Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy writes a classic post about rapper The Game’s recent attacks on reigning power Jay-Z, and uses the spat as an allegory for international relations and the options open for an American hegemonic power.
Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power. The changes in Jay-Z’s approach over the years suggest that he recognizes the realist and liberal logic… but is sorely tempted by the neo-conservative impulse. Back when he was younger, Jay-Z was a merciless, ruthless killer in the “beefs” which define hip hop politics. He never would have gotten to the top without that. But since then he’s changed his style and has instead largely chosen to stand above the fray. As Jay-Z got older and more powerful, the marginal benefits of such battles declined and the costs increased even as the number of would-be rivals escalated. Just as the U.S. attracts resentment and rhetorical anti-Americanism simply by virtue of being on top, so did Jay-Z attract a disproportionate number of attackers. “I got beefs with like a hundred children” he bragged/complained on one track.
Some of the responses in the comment thread are even better:
If perhaps Switzerland had once been a British colony which rebuilt itself after World War II as the Japan-like embodiment of a modern technocracy…then maybe Jay-Z could be thought of as that nation-state. And if the U.S. were a rapper, I’m sad to say…we’d probably be 50 Cent. Clumsy commercialism passed off as art, unmerited bellicosity, unmatched market penetration, and the diminishment of formerly venerated (and historically better pedigreed) entities, with a commercially viable pile of sex-sex-sex on the side.
We WISH this country was like Jay-Z….
As far as I’m concerned, Marc just made his career with this track. If this doesn’t get hip-hop into Ivy League faculty parties and ghetto kids spitting geopolitics, I don’t know what will. (Via Abu Muqawama.)