Billionaire rap activist Jay-Z made waves recently with the announcement of a landmark deal with the NFL that would not only grant the rapper and mogul the title of “live music entertainment strategist” but also an ownership stake in one of the NFL’s 32 teams. Over the weekend, claims surfaced that Jay wasn’t the first hip-hop business figure to be offered the position. In an interview on his Twitter, songwriter Brian Michael Cox casually noted that Jay may have called Jermaine Dupri to advise his Atlanta associate to turn down the deal.
— Bryan-Michael Cox (@bryanmichaelcox) August 14, 2019
“We’re also talking about a guy who single-handedly picked up the phone and called Jermaine to tell him not to do it,” Cox said of the deal, hinting that JD was perhaps one of the NFL’s initial targets for business partnership. It would make sense; the NFL received a wave of criticism for its selection of Maroon 5 as 2019 Super Bowl performer in Atlanta, given the city’s rich and deep roster of important musical figures.
Now, New York DJ Funkmaster Flex has entered the fray, tweeting that he’d communicated with Dupri regarding the accusations against Jay-Z and that Dupri had confirmed that the conversation took place exactly the way Cox said. “I JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH JERMAINE DUPRI,” Flex wrote, in an accurate estimation of his actual speaking voice. “HE CONFIRMED THAT WHEN HE WAS WORKING WITH THE NFL LAST YEAR HE DID GET A CALL FROM JAYZ ASKING HIM.. ‘HOW DEEP ARE U IN WITH THE NFL?’ EXPRESSING… ‘THAT MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA.’”
I JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH JERMAINE DUPRI… HE CONFIRMED THAT WHEN HE WAS WORKING WITH THE NFL LAST YEAR HE DID GET A CALL FROM JAYZ ASKING HIM.. “HOW DEEP ARE U IN WITH THE NFL?” EXPRESSING… “THAT MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA”
— Funk Flex !!!!! (@funkflex) August 19, 2019
For his part in all this, Jay has taken flak from seemingly every direction for getting in bed with the NFL after the league blackballed former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for protesting police violence during the National Anthem. Jay initially showed support for Kaep’s cause, but after the deal was announced, he was noted as saying it’s time to move “past kneeling,” questioning “What’s next?” The move has been criticized by Eric Reid, Kaep’s co-plaintiff in his collusion case against the NFL — which was settled for an undisclosed sum — and by Kaep’s partner Nessa, herself an activist and public figure who critiqued the social justice initiatives baked into the deal.
For now, it seems we’ll have to wait to see what else comes out of the deal. Jay-Z looks like the bad guy now, but he’s been in similar positions in the past, as well. He may yet find a way to turn the criticism into a win, as he’s done before. And even if he doesn’t, the call-out culture will find a new target soon enough.