Why Jay-Z is a walking videogame. (Or: Jay-Z is performing for free.)
(Skip to the bottom of the post for free concert details.)
Besides the special "Renegade Edition" of DJ Hero, which carries Jay-Z and Eminem's bulletproof endorsement (among other cool bonuses), there are rumors that Jay-Z is entering the games business. He and Eminem even performed at E3 this year. Even if we don't end up controlling Hova in some kind of third-person shooter / empire-building sim, it's nice to think that his off-and-on rivalry with 50 Cent might take itself into the realm of pixels and power-ups.
I don't think it's a coincidence that many of his most compelling singles sound like videogames. Listen to songs like "Sunshine" from Vol. 1, whose computerized vapor and analog bass pulses not only hark back to '80s electro, but whose total flatness in 1997 must have struck a chord with the Nintendo generation. Or "Jigga What, Jigga Who" from Vol. 2, an epochal Timbaland beat made of drum-machine pieces that shiver and interlock like Lumines blocks. Then there's the "Indian" flute of "Things That You Do" from Vol. 3, which might as well be taken straight from Zelda.
So it's no surprise that Jigga sounds like a natural over actual Zelda music on the Ocarina of Rhyme remix album:
Jay's a celebrity who knows how to operate on the bleeding edge of pop culture, who rides beats in space like the Silver Surfer. You can even see it in his eyes in this video of the making of "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," the shock and awe of hearing something totally unreal and gravity-defying, like the best videogame. There's a real fantasy component to building an empire like Roc-A-Fella.
That's one aspect of Jay-Z's persona. His music's always contained a weird conflict between soulful authenticity and making hits. His latest album, The Blueprint 3, with its earthy production and railings against auto-tune artifice ("This is anti-autotune / death of the ringtone / This ain't for iTunes / This ain't for singalong / This is Sinatra at the opera...") is decidedly the former. And it's probably best to watch that paradox play out on stage.
Jay's performing for free in Chicago on Sept. 8, as part of the Samsung Summer Krush Concert Tour. That's no small deal, since his Sept. 11 show in NYC will cost you $50 a ticket.
(If you want a shot at getting tickets, click here to register. Tickets will be made available and distributed at random times daily. You'll need to provide your email, phone, and this promo code: "Samsung." If you like free stuff but can't make the show, here's this: comment below and you'll enter a drawing for a free Samsung Jack phone at the end of the summer.)
BONUS LINK: Beanie Sigel's "Mac Man," whose beat is built out of Pac-Man samples and sounds right at home on Roc-A-Fella Records.