Message To Jay-Z: Don't Be Stringer Bell

AllHipHop Staff

The opinions expressed in the following editorial do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or affiliates.As 2008 draws to a close, we look at probably the prime mover in Hip-Hop and the man generally acknowledged as the premier rapper in the game, Jay-z. While he didn’t have an album out, he stood at the forefront of moves being made, guest spots on the biggest songs, and of course his power couple marriage to the “hottest chick in the game.”

However outside of the headlines and the dollar signs, there is a more serious matter at hand. The political aspirations, the touring with Mary J. Blige, the cuts with Coldplay, and his seeming abandonment of the underground that put him over ground has led many to rumble that the king is dead, and that lyrically and musically he is a shell of his former self.

In addition, the number of former friends with an axe to grind is climbing in number, from Jaz-O setting Rocawear clothes on fire in front of Marcy, to Deehaven, to Calvin Kline, to Damon Dash and Peedi Crakk, there are just too many mouths to be ignored.

Musically, his last album was high powered and generally unassailable in 2007 but recently…he’s aight but he’s not real. Early returns from the highly anticipated Blueprint 3, supposedly all Ye, have met with varying criticism from luke warm to straight up wack. Is he finally beginning to show his age as an emcee, or is the answer something even more tragic?

It’s interesting that the ultimate hustler (sorry Dame) should live his life by his street codes, because every truly successful hustler comes to a point where they are on top and the young wolves constantly vying for your spot gets tiresome; where you begin to consider going legit. You won’t be hanging out at inaugurations and chilling with Barack talking about money, cash, and hoes. Your street talk gets seriously questionable when you’re talking about being worth a half billion dollars. If Jay-z isn’t careful, he’s going to end up like another of our cult icons, the late, great Stringer Bell.

Stringer was respected as cold and calculating and always two steps ahead of everyone else, much like Jay-z is in the game. While Avon wanted to keep the streets, Stringer was more interested in getting out of the game and turning to legitimate business. The more he learned and the more he earned, the further away his sensibilities turned from the streets; the less he cared about how his behavior affected the game.

As Stringer got more out of pocket with regards to the game, you knew it wasn’t going to be long before his time came. No matter how much as viewer you liked his character, how much you respected his acumen, all real dudes know that no one is bigger than the game, and the minute you think you are, your time is ticking. You can’t make your own rules. You can’t keep stepping over the debris of broken relationships, shattered friendships, and political mistakes.

Stringer made political alignments that backfired like his deal with Clay Davis. Similarly, Jay-z has been called from many circles on his seemingly politically motivated cosignage of Lil Wayne (a true star in his own right, no disrespect) as the best rapper alive. Recently Pusha T was very vocal about it on the The Road to Till The Casket Drops. Rappers are getting louder in their protests on a level that we just haven’t heard before.

Eventually, the game exacted its own justice and Stringer was removed from the board by people who he double crossed on his path to the top. As a fan of Jay-z and his legacy in this music, I would like for him not meet the same end in the game.

You can’t play both sides of the field because that’s impossible. Either you’re in or you’re out of this thing of ours. There is nothing wrong with going out like John Elway after a championship and doing other things with your life. There’s nothing wrong with going out like Jordan of the Bulls rather than Jordan with the Wizards, not making the playoffs and then fired from the team you supposedly “own.”

You have experienced things in this world that the block has never seen. You tried on Kingdom Come to take things to that direction, but your execution was flawed. You had the right idea but you put it together without your normal conviction; you didn’t complete the sale. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Don’t bother rapping about crack because at this point the Clipse are better than you at that. Don’t bother rapping about the block cause Jeezy, Ross, T.I. and a bunch of others do the whole hood thing better, plus it looks crazy because you have too much money plus you’re a married man. “Hollywood,” and “Beach Chair” are great examples of how you can take it to another level and to a place where more of your contemporaries are not able. American Gangster was dope, but you won’t be inaugurating anyone with that content.

You’re still, for my money, the best rapper alive. However whatever gap there was is being rapidly eroded by Nas, whose Untitled was both daring and inventive. Even at this stage he’s growing by leaps and bounds artistically. Don’t be Stringer Bell. You’re better than that. Part of being king is being a leader. Determining where cultures and people go, not aping what is popular and attaching yourself to it. If you’re the king, it’s not “Swagger Like Us.” It’s swagger like me. Be a leader. Be who you say you are. Anything else is Stringer Bell. And while it’s a hell of a ride to the top, it’s an unceremonious end.