New York City
Regarding Jeff Chang’s “Moving On Up” [Jan. 22]: I was an orchestra member in Jay-Z’s ten-year retrospective at Radio City last summer. In all my years of performing at events like this, I have never seen anything close to the naked frolic of orgiastic corporate reciprocal penetration. With the shiny Maybach parked outside the Sony studios, the side deals, endorsements, jigging eBay for signed tickets, sneakers, product placement and underwriting, it was a festival of getting over, flogging a soggy product of retreaded samples, riffs, sentiments and drug lore in the name of the people’s hip-hop. Apparently as stunned by the razzle-dazzle as the hapless audience members, Local 802 of the musicians’ union rolled over on a contract that was pathetically permissive, paying too late and too little, especially in the context of the tsunami of cash exchanges going on. At the end of the day, I saw a small, charismatic, hideously overcompensated, moderately talented man casting a very large shadow–because he was dancing too close to a scorching light.
Jay-Z’s popularity may be attributed to “brandism,” or hyper-consumerism, but Jay-Z is a byproduct of Reaganomics and gross consumerism. Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) represents the dual consciousness that African-American males face on a daily basis. He has the impossible task of balancing his life as a former project kid and street hustler with goals of “making it” and achieving the American Dream, a dream that has purposely excluded African-American males. I credit Jay-Z for his successes and for remaining an inspiration for African-American males who come from dire and deplorable situations.
GERALD FORD, MR. NICE GUY
Wiley Ford, WV
Thank you, Victor Navasky, for “Ford, Nixon, The Nation” [Jan. 22]. I was beginning to believe I was the only one in the world who believed that St. Gerald struck a deal with the Nixon pardon. Whether he was a nice guy or not, Ford left us with two bombs. First, he was against the war but would not let us know until after he was gone and thousands of people were dead. Second, with his example, what good would it do to impeach the Weasel in the White House? Vice President Cheney would just hand out a pardon.
DENNIS M. LAVIN
On the “honest,” “decent” Gerald Ford: All Warren commission members pledged not to profit from the endeavor. Ford had his staff cobble together a book. At a Senate hearing Ford was asked if he would pardon Nixon. He said, “I don’t think the people would stand for it.” These items get almost no press. Instead we hear of self-toasted English muffins and self-picked-up dog poop!