Did Jay Z and Samsung Really Trick Us?

July 19th, 2013

(Photo: Andrew Benge/Redferns via Getty Images)

By Jake Rohn
Say it ain’t so, Hov! A couple of weeks ago, I praised Jay Z for demonstrating an unparalleled business savvy in his approach to releasing his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Hov paired up with Samsung to drop a bombshell in the form of an extended commercial that featured an all-star list of producers working on what is assumed to be the product that is on the cusp of public consumption.
In light of some new information and with some time having passed since the album’s release, I’ve done a complete 180. I now wonder if Jay Z, who has embodied hip hop’s competitive and entrepreneurial spirit ever since the early ’90s, now represents everything Public Enemy fought when hip hop was still in its formative years.
What you were told: Samsung was offering a free download of the album to its users.
What the fine print reveals: The whole thing was one big data mining project used to ascertain user information.
Despite being one of the preeminent businessmen in hip hop, Jay Z has always put the art form ahead of everything else. His love for hip hop and, more specifically, for being the best MC in the game has never taken a back seat before. But this move negates that integrity and, as a fan, makes me view his music differently. Far be it for me to “knock the hustle” but the idea of an album that later turns out to be a cyber trap makes me feel uneasy about the whole thing and the person behind it.
When hip hop started, it was like the voice of the rebellion; as anti-corporate and unwavering as it was frightening to parents and conservative pundits. To see it become the embodiment of corporate shiftiness is one giant leap (in the wrong direction) for the culture as a whole. The music itself is good (though Hov himself said via Twitter that it was at best his fourth hottest album), but here’s something to think about: If you took you’re top five favorite albums and attached them to some corporate promotion that was really just a way of finding out your personal information, would those albums still hold the same spot in your heart or would they have a stigma attached to them? In general, people don’t like when someone is trying to sell them something under the guise of a normal conversation. That’s what this album feels like. And as the ultimate trendsetter in what has always been dubbed a young man’s game, Jay Z is above this. His net worth is all the more reason that he should not feel compelled to resort to such corporate tactics to sell records (excuse me, free downloads).
Jay has proven that he is still one of the best rappers alive but for the sake of his brand, and for the sake of the remaining integrity of hip hop and all music, it would be great if this idea went away like M.I.M.S. and we could all just pretend it never happened.
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