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Dr. Cornel West Scrutinizes Jay-Z’s Artistry

Dr. Cornel West and Jay-Z

Disses and beef are so normalized in the day-to-day grind of hip-hop that they mostly just seem like hollow marketing ploys, yet now and then there’s a criticism that’s based in actual intellectual debate. In a recent interview with The Spectrum, civil rights activist Dr. Cornel West was asked about his skepticism towards modern radio hip-hop and he singled out Jay-Z as someone who, he feels, has lost touch with his artistry because of fame and commercialism.

“Guys like Talib Kweli and Lupe Fiasco rap messages and have something to stay,” West said. “Now Jay-Z is on the radio and he’s talented, but he’s just not at the level he used to be at on ‘Reasonable Doubt‘ and ‘The Blueprint‘. The genius is still there, but there’s no more motivation.”

Jay certainly still has the motivation to put out blockbuster albums, work a grueling press circuit and go on gigantic arena tours, yet West is specifically discussing artistry. Jay-Z might be a leader of the pack when it comes to being commercial and innovating in the marketing of music, but his influence on other rappers hasn’t been to encourage political hip-hop and messages.

“They’re not spiritually deep,” reflected West on hip-hop songs that receive airplay. “I’m a libertarian. People have the right to make noise, but there’s a lack of diversity of voices on the radio. Every generation has some music that’s questionable and not overly sophisticated. Unfortunately, the radio is so systematic. When I was making my music, they said if I made a catchy and booty-shaking single, they’d play it. But that’s not what music should be about, especially popular songs on the radio.”

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