As each femcee blesses the track, she echoes their brilliance by riffing along with them. “Damn! We had an era.” Today, my sister and I are in different worlds but still so connected. I am cleaning up. She is preparing for her radio show. She was right, Salt-N-Pepper, Queen Latifah, Left Eye, Yo Yo, MC Lyte all on the same track. Try putting a team of mainstream female emcees like that today, I dare you.
Barclay is our grandmother's maiden name: Shirley Barclay. The name Redmon came from my grandfather, no doubt a family name that originated at the point of contact with the Whiteman. When I learned that the new Brooklyn Nets arena was going to be called The Barclay Center, my first thought was, “Can my family share in some of the profit?” Instead Jay-Z is.
The Barclay Bank profited from its participation in the enslavement of African people, largely in the West Indies. Now, they’ve stamped their name on the building that marks a ferocious period of displacement of Black people, culture and commerce, in the area with the largest population of people who migrated from the West Indies. And what do they offer the local people? Jobs.
That’s what the man said at the bodega all the way in Queens. My sister tells this story on her radio show. “Oh, you looking for a job. You should go down to that Barclay’s Center.” Your ancestors may have worked their bodies until their calloused hands and feet bleed and their spines curled over while providing generations of free labor to build the Barclay empire and now you can sling hot dogs and popcorn at an hourly wage that is insufficient for purchasing tickets to the game. Thanks Barclay. “Pay us like you owe us.” Wait, who said that? Right, Jay-Z.
By the way, fuck Jay-Z. I always considered his role in the rap industry as that of a slave trader. Is slave trader too hard? When Europeans invaded the African continent they brokered deals with African chiefs to get access to those Black bodies that would be transported across the Atlantic ocean. Mr. Carter cannot deny that he was a chief salesman of a glorified ghetto reality that is the direct opposite of the value systems our communities need. In the fifteen years since his debut album dropped has he contributed to the values of hyper-consumerism, materialism, and the lowest forms of Hollywood gangsterism which corrode Black youth culture from the inside out?
Has Jay really become hip-hop’s Jehovah, too sacred to critique? Are leaders who claim to continue hip-hop’s promise to be a voice for the people blinded by the fame, the legacy and Jay’s future in philanthropy and politics? Has Jay-Z become untouchable?
When I tune into my sister’s radio show, she rants about the Barclay Center, dropping jewels about the bank’s historical trading of human beings and contemporary displacing of Brooklyn Black folk. Before she got around to it her co-host warned her not to go after Jay-Z. He’s Brooklyn’s son. He has the people. If you question his right to make as much money as possible, people will call you a hater and stop listening. The hip-hop generation's value systems are reaching hegemonic levels: an individual’s pursuit for individual gain is the ends which justify any means, don't hold anyone accountable or be labeled a hater, don't hate the player, hate the game, don't ruin it for us, just watch the game.
Have we given up on transforming systems of power
Critical thinking has dimmed beneath a whisper. For years, we have absent-mindedly nodded our heads to the beats. What have we agreed to?
The Brooklyn Nets will play their first game at the Barclay Center tonight. I will probably watch it. I have been a fan of the Nets since I started watching basketball.