July 12, 2013

Jay-Z, Kool Moe Dee, Performance Art and Picasso

As to Jay-Z’s July 10 performance of Picasso Baby at Pace Gallery, two pertinent quotes: the first, from Kool Moe Dee's 1987 How You LikeMe Now and the second, from Clement Greenberg’s 1956 David Smith review (where he says Smith is the best of his generation). 

Kool Moe Dee:
Rap is an art
And I'm a Picasso
But of course
Why else would you try so
Hard to paint a picture,
and try to get ya
Self in my shoes,
but they won't fit ya
I'm bigger and better,
forget about deffer
Every time I rocked the mic,
I left a
Stain in your brain
that will remain....

Clement Greenberg:
Modernist sculpture’s present malady, here and abroad, is artiness …  Artiness is usually the symptom of a fear lest the work of art not display its identity as art sufficiently....

Rap, as Moe Dee says, is already art.  It’s great to see Jay-Z still biting on old school masterpieces, but rap does not need the trappings of high profile art galleries or art world players and schmoozers (and certainly doesn’t need visual arts critics) in order to validate its quality or art status.  Rap that does require such embellishments is insecure about its quality and status.  We won’t quarrel about whether it is or is not art. Let’s just say it’s lame --- it displays an unsavory artiness.

BTW Kool Moe Dee could eat Jay-Z for breakfast and still be very, very hungry. Click on the lists from the indispensable Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists (St. Martin's/Griffin, 1999)

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