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Ball Don't Lie

Bad news: Mikhail Prokhorov won’t rap with Jay-Z, for fear of ‘Renegade’-ing him

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Mikhail Prokhorov has been known to shut down Russian ciphers, but won't stunt on Jay-Z. (Getty Images)

The ribbon cutting is scheduled for this Friday, but the Barclays Center, the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, doesn't officially open until Sept. 28, when part-owner Jay-Z kicks off a nine-night homestand sure to feature a slew of surprises and special guests. We shared word last month that Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov might be one of them, telling Crain's New York Business, "Yes, I will rap at his concert [...] I am in rehearsals now 10 hours a day and plan to demand joint billing."

The prospect of the 47-year-old Russian billionaire stepping on stage (in my mind's eye, dressed in a Sudeikis-evoking red adidas jumpsuit and gold rope chain) to kick rhymes about doing Jet Ski stunts in the Maldives, followed by a deafening ovation from a sold-out arena, seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it apparently was.

In a profile published in the October issue of Details magazine, Prokhorov backs off his statement to Crain's, shattering dreams (like Jordan) of music appreciators the world over. The full text of the Details interview isn't online just yet, but Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News shares the grim news:

"I respect rap greatly but don't consider myself a fan," said the billionaire owner of the Nets [...] "It was a complete surprise when I was asked to rap. But when I set myself to something, I always achieve great heights. So I don't think it would be fair to rap with Jay. I could cause irreparable damage to his professional career."

This is a real bummer for those of us who wanted to see Prokhorov reprise the mic-ripping performance he put forth on that Russian talk show earlier this year, but it's a smart business move — even if Jay-Z only owns a sliver of a percentage point of the team, he's clearly a valuable member of the organization, helping catalyze the team's rebranding in tangible and intangible ways. It's best not to sour that relationship unnecessarily, even if the havoc that Prokhorov wreaks on the mic is, as Jay himself might say, "so necessary."

Then again, maybe Prokhorov doesn't need to be so cautious. After all, as someone who referred to himself as "a real Russian Eminem" during that Russian TV appearance, Prokhorov should know as well as anybody that Jay's (arguably) been bested on wax before, with the real American Eminem (in the eyes of many) outpacing Jay on "Renegade," the sole collaborative track on Jay's 2001 classic album "The Blueprint."

But despite "Renegade" going down in rap history as one of the few times Jay publicly took a backseat (and on his own album, no less), it in no way derailed his career — the five solo albums he's released since "The Blueprint" have all hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 10 million copies combined, and last year's "Watch the Throne" collaboration with Kanye West was one of the biggest records of 2011. Plus, Jay continued to foster a relationship with Eminem, culminating in a series of highly successful concerts that ranked among the biggest shows in the world in 2010 and a signpost of how far hip-hop had come as a marketable cultural juggernaut.

Jay's too smart to let a little thing like getting outshone get in the way of his money, Mikhail! So why not get out there and spit a little? I'm sure I can find a gold rope for you to borrow, if it'd help.

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