You may remember back last year when the Occupy Wall Street movement was just getting going, and there was a lot of animosity and pushback by many in the conservative movement and the more sympathetic to the Wall Street crowd towards them, hip hop artist Jay Z came out with these shirts that read "Occupy All Streets".
This was seen as an endorsement by the rapper, who came up from hard times to make himself into a multi-millionaire. Jay Z, who has been known to embrace a progressive stance or two in his time -- such as coming out in favor of marriage equality --, and who is a supporter of President Obama, was then lauded by some for this move.
Then came the information that the shirts, which was clearly piggybacking on the Occupy movement, was not actually contributing any of the sales from the shirts to the movement. After some criticism, Roc-a-Fella claimed they pulled the shirts, although there was conflicting stories on whether they pulled them or if they had simply sold out.
Now comes an interview of Jay with The New York Magazine in which he claims he's never supported the Occupy movement, and gives a whole list of shaky reasons as to why he doesn't, although those reasons don't hold up (more on that in a minute).
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
Now personally I don't care if he supports Occupy or not. He's rich, he's in the 1% so I am not surprised. You might think someone who came from nothing, who you would imagine would remember what it was like when he was relegated to selling drugs to make money for the family, would perhaps hold a bit of respect for a movement which is trying to fight back against the status quo of screwing over the lower class in favor of the ultra rich. However society is littered with people who have forgotten where they come from, or who feels that is in the past, and there's no need to focus on it. Focus on the here and now.
However his rejecting of Occupy, while simultaneously attempting to profit from it reeks of something that Jay Z of all people should be aware of and should strive to never be.
A Culture Vulture.
In hip hop a culture vulture is a phrase that is used to describe someone who co-opts an art form that they don't respect or like, for money. They want to profit off of it, but really don't care if it succeeds or not.
There's a lot of people who are high up in hip hop making decisions that are ruining what this great art form started out as. They've helped to water down the message and make it as pop and commercial as possible, while diminishing the fire and conscious aspect that it once had. Even the more violent rappers back in the day still had messages of social justice that they were seeking, and that's sort of gone away to a large degree in the years that have followed due, in part, to these so-called Culture Vultures.
People who want to make money off something, but they don't care if it lives or dies.
Jay Z appears to have become something resembling a culture vulture as it relates to the Occupy movement. He doesn't respect the movement, claims not to support it, however he's more than willing to make money off it by selling his "Occupy All Streets" shirt, under the guise of supporting.
This would be like a George Zimmerman supporter opening up a clothing shop and marketing hooded sweatshirts to the supporters of Trayvon Martin's family. It's disgusting and unfortunate as I'm someone who actually likes some of Jay's music (although I prefer his older stuff before he got to the stage that he is in now).
There's another aspect to this that I found interesting, and that is that Jay seems to have bought into the conservative meme that Occupy isn't about anything, they don't have a concise platform, and that they are against rich people in general and entrepreneurs specifically.
I don't even know where to begin to explain just how ignorantly wrong that is.
Occupy doesn't have a set agenda? How about the official Declaration? How about the Principles of Solidarity? How about the Resolution to End Corporate Personhood?
I understand how Jay Z, a man who has sold his soul for that sweet sweet corporate money might not be down with the struggle anymore, but he shouldn't spout off about things he doesn't understand. He stated to Russell Simmons that he doesn't understand the movement or what it's about, causing Mr. Simmons to pen an essay as an open letter to his friend explaining things.
Will that essay matter? Will it get Jay to acknowledge the facts or will he simply do whatever will make him look good? Pretend to suddenly be a supporter, and start selling those shirts again, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Occupy movement?
I don't know, and don't really care at this point. Jay has revealed himself to all those who may not have already known, what a corporate shill he's turned into. Remember how he used to be all about the Heineken, until he decided to jump ship and go to their competitor, Budweiser? Or how he used to be a Knicks fan, until he decided to go buy into their Tri-City rival the New Jersey Nets (soon to be Brooklyn Nets)?
All business moves, and that's fine. I'm not going to knock his hustle in that department. You get in where you fit in, and where he fits in, clearly, is the board room, not the streets. And the boardroom, as opposed to the streets, is where his loyalty and love lies.
Jay may have had a hard knock life, but that's far in the past. He's now married, got a kid and is silly rich worth half a billion. It's not hard to see how he would fall into that trap. On the track "Young G's" by Sean "Puffy" Combs, Jay had a verse and in that verse was a line that read "I hated Algebra, but I loved to multiply. I told my N***a B.I.G, I'd be multi before I die" referring to being a multi-millionaire.
He's accomplished that many times over. I wonder if he ever told his late friend Christopher Wallace that he would one day be a sellout as well?