Shawn Carter a.k.a. hip-hop mogul Jay-Z sat down yesterday with top African-American public intellectual Cornel West at the New York Public Library for a talk—moderated by Library director Paul Holdengräber—that was to be centered ostensibly around his memoir Decoded, but ranged through a wide variety of topics and modes.
It bears notice that despite Jay-Z’s superstar pop status and the hype surrounding the book, the appearance didn’t bear an airing on, say, MTV. I truly wonder why.
Love him or hate him, Carter’s journey from Bed-Stuy’s Marcy Houses projects to mega-millionaire mogul maps almost directly to the 30+-year story of hip-hop from marginalized urban phenomenon to global cultural movement. And West’s contextualization of the rhymer’s work and writings within the urban African-American artistic experience is pretty striking.
The status commonly accorded to Jay-Z as the greatest rapper of all time amounts to truly tedious hype. But there’s no denying that the man’s got power, perspective and a dangerous mind.