But just like the politician that he occasionally texts, Jay Z is exactly who should disappoint us, unless our admiration is mute conformity and our optimism was a party smile. His friend has disappointed us by allowing a squeegee of surveillance to be dragged across America and approving the killing of foreign civilians with robots. Those civilians, in another country, see America the way Trayvon Martin saw George Zimmerman — a force they couldn’t stop physically creating a story they couldn’t fight historically. So what should Jay Z be doing instead of currying favor with critics in an art gallery? Maybe something like what his friend Kanye West thought up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when he blurted out, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Jay Z may be our most accomplished rapper but he rarely does anything to alienate anyone the way that West continually, and valuably, does. Which is probably why Carter represents athletes now, for profit and pleasure.I think Frere-Jones fancies himself some sort of genius rapper of the print medium, cramming together disparate references and conveying a tone of outrage over... oh, who know what? What's Frere-Jones's problem here? Jay Z shouldn't work for profit? He shouldn't aspire to an art gallery audience?
Jay Z’s performance at the Pace Gallery, a transparent rewrite of Marina Abramović’s “The Artist Is Present,” took place three days before the Zimmerman verdict, so what could he have done to leverage his influence? He could have ditched the idea of lip-synching to “Picasso Baby” (a weak retread of “99 Problems”) and recreated the Zimmerman-Martin showdown with everyone in the room, following them around the perimeter of the gallery and scaring the shit out of them, eventually pulling a gun. And though that would have been the aggressive vision of a different artist, Jay Z is exactly the kind of figure who could weather the ensuing controversy, retaining all of his homes and maybe even his Samsung deal.Speaking of failing to scare the shit out of people, for whom is this New Yorker shit writ?