDLD smell the glove. Not literally. Although they are.

  16. AC: ‘even someone who plays with the “character constructs” you mention, Swines, changes the nature of the festival.’What about comedians who tell ironically sexist jokes in the comedy tent? They take on a seemingly offensive persona for effect, but everyone knows it’s all part of the show. What about Richard Herring making throwaway gags about paedophiles on your podcast? All potentially offensive if taken out of context. But if we keep it in context, then nobody’s getting hurt.If ‘clarity of vision’ refers to my not getting all confused about my political priorities in the face of a cracking tune, then yes, AC, I’m 20/20. You may be right on, but you’re missing out.Mikey – I mean in Jay Z’s output. And it’s not ‘an assertion’ – since he’s been making records I’m pretty sure Jay Z hasn’t been arrested for any gun crime and he is a real gentleman, according to Beyonce. Are you saying he’s not? What do you base your assertion on?Mikey, if you’re offended by 99 Problems then maybe you should stay away from pop music altogether – it is only a pop song for God’s sake.

  17. Thoroughly enjoyed your post as a white New York hip hop fan spending a summer in London.One translation you missed badly on though was about the “ho” having no sense. He was saying “not a ho in the sense of having a pussy” meaning he’s not talking about a woman. “But a pussy having no Goddamn sense, try and push me”. That means he’s talking about a senseless pussy as in the loudmouth guy he challenges.It doesn’t mean, here, having a vag’ means having no sense as you insinuate. Brilliant breakdown of the rock-rap dynamic here, though. Thanks.

  18. Thanks for that, Mark. I hope you’re enjoying your summer in London. The use of “pussy” to allude to worthlessness is still problematic though, isn’t it? (Hey, it is if you’re me!)

  19. Problematic? Not particularly. It’s only language. Would ‘penis’ be problematic? His lyrics only reflect the language of the streets. Like on The Wire. This series would indeed be diminished if it wasn’t hip to the jive of the word on the street [1].I remember my old mate [2] Martin Stephenson getting into some trouble from his sister for writing a song about a guy whose sister is a lesbian. Martin’s sis isn’t a lesbian at all but the character in the songs sister was one. The way I see it there’s nothing in any of his lyrics that suggest that Jay Z, himself, is a misogynist or indeed any kind of ist. He might be but so might anyone. [1] Unlike me, clearly. The word on the street is Yield, btw. [2] He’s not really my old mate but I did have a pint with him once after a show. He was drunk beyond belief. Tremendously so.

  20. Swines, when you say: “The misogyny and violence referred to isn’t to be taken seriously though, just as the gore in violent films is simulated, so I can’t see the problem…”, I think you raise some interesting questions.Firstly, why isn’t it to be taken seriously? If it’s a joke, it’s not particularly funny, just offensive, and getting a bit tiresome since we first heard it in the 1980’s.If Jay-Z is playing a character (which I accept all performers do to some degree onstage, whether they are aware of it or not), then why are the crowds/ourselves so willing to buy into it?What do we like about overly aggressive New Yorkers being offensive towards women and telling us they own a lot of guns?Secondly, context is everything. You can complain about the gore in films if the movie you’re watching is rated PG, or shown at a festival of Children’s films.The amount of gore involved in the film is not the point, but the more the suitablility of the audience that the film is directed at.My point isn’t that hip-hop is bad, or even that I find offensive/violent lyrics a problem in music, but that Jay-Z’s performance seemed totally unsuited to the audience that Glastonbury prides itself on attracting.Somehow, because it worked well, it makes the ‘principles’ of the festival look rather weak. (I know they give a lot to charity, but the Eavis’s still look rather hypocritical).Why mention guns at a festival of Peace? It’s a bit like singing about smoking at a cancer research fundraiser, and everyone singing along with you. Even if they know it’s an act, it’s still not suited to the ‘vibe’ of the evening.Comedians get away with it because they’re a law to themselves. The humour arises from the shocking nature of their jokes. A shocked music crowd doesn’t sing along.Chris

  21. I presume the issue with pussies is that it is seen as a putdown for females, via their genitalia?I don’t know any women who refer to their vulvas as ‘pussies’. Pussies have teeth, fleas, molt, are sadistic, eat half-rotting flesh – I could go on. I’ve never thought any kind of cat reference was a good genital euphemism. Pussy away, rappers. You can keep the word.Anna

  22. The claim that it’s all just role playing doesn’t hold water really. If it’s role playing why do they only play the same role over and over? Why not introduce other characters other than the gun toting misogynist?Shows like The Wire portray a multitude of characters. For example, there are at least a few female characters to offset the misogyny of some of the male characters. There’s not really any comparison.

  23. Chris B:It’s not a joke, but it is just entertainment. If you enjoy no-holds-barred, no restriction of expression stream of consciousness vocals, listen to this kind of music. If you don’t, don’t. I really enjoy it, personally, as it doesn’t offend me. It wouldn’t if it directly had a go at white middle class people from Lincolnshire either, as I’ve developed this thing called a sense of perspective.I can’t speak for the crowd. That’d be a lot of speaking. But generally, a large percentage of crowds are idiots. Especially those that turned up for James Blunt.Your next point is the main brunt of this argument… does an artist whose words can be construed as sexist / violent belong at Glastonbury. Well… that depends on how you see the festival. I personally couldn’t give a shit about Glastonbury as it appears to be a rather tired out forum for dullards who are either young and don’t know better or are middle aged and should know better. But that’s by the by.What Glastonbury represents is a whole other issue. To simplify it – does Jay Z belong at a music festival where other commercial artists are allowed to sell their brand? Artists like James Blunt, Crowded House, Mark Bloody Ronson, Amy Winehouse and other millionaire arseholes are allowed to cynically ply their trade despite making music far more offensive (to my ears) than Jigga’s… so why not Jay Z?You’ll all be calling for parental advisory stickers on Glasto tickets next. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?I don’t think anyone walked away from the show corrupted.

  24. Swines, I’ve mentioned earlier that I am a big fan of hip-hop, and actually thought that Jay-Z put on a great show.I’m not saying that Jay~Z didn’t belong there at all, just that I feel it’s a bit strange that he was headlining, given the perceived ideaology behind the festival.Of course he should be able to play there, and I’m not anti-free speech at all. I just think it odd that the ‘world’ that Jay-Z inhabits was allowed to clash with the peace and harmony vibe that Glastonbury promotes, without anyone in the national press seeming to mention the juxtaposition.You say: “Artists like James Blunt, Crowded House, Mark Bloody Ronson, Amy Winehouse and other millionaire arseholes are allowed to cynically ply their trade despite making music far more offensive (to my ears) than Jigga’s… so why not Jay Z?”Firstly, I’m not sure these artists are “cynically plying their trade” as you state. That seems overly negative to me. They’re performers, and they performed. Most of them seemed to be enjoying themselves (Mark Ronson especially), and I don’t think anything Crowded House do can ever be described as ‘cynical’!Secondly, my point is that these artists are not singing about guns, bling, or violence (or at least not as bluntly as Jay-Z), so they don’t seem as out of place.Have you ever been to Glastonbury? I’ve been three times and loved every second of it. I’ve been to a lot of different festivals, and it’s certainly the best by far, with a completely diverse mix of people both performing and watching. It’s not a tired forum for dullards at all. Some of the best music I’ve ever seen live was at the festival, such as The Hold Steady last year, or Al Green a few years back.There’s bound to have been worse things said at Glastonbury than the word ‘bitch’, but not in the shop window of the headlining act.I’m not saying the decision to book Jay-Z was right or wrong, just that it was…well…weird.Chris

  25. One thing I don’t get after reading this: If he’s only playing a character, as is claimed, why is it so important for people that he comes from where he does, and has experience of it first hand…?

  26. Just saw this the YouTube broadcasting service – I do not know any Jay Z songs, but it was certainly a good gig, once Zane Lowe’s face was out of shot. It seems to me that if you play Glastonbury when it’s gone dark, then it’s quite hard to mess it up anyway. There’s something about he night that focuses you on the music and lends a nice magic air to everything. Noel is wrong about guitars and Glastonbury – the worst things there are inevitably all those tedious indie bands who play in the afternoon, with names like ‘Cat Without Collar’, while it’s people like Orbital who’ve provided some of the best moments.

  27. Andrew,Just a small point, but I think you let the cop in the song off too lightly; Jay -Z is not criticising generalisation (which, as you point out, is not a sin), but stereotyping – and negative stereotyping at that -, which is far more serious when it relates to an aspect of a person’s appearance over which they have no control.

  28. “”One thing I don’t get after reading this: If he’s only playing a character, as is claimed, why is it so important for people that he comes from where he does, and has experience of it first hand…?””So that it doesn’t look as if ‘He’s Cynically Plying His Trade’ I suppose? He’s keepin’ it real.

  29. I think everything that needs to be said specifically about the Jay-Z event has probably been said – I’d like to follow up Andrew’s comment that Liberal Rap Fan is a grey area… If you dig around hard enough, there is plenty of good hip-hop out there which is slightly more cerebral, in particular the likes of Common (who has recently made a commercial for PETA, though i’m not fully versed in his principles regarding the Ethical Treatment of Hoes).Regarding “Jakes” – for anyone not fully versed in hip-hopisms, i point you in the direction of Big L’s Ebonics…”A radio is a box, a razor blade is an oxFat diamonds is rocks and jakes is cops”

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