Skip to main content

Featured Post

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

Yup, Dyson's Jay-Z: Made in America makes no mention of Atlantic Yards or Barclays Center

Yes, I read/skimmed it, and there's no mention of Atlantic Yards or the Barclays Center.

Ok, here's the blurb from publisher Macmillan:
JAY-Z: Made in America is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson’s decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets this nation has produced, as gifted a wordsmith as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Rita Dove. But as a rapper, he’s sometimes not given the credit he deserves for just how great an artist he’s been for so long. 
This book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z's career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he’s always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice. As he enters his fifties, and to mark his thirty years as a recording artist, this is the perfect time to take a look at JAY-Z’s career and his role in making this nation what it is today. 
In many ways, this is JAY-Z’s America as much as it’s Pelosi’s America, or Trump’s America, or Martin Luther King’s America. JAY-Z has given this country a language to think with and words to live by.
And here's Allison Stewart's 12/5/19 review from the Washington Post, In Michael Eric Dyson’s new book, Jay-Z is the living embodiment of American ideals
In his new book, “JAY-Z: Made in America,” which has its origins in that now-long-running class, Dyson uses the rapper’s life story and lyrics as a lens through which to view America in the 21st century. He argues that Jay-Z is the living embodiment of American ideals, the ultimate hustler in a nation built by hustlers and strivers. “JAY-Z is America at its scrappy, brash, irreverent, soulful, ingenious best,” he writes. 
...Dyson writes with the affection of a fan but the rigor of an academic... Using extensive passages from Jay-Z’s lyrics, “Made in America” examines the rapper’s role as a poet, an aesthete, an advocate for racial justice and a business, man, but devotes much of its energy to Hova the Hustler. Hustling is central to the American character, Dyson argues, and in Jay-Z’s transition from dealer to tycoon, “he has willed himself, by dint of his talent, to change from a man who sowed mayhem in his urban community to a man who gives nobler meaning to hustling.”
No arena

Fair enough, which is why it's disappointing--though not surprising, given that the book's relatively short--that Dyson doesn't address Jay-Z's mutually beneficial relationship with developer Bruce Ratner and mogul Mikhail Prokhorov, serving as a proponent of the Barclays Center and the larger Atlantic Yards project, and opening the arena spectacularly in 2012.

As I wrote, "you can't hustle a hustler," do Jay-Z didn't get used.

Dyson's argument

It would've been particularly interesting because Dyson does grapple--with a stance at odds with Jay-Z's critics--with a higher-profile example of Jay-Z's willingness to play ball.

Jay-Z didn’t ‘sell out’ by dealing with the NFL. This is just how activism works., wrote Dyson 8/23/19 in the Washington Post:
I remembered these bitter charges as controversy dogged the announcement this month that Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, had signed a contract with the National Football League to advise on live music, entertainment and social justice projects. Jay had stood up for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He wore Kaepernick’s jersey while performing on “Saturday Night Live,” advised other performers to boycott the Super Bowl halftime show... Now he’s doing business with the organization that colluded to banish Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Associated Press sports columnist Paul Newberry called Jay a “total sellout"... Jay’s justification: “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”
Kaepernick and Jay-Z are not the modern-day equivalents of Malcom and King, but those pairs reflect an eternal tension — the outside agitators who apply pressure and the inside activators who patrol the halls of power, bringing knowledge and wisdom — in civil rights and black freedom movements... 
Jay did not write off protest when he said we are “past kneeling.” He simply cast Kaepernick as a runner in a relay race rather than a boxer fighting alone in the ring.