When I come back like Jordan, rockin' the 4-5. -"Encore"
would've thunk it? Jay-Z is staging a comeback. Staging is certainly the
proper word to use. This here is theater, folks. Draw the curtains! Hire a bunch
of stagehands! Who the hell is working the spotlight?
Let's remember how S. Carter left this game we call rap (or this rap we call a
game). His exodus took place at Madison Square Garden — the only suitable venue
for such a departure. He dubbed the show Fade to Black. He performed in
front of a sell-out crowd who roared for an encore, knowing damn well they were
going to get it (whether it was in fifteen minutes or three years).
The event was very reminiscent of the archetype for early retirement/comebacks
in hiphop culture, Michael Jordan's comeback (his first one, of course). When
Jordan left basketball in 1993, he was treated to a television special filmed
live at the arena in Chicago. He received adoration from fans and peers alike
and had his jersey risen to the rafters. Before delivering his farewell speech
he was given a standing ovation that lasted for what seemed to be eternity. It
was long. Very long. Jordan had to stand there, smiling in his brummagem
turquoise suit, thanking the crowd repeatedly. He eventually had to plead with
them to quit their clapping.
Many people predicted Jordan would come back — some even swore it.
For Jay-Z, fading to black wasn't very permanent. Black was left out in the sun,
tanning with Beyonce, and now its fading back to gray. It will be bleach white
come November. The credits will have to be recalled. They'll roll again whenever
the next retirement is announced.
Rumblings and rumors had been floating around since the day he left. He recently
made it official — no doubt finalizing a number of bets. The payoff probably
won't be too grand for those gamblers considering everyone placed the same bet.
"The Roc is in the building" has always been the motto for Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella
cohorts. Now the Roc is the building — the industry of Def Jam, the ownership of
the New Jersey Nets — the rock is a cragged building. It is a cave closed over
with a boulder. Shawn Carter is to emerge from the enclosure after a short
hiatus (it's only been three years since his "retirement" — a period full of
touring, guest spots, and business-end tinkering). In three years he rose again
in fulfillment of every MC average Joe's predictions.
With the comeback imminent, a single poised for release next month and the album
the following (subject to delays and push-backs, of course), I took to the
boulevards, avenues, and culs-de-sac to survey the people. I wanted to ask a
random group of individuals — crossing over all demographics — whether they
predicted Jay-Z would return to rap. Here are the results:
Question: Did you think Jay-Z would come back to the rap game?
Answer: "The city is his — that's what my son tells me. He never told me Jay-Z
quit, so I guess it was like he never left." (Clifford Eli, Manhattan, NY, age
46, occupation: works on Wall Street)
Answer: "Unlike the spelling of my name, there was no question." (?uestlove,
Philadelphia, PA, age 35, occupation: drummer for the Roots)
Answer: "Googoo-gaga-anye-banye-kanye-shanye-poop." (Petey Pietropinto,
Garfield, NJ, age 10-weeks old, occupation: baby)
Answer: "Hell yeah! He can't leave rap alone. The game needs him." (Cynthia
Torres, Weehawken, NJ, age 15, occupation: student)
Answer: "As long as he was able to keep himself from getting shot." (Theodore
Muntz, Coxsackie, NY, age 74, occupation: retired postman)
No one is shocked, Mr. Carter. Mister S [dot] Carter. Everyone expected your
comeback. Nobody has been duped, hoodwinked, or four-flushed. We saw this coming
from miles and miles away. We are not fools or gudgeons. Aside from bringing to
light your dilettantish interest in drama, what did this self-imposed retirement
You have mistreated us, Jigga. You better return up to snuff. You had better not
return even slightly out of shape. Jordan did. He returned mid-season with
baseball slugger forearms and an awkward number on his chest — he had to wait a
whole summer before leaping his way back to the top. Don't make that same
mistake. You owe us for the insult that was your retirement. I conclude with a
quote from your former adversary, Nasir Jones: "You tae-bo hoe." I'm sorry,
wrong quote. Here's the one I meant to use: "You love the attention."