Monday, November 14, 2011

Jay-Z, the 1%, and his decision to drop that "Occupy All Streets" t-shirt

Jay-Z's usually pretty good at judging the cultural moment, and floating on the goodwill of fans, but not this past week.

As the New York Post reported yesterday, Jay-Z has pulled his $22 Rocawear t-shirts, which showed “Occupy Wall Street” altered to read “Occupy All Streets” after criticism of his company's failure to share profits with protesters.

Another article on the Post web site, attributed to Newscore, slammed him harder:
Jay-Z, who has had 12 No. 1 albums, has spent much of his career promoting the massive accumulation of wealth and celebrating the people that do so.
The Jay-Z defense

On the other hand, those defending Jay-Z point out that, while he may be in the 1% of wealth, he's earned it through creativity and drive, not through the crony capitalism and unfair rules that the Occupy protesters have decried.

That's a significant point, except it breaks down when it comes to Jay-Z's promotion of Atlantic Yards and the new Brooklyn arena.

Comments on Jay-Z from Gothamist

Gothamist quoted Occupy Wall Street spokesman Patrick Bruner:
Naturally there will be some bloodsuckers who come out of the woodwork. We have a screen-printers guild on camp, and it's easy to find many other T-shirts that actually benefit the cause.
As to questions of appropriation, one Gothamist commentator, Daniel, made a salient point:
Exactly a sad tale of cultural appropriation of art forms, culture, and entertainment of poor whites starting with such exploitive black men like Elvis, through The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin blatantly lifting entire songs of the white man for the black man's profit. Oh wait, that's not how that happened! One cultural idea appropriated and all this outrage?
Where does Occupy All Streets come from? 
To quote the Wall Street Journal (quoting uncredited 'blogs'):
The Occupy Wall Street protesters can’t claim complete ownership over the “Occupy All Streets” phrase, however. As blogs have pointed out, that phrase appeared in the SlutWalk protests in Berlin.

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