Cool art, bro

Even though I grew up surrounded by fine art, I admittedly don’t really know anything about it or understand it very well. My dad was an artist and I attended all sorts of art related events from a young age. I worked in galleries. I’ve met countless artists who are both respected and successful only to forget their names the moment they walk away. Perhaps it was my own form of youthful rebellion to simply not give a fuck about it. Or maybe I took the parts I like from it (the creativity, the lifestyle of freedom, the “anything goes” mindset in terms of careers) and ignored the other parts that didn’t make sense to me. Truth be told, I honestly never got too into fine art cause I was simply not good at it. I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t paint. My sculptures looked like petrified shit slabs. In fact, you should see my handwriting. It’s as if I do it while riding a horse. So, read this with that in mind. While I am technically an “artist” in the sense that people who make music are artists, I’m not an artist like the people I’m talking about here. I’d also like to clarify that, while it may seem like I’m shitting all over artists and art in general, I’m not. They do something I cannot do. From Bob Ross to the worlds most renowned painter, I can’t do that shit so it’s all equally impressive to me (and also kinda boring as well but, hey, that’s just how I see it). The bottom line is, this is all coming from a humble place and a guy who admittedly less talented than most people.

Over the years there have been many types of art that I scoff at. Like some dude who built a waterfall and called it art (nah b, you’re not an artist, you’re a landscaper) or that thing that people did in central park in 2005 with “The gates”. Maybe it’s just me but turning central park into a croquet course for lazy giants just didn’t work as “art”. I understand that art is everything. But I take issue when people just kinda do some random bullshit and act like they’re changing the game. It’s the equivalent of when David Blaine stops doing card tricks and starts calling “watch me not drink water for a month!” a magic trick. It’s just not the same thing.

You take that and add in the concept of “Performance art” and the lines get even more blurred. With performance art, you can literally do anything and it’s accepted. Sometimes I wonder why more people don’t just do that…literally anything…and give it a faux deep/politically charged name. The beauty of art is that you can spin it anyway you want. The ugliness of that same facet is that it leaves the door open for endless bullshit and fakery. I could do an art show where I line up five homeless dudes, light them on fire and pissed out the flames. I could call it “Giuliani” and I would be a genius. I’m just saying, the line between brilliant and absolute crap in that world is microscopically thin.
Last week, Jay-z did a performance art piece in a NYC Gallery (I’m literally too indifferent to google which gallery).

What he did was rap his song “Picasso baby” for 6 hours straight. While this is a feat of endurance (I’d imagine David Blaine is a little salty he didn’t think of it first), watching the video I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve seen it before. Oh wait…his performance art piece was basically like every overbooked, crappy underground rap show I’ve ever seen except:
1)In a well lit room
2)Only one rapper who won’t shut the fuck up, as opposed to 30.
3)lots of old white people
4)people looked genuinely happy
5)It probably had good sound

It got me thinking, man what if that was the point of Jay’s Performance piece? A biting commentary on shitty underground basement ass rap shows. Clearly, it isn’t. But it could be and that would have had way more depth than whatever bullshit explanation he actually has for this.

The thing is, I’m not even mad at Jay. I think his new album is pretty good for a 42 year old who doesn’t really have anything to say or prove. I’m a long time fan. He certainly takes risks, albeit very calculated ones. This was just another thing that jumped out and reminded me how comically corny and pleased with themselves the entire art world is. And that goes out to all forms of art. From a painter who uses tampon blood to the movie star explaining why this action movie is better than the other action movies to the Dj who acts like he’s a genius cause he has the hang of Serrato and happens to play whatever music is popular with teenaged girls. It’s all under the same umbrella and it’s all bullshit.
This isn’t to say there aren’t real artists under that umbrella. Obviously, if there weren’t , none of us would be talking about this. There are those who inspire and make all this worth it. Jay-Z has been that artist for me in the past. Not so much lately but I can’t really knock a man who’s so rich and bored he doesn’t know what to do with himself. After all, that’s goal right? Getting to the point where you can do whatever you want cause no one can say shit to you at the end of the day. Well, that and personal and spiritual fulfillment, whatever that may be.

I think for his next trick, Jay-z should take 10 of the most revered paintings ever and copy them but with crayons. I’m joking but, seriously,I’d probably buy one if I could afford it. Jay-Z’s “The scream” Would be fucking hilarious.

28 thoughts on “Cool art, bro

  1. “Not so much lately but I can’t really knock a man who’s so rich and bored he doesn’t know what to do with himself.”
    You just did. But rightly so.

  2. (PFAC voice) ‘jay-z is like, he’s like, breaking down the barriers of rap music that have yet to be broken down by other rap artists!’ but seriously. this video is so fucking whack it’s not even funny. all those people in that gallery should be executed. slowly. really, really fucking slowly.

  3. “I’m joking but, seriously,I’d probably buy one if I could afford it. Jay-Z’s “The scream” Would be fucking hilarious.”

    Laugh out loud funny, considering I just saw the original and am trying to picture jigga painting it in crayons. Thanks

  4. i would have respected that video, or anybody who sat on that bench, more (or at all) if someone had sat down with headphones on, or reading a newspaper. to me, that would have actually been a concept. but not one he would be allowed to represent, because clearly people still give a fuck about him. feel like it was potentially something cool, wasted on a cartoon character.

  5. The most annoying part about this Jay-Z thing to me is that a band called The National did the exact same playing the same song for six hours stunt at the same location like a month before Jay did and they didn’t feel the need to make a huge documentary about how amazing their performance art piece was. It was just a (stupid) thing they did.

  6. I wanted to think the Jay-Z thing was bullshit.

    But it is kinda significant for that to be done. It feels like a less sincere variation on OME’s whole “art rap” concept and, at this point, movement.

    I heard an interview with milo and Zeroh (Nocando and Jeff Weiss’s Shots Fired) where Zeroh said, in reply to the idea of “art rap”: “To me rap always just -was- art.” The important thing about the term art rap is that it’s either a contradiction or a redundancy; for those who feel that rap is garbage, “art rap” doesn’t make any sense and, for those who feel that rap is art, “art rap” STILL doesn’t make any sense. This conflict in interpretation of the term “art rap” highlights our cultural issue with hip-hop.

    For Jay-Z to be performing in an art gallery just looks, to hip-hop people, like a meaningless change of venue and publicity stunt. But I’m sure there were people pissed off about this, and those people are what make the act meaningful; their existence highlights the weird-as-fuck space hip-hop occupies within our culture, and mirrors the conflict in the interpretation of the term “art rap.”

    Hip-hop people on “art rap”: “Rap already was art; that designation is not particularly meaningful”
    Anti-hip-hop people on “art rap”: “That’s a contradiction in terms! Can’t call that thug shit art!!1111”

    Hip-hop people on Jay-Z stunt: “Rap in a slightly different venue is no different from rap elsewhere; this is not particularly meaningful.”

    Note: These are not at all the reasons for significance listed by the people in the video, but hey, fuck them anyway.

    • I think my beef with “Art” like this is, when you remove all pretense and just look at what it is, it’s very unimpressive. It was Jay Rapping the same song for 6 hours to people in a gallery. That just doesn’t cut it for me, not matter how it’s branded or explained. There’s literally nothing he could say to make it more than that to me.

      • Yeah, it’s not really a skill unless you count being famous/rich as a skill, which I don’t. There are better and more skilled ways of making similar but more subtle points (and OME actually does so, in the case of this particular point).

  7. In the end it’s just a reformed Minstrel show sold as art to make the white elite feel Ok about watching the monkey dance. Labeling it as art and inviting all the uper-pretentious east-coast socialites doesn’t change that. Jayz is and always has been a huge step back for rap,black people, and humanity.,

    • Eh…that might be taking a little far, don’t you think?
      Jay-z was a great rapper. He made some classic albums and made a few mediocre ones too. He got really famous and rich. End of story.
      To say he’s a huge step back rap, black people and humanity shows an innate misunderstanding of those three things , as well as Jay’s music and legacy in general.

      • Yeah maybe I was being a bit hyperbolic but I really never gave him much credit for rhyme skills. You say he was great. I never saw it that way. Even well before the super-stardom.I always found his voice to be annoying and squeaky and that breathless shit he does is weak. His legacy is making rapping about cocaine mainstream and marketable. He definitely didn’t invent that style but just watered it down enough so the average person would lap it. He ( or the cats that are pulling his strings) are great at business.No doubt. There is just more to rap than that. I trust your judgement of music and don’t thing you are wrong for digging for the guy. Taste is subjective.and up to debate but to say I don’t have an understanding of rap .because I think without people like him rap would be in a better place is again up to debate. I just really can’t imagine how it couldn’t improve without him. This art shit he pulled was just so unbelievebly predictable and empty. Seeing the B-list celebs like Alan Cumming acting like they are watching fucking Michaelangelo paint is just absurd.

        The whole thing really reminded me of that part in Wild Style where some of the graf kids start getting art exhibits and gallery shows and all the New York psuedo-intellectual socialites cream themselves at the fact that have discovered something new & edgy & now have something to talk about with their one black friend.

      • Not to harp on this but you are selling Jay EXTREMELY short with your analysis. It reads like someone who heard a few songs from the latter part of his career and made his mind up off that.The fact you mentioned his breathless style leads me to believe you aren’t familiar with his good albums at all. He started doing that breathless shit when he was an album or two past his prime. And he doesn’t just rap about selling drugs. He raps about all sorts of shit…just like every other rapper.
        If you can listen to Reasonable Doubt and not hear a good rapper, regardless of personal taste, I really don’t know what to tell you.
        he started as this:

        The moved on to this:

        Then Made songs like this:

        And that’s just at his first album. I could go on and on with examples of him being more than you think he is. I understand if you’re not into him. Especially if , topically, he’s not your cup of tea. That’s totally fine. But you seem to have all these stigmas in your head about him that read to me like someone who doesn’t really see/know the whole picture. There is a reason He’s considered one of the greatest rappers ever by the majority of people who are hip hop heads. It’s cause he is. He may not be remotely close to that rapper currently but his run from mid 90’s to the early 2000’s was impressive from both a commercial and artistic perspective. Even if he did lame club tracks and songs about selling coke.

  8. I really do appreciate you trying to persuade me.I would do the same. Just the other day someone was fronting on Billy woods and I had to try and school that poor soul. I assure you that I am well educated on the dude and while his older stuff was better than what he became . It’s never been something that really blew my hair back. Many people have tried to convince me of the same thing. just not my shit. Really The door swings both ways though I have a friend who is probably equal to me in that we have an almost encyclopediac knowledge of the genre who thing Biggie was a mush mouth fat ass who with little rap skill. I think he’s crazy of course but like I said taste is subjective. Jay-Z may have had a different style back in the day but the shit still stands out and in my humble (but educated) opinion Rap could’ve done without the Jigga Man

    • I think my issue with all of this is summed up in your last sentence. Jay has been good for rap. He’s also influenced some truly terrible music as well but still…To say rap could’ve done without him is just, i dunno, retarded. Cause that goes beyond opinion and into something much deeper. I was never a Master P fan but I think his existence was one that was necessary. If rap was all one way it wouldn’t have lasted this long.
      I don’t doubt your knowledge of hip hop but dismissing Jay-z as an artist and thinking rap would be better without him shows a serious lack of overview and context. If you’re young (under 30), I get it. Cause then you were too young and perhaps it’s a “you had to be there” kinda thing. I hate to pull the age card but 9 or of 10 times when I hear someone saying some shit like this, it’s cause they’re young. But if you were around back then when he came out, I doubt you’d be saying the same thing. Dude had an impact…for a long time. regardless of personal tastes.
      I know this is a bullshit point I’m about to make but I’d also like to point out that I’ve never met someone who is knowledgeable and open minded about hip hop who dismisses Jay-z. They may not like his music, but there is at least a level of respect and understanding that he was a game changer and unquestionably a very talented rapper.

      • FYI I am 35.. I was there bro..Although on the west coast. I remember when being a rap fan was hard work. Especially in Ari-fucking -zona.That’s besides the point though. I never said the guy wasn’t talented. He is good at what he does. I just don’t like what he does.and don’t thing he changed anything for the better.

        Seriously though. What GOOD has he done for hip hop? All he jhas done has reinforced the fact that those who make it make it by trend hopping and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

        With or without him the most talented cats out there are still all too often the brokest motherfuckers out there.

      • What good has anyone done for hip hop then? The dude is one of the biggest musicians on earth (not just hip hop) and he got there by being a street rapper from brooklyn. What good has he done? He’s inspired millions of people. He’s given hope to inner city youths all over the country. But beyond that shit, he was pretty much responsible for finding the happy medium between street rap and mainstream rap where both sides of the coin were happy with the music he was making. What other artists can you say that about? I’m pretty sure both your and my favorite rappers cannot say that. You might not like how he’s influenced culture but you’re in the minority. Look at me. I’m an underground hip hop producer. I gain nothing from his success. But me and pretty much every other one of my peers would whole heartedly agree the dude deserves what he got.
        Maybe being on the west coast it wasn’t that clear. I could certainly see that. I could make the argument you’re making against Jay about Tupac if I wanted. I simply think you’re letting you personal opinion of his music cloud the bigger picture.
        Also, He wasn’t always a trend hopper. He was once the trend setter. At a 35 year old, that should be a known fact to you.

  9. I got you Block..I just disagree. Yeah it’s cool he went from Hype man to mogul. he’s great at hyping things and knowing what sells. That’s just not what I love about music. I guess it’s a trite naive point but I just had hoped by now rap would be in a place where artists that have more to offer than simple ear candy would flourish beyond the underground. Is it Jayz fault? No. He just makes what sells.I just think music could do with less of that. Why does substance and success have to be for the most part mutually exclusive? I know I’d rather have my kid aspiring to be an Aesop rather than a Jay’z .

    • I think my entire point in the previous post about him finding a happy medium between mainstream and street shit was me saying that he , in fact, did find success while also making compelling music. Not his last 4 albums but before that? definitely. Okay…I’m done discussing this cause , at this point, we’re both just reiterating the same points over and over again. It’s obvious we’re never gonna see eye to eye on the topic. It’s all good. It was a good discussion.
      Just know that most of your favorite rappers are fans of Jay-z. I’d bet my life on it. (sorry, couldn’t resist that one last point).

      • For sure bro. I dont doubt that they are. I appreciate the final jab anyway. We just differ on what we think compelling is. Thanks for the discussion. Peace.

  10. yeh i likened this video and ppl’s reactions to it like when the Fonz signed up for art class and drew a flawed circle and all the girls thought he was genius for it. i don’t know that such an episode ever happened but, that’s what “Picasso Baby” felt like.

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