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 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.


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).


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 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…