Photo via jristaniemi/Flickr (CC-BY-ND)
Jay Z has lost his jumper.
That's my immediate takeaway following Tuesday night's landing of the Jay-featuring Pusha T single "Drug Dealers Anonymous" as a Tidal exclusive. The track is a signal-boosting promotional tweet targeted toward a graying user base of Reasonable Doubt heads gathered around the aux cord.
It's fuckboi catnip, in other words: Hyper-masculine groveling for fans who like to type words like "murdered" to describe their favorite music.
It finds the two rappers sniveling about past drug-dealing exploits while simultaneously pledging anonymity to the O.G.s who helped them ditch the lifestyle. This is soft terrain for hip-hop—harrowing raps about socioeconomic inequality and desperate circumstances that compel and fear—but unfortunately for both Jay Z and Pusha, their high school football hero days are long gone. For Pusha, that would be 2006's Hell Hath No Fury, a cocaine epic that provided delirious sweats; and for Jay, it's a pinnacle he hasn't truly hiked to since the two DJ Premier cuts from 1997's In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.
Of course, Jay keeps trying. The film American Gangster inspired a 2007 professional reboot by the same name that dealt with his ties to the trade. His best work this century—songs like "Never Change," "Guess Who's Back," and "What We Do"—gets watery-eyed about reckless youth. But here, it's as if Jay is freestyling between Google Calendar appointments.
Not only does he make the mistake of sampling 23-year-old conservative pundit upstart Tomi Lahren (thereby lifting her profile beyond Facebook hardliners clinging to talking points), Jay offers a number of cringe-worthy pivots:
- Uselessly reciting the chorus to 1999 BG hit "Bling Bling."
- Shouting out his attorneys and asserting that his success stems from their handy paperwork which is such an old man position to take.
- Rapping about Google not once, but twice. Then dapping technocrats everywhere with nods to...
- Uber's rumored autonomous, driver-less cars...
- ... and the joys of typing on a smartphone.
- Dropping a "Damn, Daniel" reference as his kicker.
Hey at least his "All the Way Up" remix was pretty cool.