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Submitted by monica c on Sat, 4/28/2012, 12:10pm
went to post a comment on Lodro Rinzler's Jay-Z post, but the conversation is closed (??).
I hope this is not out of place, but I thought it was a really interesting post, and I love Jay-Z, so here's my two fat cents about the video. It's a great topic, the relationship between pop-culture and the dharma. I am grateful to Lodro for posting his series. When I first began to practice on this path, I had such a hard time reconciling my love for underground pop-culture, low-brow art, comic-con, the music and dance scene, etc with the messages of the Buddhism. Could they exist in the same world? But now i think it's a a funny idea, that we are asking ourselves if we are looking for dharma in non-dharmic places. Everything is dharma, isn't it? Thank you, Lodro for going there.
I got 99 problems but Jay-Z ain't one.
Beautiful Swizz Beatz aesthetic with the classic Jay-Z black and white. entrancing video. i adore them both. To me Jay-Z is class. Yeah there are dancing girls, but is this video misogynistic, as people were saying? I don't see that in it. To me those women are Goddess. All the way back to the beginning, Jay-Z has real women in his videos in addition to the obligatory "beautiful people." Women without make-up, women on the streets of Bed-Stuy. Of all rappers, he keeps it real, the man from Marcy projects always showing the place he came from, gritty streets, beautiful, real women (and men and children), not objectified, but honored, in my view of it. I love his videos. Jay-Z is the rapper famous for the way he honors his beautiful wife (well, she is Beyonce), and treats her like the mother goddess she is, saying he likes her better since she's had the baby and lost the high heels and make-up, and wears comfy clothes around the house and breast-feeds. Can more men make these kind of public statements please??
I love Jay-Z's powerful portrait of Rihanna in his "Run this Town" video... badass revolutionista (shades of Camilla Vallejo before she exploded into our consciousness), in a video that references the student uprising in Paris, and Les Mis, as much as anything in America... but foreshadowing OWS more than just a little, those people streaming through the streets, angry (the flash of a Mao image on that jacket??). In it Rihanna is beautiful, sexy, sometimes boy-like... and she is powerful. Misogyny is about disempowerment and dehumanization. Personally I think Jay-Z does the opposite to the women he portrays, for the most part. Even "99 problems" with its inflammatory title seems to be ironic, telling rappers to lay off their women-bashing and stick to the real issues facing black people in America (the lyrics of that one a premonition of the Trayvon Martin madness).
I could go on about all his other videos (young forever? love...), but back to this video, which leaves behind the projects for Swizz Beatz' aesthetic - clean lines and frames... he seems to be actually playing with our concepts of sexuality, not playing into stereotypes...there is a woman basketball player - beautiful, an androgynous man, shirt open, very feminine, a sexy shirtless male drummer, also a little androgynous, a woman ballet-dancing samurai, a little masculine - all gorgeous power - leaping into the air in a reference to kabuki theater - classic dancing girls, yes, but on "pedestals" (how different from the White Tara thangka on my wall here, I wonder?).... the discussion about women and objectification vs. goddess sexiness/sexuality is one i'd really love to have in the Buddhist context. I love to dance. i love to see beautiful women (and men) dancing. Is that bad? Human and animal and insect culture through all eternity been working the beauty thang to perpetuate life. is that wrong? Tell that to flowers and bees and frogs and peacocks and teenagers. What is the line between enjoying sexual attractiveness and misogyny?
Anyways... this video is in black and white, all the images constantly reversing. Beautiful dharmic image. Things become and contain their opposites.
There is also the white on black and the black on white liquid rorschach images... like Jay-Z saying: you will see what you want to see, your projections. What we see is our own narrative, our own storyline, our own "movie projection," to borrow Ethan Nichtern's image... the world is your inkblot. What do you see? Hatred? Beauty? Goodness? Evil?
The memento mori/ Damien Hirsch - referencing skulls: we can accumulate all the wealth we want to, but in the end we die, all of us. Even the most diamond-encrusted beautiful body will be a corpse.
And the reference to Heath Ledger's "joker" character. What is a performer, but a joker with his mask and stiched up smile. Rub it off, connect with your emotions, drop the mask and the fake smile/fake villain face and GET REAL, Jay-Z seems to be saying as the figure freaks out and rubs off the make-up, tears at the clothes.
His lyrics about tearing up what he has "bought"... tearing down what he has done and moving "on to the next one"... everything impermanent, constantly re-inventing, in flux, dying and being reborn.
Much respect for Jay-Z, Shawn Carter. he is an artist and a warrior.
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