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Yeezus vs. Jay-Z: Shawn Carter wins every time [Article]

Calgary, AB — I’m still reeling from the Jun. 16 release of the promotional video for Jay-Z’s upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail — the video is all I’ve listened to, or seen, today. So now I’m just going to break it down for you. The opening beat puts everything into perspective. It’s as wholly encompassing as Kanye West’s “New Gold Flow,” except that it’s contrasted with a plucky guitar at the start. Immediately, it sets up a comparison between Jay and Kanye, as they currently stand. But before we get there—comparing the two of them— we have to set one thing straight: when Kanye succeeds, Jay gets paid. When Jay does, Kanye doesn’t. Let’s not forget who really sits in the “throne” and who is just watching it. You don’t actually think Yeezus is the most powerful wan in Westeros, do you?–ZARCwSIE

And now on to the comparison—the duality. Yeezus drops his work in stages. This tactic is carefully designed to increase hype around Kanye’s work as bombastically as possible: 66 buildings, album name rumours, artwork rumours, an SNL appearance, and Rick Rubin. Jay-Z’s three-minute commercial in the pivotal game of the NBA finals is by no means subtle either. But the casual drop of, “We put the album out July 4” is the polar opposite of Yeezus’ strategy. It’s casual. You can make the rest of the hype up in your head. And that’s why people are going to obsess over it for the next two weeks until it comes out.

Jay is focused on the balance of that duality —navigating his way through success and his career while still being himself. Kanye is now widely called “Yeezus.”

The ability to rule the lawless world that is the music business is a position that only Jay-Z has access to. He takes nothing away from any other artist right now, yet only he has the say to create cultural shifts as he sees fit. Jerseys? Not anymore. He’s 30-plus. Auto-tune? Dead. But these are small changes at the end of the day. How music is consumed and offered to the masses and profited on is the game itself. Not the hip-hop game, but the whole industry game. The rules need to be rewritten and Jay’s the man to do it. It’s his place and he’s assembled a team to do it right.

Kanye dropped Yeezus without a single too. So that’s not new. And years ago, Radiohead toyed with the idea of an album’s true worth when they released In Rainbows using the pay-what-you-want pricing model. But what separates Jay from the masses is that he is actively trying to write the rules for the future—because he can.

A platinum album’s worth of records will be given away by Samsung before the record is even released. Anyone who still measures success by album sales, can officially stop now. I don’t know what the new model will be, or if you can forge one in a medium that’s limitless. But if someone will figure it out, I put my money on Jay. Kendrick was named top MC of the 2013 earlier this year by Complex Magazine, and deservedly so. But you shouldn’t name such things so early on. The year is young and yesterday’s developments only reinforce that.

I’ll get Yeezus and Born Sinner tomorrow. I have made a point to isolate myself from leaks, up until this point. I’ll get The Gifted next week. All the while I’ll watch this Jay-Z mastery 673 more times between now and July 4. That, or I’m ‘a have to buy a Samsung and get it early.

Written by Sarosh Rizvi for HipHopCanada

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of HipHopCanada or its affiliates.

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Twitter: @KanyeWest | @S_C_ | @SaroshRizvi

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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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