Skip to main content

The Jay-Z frenzy: firing back at the Nets/Ratner (nah) while slamming "dweeb" who dissed him (and sliding toward Trump)


OK, so Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's epic, Fidel-like final State of the Borough address dominated my attention yesterday, so I'm coming late to the media firestorm lit by what seemed to be a rather casual, if quite pointed, track issued by Jay-Z two days ago. Apparently anything Mr. Carter says can be huge news.

(See update at bottom: Jay-Z must not only sell his stake in the team but also the arena.)

The Daily News reported, in Jay-Z releases 'Open Letter': Rapper fires back at critics of his Cuba trip with Beyonce, sports business ventures in new song
In a new track recorded and released in 24 hours, Jay-Z insists he’s cashing out of the Brooklyn Nets — but not abandoning the borough or its arena.
“Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off it, you f---in’ dweeb,” he rhymes in his new track, “Open Letter,” directed at critics from Havana to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The message comes on the heels of Jay’s announcement he will sell his 1/15 of 1% share in the Nets so his new sports rep agency, Roc Nation Sports, can pursue NBA clients. League rules bar sports agents from owning NBA teams.
The rapper has already signed Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Yankee star Robinson Cano. But as Jay-Z raps in the track, he remains invested in the arena itself.
“I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seat/Y’all buy that bulls--t/you’d better keep your receipt.”
...A source in Jay-Z’s camp said the “dweebs” he referenced were not Brooklynites buying into the new team.
Likewise, a source with the Nets said the team doesn’t believe the lyrics were aimed at them, but rather at critics who’ve poked fun at Jay-Z’s tiny stake in the franchise.Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said rap lyrics mean little to him. “I came to Jay-Z’s concert here for his first show, and my wife and I looked at each other and we barely understood a word,” he noted at Barclays on Thursday night after giving his state of the borough speech.
Pointed at the Nets?

There was a real-time frenzy in which several sports reporters thought Jay-Z's rather unclear rap pointed directly at the Nets. The Brooklyn Eagle wrote:
Is there suddenly bad blood brewing between soon-to-be former minority owner Jay-Z and the Nets? In a recently released song, "Open Letter", the hip-hop mogul, the 17-time Grammy winner and Brooklyn icon took a not-so-veiled shot at the organization, or at least one of the Nets' higher-ups. 
NetsDaily rounded it up as Shots fired? Jay-Z releases 'Open Letter' criticizing... his critics? The Record's John Brennan wrote:
There are a variety of opinions of what Jay-Z means there, but I think rapgenius.com has it right:
The “dweeb” in the lyric likely is the New York Times reporter who last August pegged the value of Jay-Z’s stake in the Nets at 1/15th of one percent (FAR less than had been speculated previously).
Jay-Z ripped that report last fall during his Barclays Center-opening concert series in Brooklyn.
So this lyric would be in keeping with that; I don’t see it as any more mysterious than that. Jay-Z no doubt enjoyed the perception of many that he was a major investor in the team, as it enhanced his reputation as a major player on that scene.
An empty complaint and a slide toward Trump

If so, it's kind of an empty complaint, since that article more than anything buffed Jay-Z. He wouldn't criticize management; they're all in it together.

The Brooklyn Game had a critical take that strikes me as quite reasonable but pretty much everyone else ignored, Is Jay-Z Sliding Toward Donald Trumpiness?:
Some heard it as made millions off "it" instead of "of." Either way, at the risk of over-interpreting a bunch of rap lyrics, it sounds like Jay-Z thinks:
a) He single-handedly brought the Nets to Brooklyn. I guess Bruce Ratner, Mikhail Prokhorov, Marty Markowitz and the many other people who have been agitating for a Brooklyn team for years, were irrelevant. The Nets came to Brooklyn because Jay-Z decided it should be so. And, "I still own the building." He was no doubt very important in creating the brand but even accounting for normal celebrity trash talk, this sounds a bit too much like The Donald.
b) Nets are suckers. Whether he's mocking a particular Nets executive or the entire deal, he's saying the Nets could have gotten his help for free but they paid him! Ha ha ha ha. (By the way, the Nets did just fine in this relationship: whatever they paid, they probably got their money's worth in terms of brand-buffing and publicity.)
It's quite possible that Jay-Z was mostly intending to push back at those who made fun of him for having a small stake in the team. That seems to have really gotten under his skin, which is a weird thing to care about. So he's saying, "you think I had a small stake! Well then how come I made millions! Still think I was used??"
But whatever his motivation, the combination of him selling his shares to go off and make some more money as an agent and this Nets-whack makes it slightly harder to think of him as the Nets Number One Fan in quite the same way. He was supposed to be our Spike Lee. This week, at least, he's sounding more like our Donald Trump.
"Rambling, mysterious" and profiting all along

The New York Post summarized it as Jay-Z’s Barc has bite, subtitled "Radio rap rant blasts critics of puny Nets stake":
Jay-Z’s got 99 problems — and he rapped about every one of them yesterday in a rambling, mysterious radio rant that blasted an unidentified “dweeb” who failed to show him enough respect.
“Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off it, you f--kin’ dweeb,” the 17-time Grammy winner snarled about the Barclays Center in the middle of the hastily produced song, “Open Letter,” which was released on Hot 97.
From the Onion's AV Club:
Similarly chill about proper segues, he then transitions abruptly to the Nets controversy, saying, “Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free / Except I made millions off of you fuckin’ dweebs.” And indeed, what’s more American than profiting from while simultaneously openly despising the nation’s dweebs? 
Also see the liberal and conservative takes on whether Jay-Z was boosting Cuba. 

Update: Jay-Z must sell arena stake, too

Forbes's Mike Ozanian wrote 4/13/13:
The song’s lyrics–”I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seat”–don’t jive with league rules. Not only will Jay-Z have to sell his tiny piece of the Brooklyn Nets, but he will have to divest his stake in the arena too due to his entry into athlete representation, according to sources familiar with the NBA’s regulations.
This isn’t to say that Jay-Z didn’t make the right move. He can now get a nice percentage on any deals his athletes get with the only significant capital being his time. And he gets out of owning a team and arena that are worth a lot, but will likely not be posting a net profit any time soon because of their high debt and the $500 million worth of bonds sold to finance the arena project.
In short, Jay-Z has shifted to a fat net margin business from very low margin assets. And yes, he can keep his seat at the arena.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …