Like him or not, until the ascension of Weezy in 2008, Jay-Z had been the titular “Best MC in the Game” for an astonishing 11 years. His reign began in 1997 with the death of the Notorious B.I.G. who had taken the reigns from Snoop in ‘95, who himself had come to power after that contentious period between 1986-1992 when the crown went back and forth regularly between Rakim and KRS-One, with Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and LL Cool J all staking legitimate claims.
But then I turned on the radio Friday evening and heard Mr. Cee and Funkmaster Flex cackling like two geriatrics that had just discovered internet porn. Turns out, each of these two get a shout-out in Jay-Z’s latest song. Since they’ve also got some scores to settle of their own, they seem to figure that Hov’s latest is just the cover they needed to get behind for them to begin firing wildly.
In Jay-Z’s newest song, D.O.A., or Death of Autotune, Hov uses his status as a trend-setter and tastemaker to attempt to end the latest trend run amok, rappers and singers who use Autotune; that infuriating voice altering device, first brought to the surface by Peter Frampton, which makes everybody sound like Roger Troutman on crack. T-Pain, today’s standard bearer of the device’s usage, gets a special mention (well, diss) in the song as well.
It’s a good song. The lyrics are vintage Jay, and the No I.D. track is steady with occasional flashes of the spectacular. But will it work?
Sure, Jay saying that “I don’t wear jerseys, I’m 30 plus” ended the trend of grown men running around impersonating sports stars and his throwaway lyric, “I guess I got my swagger back” started the runaway usage of a word that was never even clearly defined as complimentary. We can attribute “ass-bet”, “real talk” and a host of others to him and his crew, but the difference this time seems to be that while those other culture-altering phenomenon were organic, never before has Hov attempted something so clearly contrived. Added to the risk involved is that Jay’s own label-mate, protégé and the Kobe to his Jordan—Kanye West—is completely addicted to Autotune.