Morning Music: Jay Z

Hard Knock LifeIt is not just because I’m a middle aged white man that I know so little about hip-hop. The universe of music is large, and I tend to push backwards, even while new music piles up. But many years ago, I heard a hip-hop song that used what I could clearly hear was was “It’s a Hard Knock Life” off the original cast album of Annie. You could just hear Andrea McArdle’s powerful voice ringing out above the chorus. And the hip-hop song was probably my first indication that there really was something different about the music.

I decided to look up the song last night and I found out that it was by Jay Z. Understand: pretty much the only thing I know about him is that he’s married to Beyoncé (who I also don’t know anything about), and that they are friends of the Obamas. Oh, and I know that they are hugely wealthy and popular. So it is a little embarrassing that the song that really impressed me almost two decades ago turns out to be someone who is so widely admired that his net worth — even without Beyoncé — is over a half billion dollars.

Just the same, I have nothing against artistry and craft. And all this money is due to the fact that we have a broken intellectual property system combined with a really effective distribution system. Clearly, he ought to be rich. Just not as rich as he is. But he’s a whole lot more deserving than Bill Gates. Windows 2.01 doesn’t age like this:

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