Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, and the Cost of Loyalty

Author’s Disclaimer: For those who read

my columns weekly for its, as I’ve been told, “intellectual value,” this might

not be for you:

“Never read the Qu’ran or Islamic

scriptures/

Only Psalms I read was on the arms of my

Ni**as/”

—Jay-Z, “Intro,” The Dynasty Roc La Familia, 2000.

Listening to Beanie Sigel excoriate his

former (?) “Big Brother” last week couldn’t have put a wider smile on my face. Simply

put, it’s about time. For those whose lives are forever buried under a rock, it

all started last weekend when the AllHipHop rumor section reported

Beanie Sigel had made certain unflattering advances—or allusions—toward Jay-Z

at a Philly concert.  

Upon reading the rumors—which depended solely

on accusations that Sigel had repeatedly declared on stage, “I run this town

tonight”—I couldn’t but hang my head in shame for what, as I believed, Hip-Hop

media had come to. I saw this as yet another validation of my lamentation

a few months back that “[t]he present state of Hip-Hop media is

regrettable. The days of intellectuals, cultural critics, and music scholars

are all but over. Now begins an age of pseudo-journalists and half-witted

bloggers who’ve convinced themselves that a column consists of 400 words and

two paragraphs.” And that, “Everyone has a blog but not enough brains to match

them.” But in less than 24 hours, further details surfaced, which told of Sigel

being escorted by police officers from the venue—compliments of the Jigga man.

As time advanced, it was becoming increasingly clear to some that the best, and

worst, of this ordeal, was yet to come.    

Sure enough, a couple of days later

Sigel dropped the much-anticipated diss

record, “What

You’ Talkin’ ‘Bout (Average Cat),” implicitly revealing some salacious

secrets about Jay-Z, the Roc-A-Fella dynasty demolition, and the Jigga man’s

newfound corporate identity—which some of us have known, and written about, for

a while.   

Sigel complained of indifference

directed his way by Jay-Z while incarcerated—the many times he’s been locked

up. He also threatened to expose some personal elements Jay-Z might want to

keep secret (“I was the fly on the wall: sh** I witnessed/ I can say sh** that make

B look at you different/”)—for as long as his reputation is valuable. The climax,

however, seemed to be the recounting of a meeting held with HOVA, in which he

pleaded to be released from his contract, but the man in the suit “bounced that

tennis ball around your office for an hour, and went back and forth with me,

and told me you ain’t want to let me go.” (Bounced

a tennis ball? He learned that from the White folks, Beans!) Sigel says

Jay-Z asked if he was cash-strapped, but he shot down any offers: He just wanted

his freedom. Plus, 50 Cent was

plotting a couple of power moves with him and Freeway—both stopped in their

tracks shortly after.  

Why did Jay-Z find it so important to

have Beanie around him? The reasons aren’t at all indecipherable—for all the

street credibility lost these last few years (trust me: it matters to HOVA), to

keep his most respected Colonel/Major General around, and, most importantly, to

repudiate rampant rumors that he only cared about a few pet projects (Jay-Z,

Jeezy, Rihanna) who would work the tracks for him.  

But in spite of it all, Sigel insists “Average

Cat” isn’t a “diss record.” It’s also not “the green-light for everybody to

start making a diss Jay-Z record.” Far from it. “This is me taking my brother

in the yard for 5 minutes.”

Here’s some salient advice for HOVA: Run like the wind! Don’t attempt to battle

Beans. And don’t send no lieutenant his way, either. If you want J. Cole’s

career eviscerated before it begins, unleash

him on Beans. Your best bet, it seems, might be making things up with Sigel.

This is a guy who, even with all the bullsh** you’ve put him through, still

believes loyalty comes first. You might want to humble thyself, and listen carefully to his concerns and/or

demands.

Unfortunately, Jay-Z appears incapable

of humility—as his

first response was to accuse Sigel of squandering golden opportunities and

of being ungrateful.  

Those of us who’ve followed Beans for

years were only left wondering what took so

long. It was evident before long Beans would bust and spill—there’s only so

much a man can take before breaking bounds of loyalty. And, in fact, that might

have been the most loyal thing he did his whole relationship with Jay-Z—refusing

anymore to take slugs for a man whose conscience is only as costly as the next

business deal signed.    

And it’s not just Beans. Dame, Calvin Klein, De-Haven,

Jaz-O, Jim

Jones, Peedi

Peedi, Joe

Budden, DMX,

LL Cool J, and Teairra Marí

(“I was shocked, I was sad … Jay didn’t call me himself”), all share similar

views. C’mon, Jay-Z. They can’t be all wrong. Unless, of course, he sees this

as some secret conspiracy to bring a

Black man down!

The Jay-Z-Beanie Sigel controversy couldn’t

have been more timely, as it coincides with reports that Lil’ Wayne, scheduled

to be locked up for a year on July 2007 weapon possession charges, might have

avoided sentencing if he refused to take the fall for the true owner of the guns. For all

my quarrels with Lil’ Wayne, I respect his loyalty.   

Late January 2008, video

surfaced of the 30-year-old rapper cussing out his entourage, hurling his

jacket at his DJ, and leading the concert crowd in chants of “F**k You,”

directed toward the men behind him. “I just want all the mutha***kas that

[have] been with me, that ain’t gon ever be with me again, to know I did it for

ya’ll,” he said, much to the school-girl-crowd’s oblivion-infused amusement. Earlier

that day, his tour bus was stopped at an Arizona U.S. Border Patrol, and in it discovered

four ounces of marijuana, over 1 ounce of cocaine, 41 grams of Ecstasy, and

various drug paraphernalia.

He had just been rattled by the reality

that promises and their fulfillment in matters of friendship are two separate

and unequal executions.

Lil’ Wayne is currently in a predicament

not unlike that Jazz icon Thelonious Monk faced in 1951 with fellow pianist Bud

Powell, when arrested for drug possession. Powell was 7 years his junior and

considered a younger brother. Monk couldn’t see such budding, bright talent go

to waste, so he took the fall, and, as a result, lost his Cabaret Card—the

Almighty license required to play at liquor-serving Bars; particularly more

costly for a Negro Jazz musician of the times. For 6 years, Monk was denied his

former life, but he came back swinging, and many have known him ever

since—regardless of all the slanderous and condescending definitions formed by

uninformed critics—as a principled pianist with an even better record as a

human being. It would do Lil’ Wayne well to pick up acclaimed professor Robin

D.G. Kelley’s latest work, a stellar biography on Monk, aptly titled, Thelonious

Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

But one need not even look so far back

as a half-century. Prodigy, one half of the New York legendary group Mobb Deep,

provides one of the finest examples Loyalty has offered in a while. In October

2007, Prodigy was sentenced to 3 1/2 years behind bars for gun possession.

Prodigy contends, however, the real reason he is serving a sentence at all,

following what he believes to be an illegal trunk-search, is for turning down offers,

proposed by the NYPD, to set up G-Unit General 50 Cent. 

Speaking a couple of years ago on Sirius Radio, he revealed: “When they locked me

up they tried to get me to set up 50 Cent. They wanted me to plant drugs and

guns in his car. I was like, ‘Hell no, I ain’t doing that.’ They told me if I

plant stuff in his car, they would let me walk.” To avoid his fate, he advised

peers to “stop f**king putting rims on your car, stop buying all this f**king,

fa**ot-ass jewelry that they stealing from black people in Africa, anyway, and

just put cameras in your car. Think about your safety, think about surveillance.”

There’s no evidence to back up Prodigy’s

side, but it’s highly unlikely he would dare accuse the NYPD of such offense if

it never took place.

Prodigy is of the same tribe Beanie

Sigel hails from. Both believe loyalty has no superior. Unfortunately, both

don’t seem to have equally loyal Generals.

So, for instance, while 50 was working

hard behind the scenes trying to

secure an earlier release date for Prodigy, Jay-Z didn’t

think much of Sigel’s plight enough to send “not one picture, a letter.”

And while 50 was recruiting

former foes, putting together an event of mass magnitude for his old neighborhood, Jay-Z was selling

out his old neighborhood for a mess of pottage. Of course Jay-Z isn’t

the worst thing since Santa Claus, and 50 Cent isn’t God’s unblemished gift to

the world; but the contrast is quite startling.

There’s a cost to be paid when

disloyalty sets into any camp. If Jay-Z is smart, and he sure seems so, he

would make quick amends before his empire flattens like a tipped house of cards.  

Tolu Olorunda is a social commentator

and a columnist for BlackCommentator.com.

He can be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.

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