Jay Z, Beyonce and a very public kick at the crown jewels
At least Jay Z did not fight back – that should go down well with his friends in the White House
IS THIS the moment of schadenfreude where the American public get to enjoy the very public embarrassment of their prince and princess of pop culture, Jay Z and his missus, Beyonce?
Few have not seen the CCTV footage of Jay Z fending off a ferocious assault from Solange, the fashionista and aspiring singer who is Beyonce’s younger sister.
It is spectacular, and a terrific scoop for the gossip site TMZ. The security camera in an elevator at the groovy downtown New York hotel The Standard captures Jay Z stepping in with Beyonce, Solange, and a hefty security guard. They are all dressed to the nines because they are on their way to a Met Ball after-party in The Standard's rooftop bar, known as the Boom Boom Room.
No sooner do the doors slide shut than Solange throws a punch at Jay Z, known on his birth certificate as Shawn Carter. He manages to grab her wrist, fending off the blow.
There follows a melee as the security guard, his head like a polished Viking helmet bobbing just below the camera, manages to wrap his arms around Solange and hold her more or less at bay. This goes on for several seconds. Beyonce stands quietly at her husband’s side, but makes no attempt to intervene.
The guard presses the emergency halt button, stopping the car because it would be a good idea to keep this private. Just when things look like they are under control, a rather elegant leg flashes from beneath Solange’s skirts and she very nearly lands a kick right between the great man’s legs.
Carter makes no attempt to fight back. That could become crucial in the forthcoming image wars. One chain on Facebook was immediately lauding him as a “gentleman”, and that should certainly go down well with the royal couple’s innumerable friends in high places, starting at the West Wing of the White House.
On the other hand, what is the “base” to think of that - Carter’s old ‘gangsta’ milieu and a good few of the young men who fork out vast sums for his giddying range of products in hopes of catching a little of his charisma? He has sung often enough about “bitches” and how to handle them. What was he doing letting Solange get away with such disrespect?
Something of this, of course, applies to the whole “gangsta” fetish. How to maintain the street credibility without alienating the one-percenters whose company is such balm to the ego? It is very Gatsby. Just as in that quintessentially American story, the man with the interestingly shady past reaches the giddy heights of celebrity, only to be undone as the façade cracks to reveal the squalor within.
Is the façade cracking?
The Daily Beast takes the lead with this way of thinking in an article titled 'Why does the world idolize Jay Z?'
“Now, America loves a good redemption story,” the Beast goes on. “Heck, we let an ex-boozehound halfwit run the country for eight years. And Jay Z’s rags-to-riches tale would make Horatio Alger wet his trousers.
"A child born in the Marcy Houses - a sketchy housing project in BedStuy, Brooklyn - raised (along with his three siblings) by a single mother after their father jumped ship with a preternatural gift of the gab who rises to become the world’s preeminent rap mogul. 'I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,' he rapped.
“But everyone’s favorite homophone-happy MC has a long, troubling history that’s been all but erased from our collective memory.”
That might not be quite right: some of it has been erased, and some of it has been carefully manipulated to suit the image of the gangsta-entrepreneur.
As the Beast details, the talented Carter grew up rough enough to have faced the fate of many young black Americans, a lifetime in jail. When he was 12, he shot his older brother, a drug addict, in a fight over a stolen ring. Carter wrote in his memoir, Decoded, that “I thought I would go to jail forever” - but his brother stuck to code and refused to press charges.
So Carter was free to become a teenage drug dealer. He boasted of this in an interview with Vanity Fair last November. “I mean,” he said, “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer.”
In 1999, already a rapper on the rise, Carter went to the Kit Kat Klub on West 43rd Street off Times Square, and stabbed a man named Lance Rivera in the back with an eight-inch knife. Two years later, he pleaded guilty in court in exchange for a sentence of three years’ probation.
Not long after that, he was caught on camera slapping a small woman with a camera who approached him as he made his way from a concert stage.
Is this all good colourful material for an artist with roots in the ghetto? Or is it a reason to wonder why America and a world in thrall to pop culture would reward such a man?
Carter, now 44, is listed by Forbes magazine as worth $520 million. The money comes from a whole range of enterprises, including part-ownership of the New York Nicks basketball team. He is the third richest of the “rap culture” entrepreneurs after Sean 'Diddy' Combs at $700 million and Andre 'Dr Dre' Young with $550 million.
Sean Combs brushed off far bigger things than a scuffle in an elevator on his way to the top.
But as the newshounds chase the story, there is already one small clue as to what was going on that might just trigger a backlash.
The Hollywood Life site claims to know “the real reason" Solange lashed out at Jay Z. It quotes an "insider" saying it had all begun with a "heated conversation" before the Met Ball between Beyonce and her husband.
“Solange doesn’t like the way Jay Z controls Beyonce," said the website's source. "Beyonce would never speak up to him or defend herself, so Solange does it. Solange is not afraid of him and is fed up with him calling all the shots in Beyonce’s life.”
The source goes on: "That’s why Beyonce didn’t do anything, because Solange was coming to HER defence. Solange and Beyonce are extremely tight and Solange has always been very protective of her. Obviously Solange couldn’t take it anymore and flipped out."
Well, you never know. Perhaps the doors of the palace will crack, to reveal a life of misery and dysfunction as the formerly revered prince of bling torments the princess with the golden voice so beloved of their people.
That would make a good story. ·