On Tuesday, on a breezy, cool San Francisco night the On The Run tour officially ended. With it’s conclusion Jay Z and his wife Beyonce took their baby girl Blue, hopped on a private jet and flew away to parts unknown with another $100 million in the bank.
With the end of the highly successful tour so too probably ends a variable that was imperative to its success, the ever-present rumors of the couple’s demise. That’s because, according to Billboard, those rumors were just another tool in the sizeable war chest of the power couple, used effectively in coaxing sales to what was said to be a struggling tour. Now, On The Run is just another in a long line of commercial successes for Jayonce. But, in order to upkeep the luxurious gloss of their brand, they may have sunk to a new low and may have shown just how loose their grip is on not only their invulnerability but also reality as well.
Previously, Bey and Jay were the indestructible, an impenetrable powerhouse couple that could not be bothered with tabloids or rumormongers. Their wedding was a tight-lipped, its guest list diminutive and pictures non-existent. Same for their child, born in secrecy in a hospital on a whole floor all to their own, the first ever pictures uploaded to Bey’s personal Tumblr versus tabloids. For years Jayonce stood as the anti-Kimye. The couple we knew nothing about despite our lust for information, something authentic in a world of celebrity that is increasingly artificial. Now, they have effectively stolen the tabloids from Kim and Kanye and did so in a way that hints that it was all for the money.
Make no mistake, their show is supposedly amazing. A friend who attended Tuesday’s show called it the greatest concert he’d ever attended. Not a dance step wasted, not a note missed. An efficient beast with everything streamlined and calculated down to the second and the inch. Jay, the rare performer with a presence so strong that he could share and even steal the stage from the supernova that is his wife.
However, some apprehension between the two was indisputable, another friend even posted a video on Instagram of an awkward kiss they shared on stage. Beyonce nearly broke down during her rendition of “Resentment” (again). If the rumors are fake, they seemed to be playing to them. If they’re real, it seemed to penetrate through their perfectly orchestrated spectacle. It existed for all to see, whether the aforementioned acts were an acknowledgement of the trouble in paradise or an unavoidable remnant of actual trouble in paradise.
If it is indeed a staged dramatic performance, that level of commitment is both commendable and disturbing all at once. I’d almost rather it be the opposite. An actual shed of humanness peaking through an increasingly inhumane couple. A couple having a rift is something to which we all can relate. A pair of robotic money tree harvesting cyborgs are not.
Maybe this is to be expected from Mrs. Carter. Bred to be a superstar seemingly since birth and famous since her teenage years, life in the limelight is in many ways the only life she’s ever known. But Reasonable Doubt dropped when Jigga was already 26, and he didn’t really blow until Vol.2 two years later. A few shreds of the memory of a normal life should still exist inside the head of Shawn Carter no matter how far removed from normalcy he is. On top of that, the culture that allowed Jay this amount of celebrity and fortune celebrates authenticity and frowns on this type of facade. I feel like the Jay Z I grew up on would know better.
But then again, this is hardly the Jay I listened to and emulated as a teenager. This isn’t the guy that had me in low top white Air Force 1s and Rocawear. This isn’t the cultural hero who convinced me he’d wear durags to the Grammys and pop bottles on the White House lawn. I don’t know this manicured, tailored-suit-wearing, veneer-having Shawn Carter, stooping to the low of planting rumors in the name of sales and brand coercing.
Deep down, I don’t know if I really care.
If his next song is dope, I’ll play it and like it. It’s Hov, he’s the greatest. Plus I get it, this isn’t that Jay Z from years before. He’s nearly 45 years-old now. He lives an entirely different life than the one that spawned The Blueprint or even The Black Album. But it’s that life that birthed his greatest artistic achievements and, when he channeled that lifestyle again, he gave us American Gangster, his greatest work since then.
This is why watching his old episode of MTV’s Diary is maddening. It’s why the nostalgia of watching Jay cruise through the streets of New York mingling with fans quickly turns into disappointment. I want the Hov back that would follow up a show by going into a dingy ass, grimy Winston Salem club on a whim. That guy made some of my favorite music ever and I bought it because it was authentic, not because it was a part of some luxury branding scheme.
I’ve grown too though and long gone are the days where I admired Jay Z the rapper. Now my admiration is for Shawn Carter the businessman and business, man. His A-List status and A-List problems and musings don’t resonate with fans, but that’s probably by design.
Jay Z the rapper was never supposed to be relatable. While others sold bags, he had weight. By the time other rappers had weight, he had moved on to legitimacy. Jay Z helped show the world that rapping was just the mailroom of the music industry and from there you could move on to entrepreneurship and then the billionaires club. That type of success is admirable, but it’s hardly familiar. So continues the disconnect between Jay Z and the Jay Z fan even at the price of unmatched and unprecedented success.
I guess I should have seen this coming though, he did theoretically kill off Jay Z in the “99 Problems” video. Then he told me if I wanted his old shit buy his old albums on what was, in my opinion, his worst album ever. He even warned us all the way back on Vol.3, “Back to Shawn Carter the hustler, Jay Z is dead.”