New Stuff: Tom Ford

One of the most popular critiques of Jay Z the last decade goes something like this: he’s too rich, too much of a mogul, too out of touch with an audience that for a while crowned him the best rapper alive. I always found this argument silly. While true that your average listener can’t relate to purchasing an original Renoir at a Sotheby’s auction, they also shouldn’t relate to mainstream rappers perpetually playing topper with one another, especially with their cash goods (see: “Versace/Versace/Versace/Versace/Versace/Versace” – Drake). To say Jay Z shouting out Tom Ford is bourgeois pretension, while Lil Wayne sipping Dom Perignon is a celebration of newfound wealth, is ridiculous. Jay Z is richer than all of us, and I have little sympathy for slightly poorer rappers and snooty critics crying foul. If rap is a possession game, then Jay Z wins.

With that said, Jay Z is no longer the best rapper alive, and shouldn’t really be in the conversation. Rap is a young man’s game, and though Hov is still an influential curator and tastemaker, his talents behind the mic have long past their illustrious peak. Magna Carta Holy Grail, his newest release, sounds forced when it doesn’t sound tired, and though Mr. Carter has turned the release into a bevvy of incredible marketing opportunities (Samsung, “Picasso Baby,” Legends of Summer Tour), his “retirement” in 2003 is starting to look like a better idea in retrospect.

“Tom Ford” stands out, with Jigga laying back and counting his blessed blessings over a stunning 8-bit trap instrumental. The hook defines cheezeball bombastic: “I don’t pop mollys/I rock Tom Ford/international/bring back the Concord,” but it sticks as well as anything produced earlier in his career. Jay  lost the wisdom and perspective he gained as a drug dealer in Brooklyn long ago, but he hasn’t stopped being a talented musician. He’s no longer in the running for Best Rapper Alive, but Greatest of all Time is still up for discussion.

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