Jay-Z checks in with his top ghostwriter. (Jennifer Pottheiser/NBA/Getty Images)
After Jay-Z announced the creation of Roc Nation Sports in partnership with the powerful Creative Artists Agency and the signing of New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano last week, it seemed only a matter of time until the legendary rapper would have to address the prospective conflict between his new venture and his role as a part-owner of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets. Since NBA rules preclude individuals affiliated with player representation companies from having ownership stakes with NBA teams, something would have to give ... and it began to Tuesday afternoon, when Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has begun the process of selling off his Nets shares so that he could extend Roc Nation Sports' reach into professional basketball.
Since that report, lots of folks have decided to resume making little jokes about the relatively small size of the stake Jay's selling, which was famously revealed to be "a scant one-fifteenth of one percent" by the New York Times last August and has since been revealed to be worth around $350,000. That's still more of an NBA team than I own, so I will take no shots at Hova, but others haven't felt as charitable (or, perhaps, just own way more of an NBA team than I do), and this — in addition to people criticizing Jay and his wife, Beyoncé, for their recent trip to Cuba — led to the multiplatinum recording artist getting all steamed, recording an angry missive and releasing it through his Life + Times website.
In the track, titled "Open Letter," he vents over a beat produced by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz (clearly forsaking his New York Knicks family to work with the Nets part-owner) about, well, a bunch of stuff, including the response to his reported Nets divestment. You can listen to "Open Letter" after the jump — please be aware, though, that it includes not-suitable-for-work language, so maybe plug the headphones in and keep it away from the kiddies.
The relevant chunk from an NBA perspective:
Would've brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free
Except I made millions off of/off it (?) you f***ing dweebs
I still own the building, I'm still keeping my seats
You buy that bulls***, you better keep your receipts
There's been quite a bit of conversation on Thursday about that second line — understandably so, since the difference between "off of" or "off it" could mean the difference between Jay taking a shot at one of his ownership partners or just snapping back at those who've continued to crack wise about "one-fifteenth of 1 percent." Given Jay's history of bristling at what he perceives as media attempts to undermine his role in the organization, I'd bet on the latter; then again, the line sounds much more like "off of" than "off it" to me, so it could go either way. The target of Jigga's venom remains unclear.
It's also unclear whether he'll actually "still own the building" — his ownership stake included "just under a fifth of a percent" of Barclays Center — or whether, even after removing all financial ties to the team, it's just that he'll "still own the building" in the sense of being culturally associated with the structure and having opened it with eight consecutive nights of sold-out concerts. I bet the "keeping my seats" thing is legit, though; he can definitely afford to hang onto his courtsides. (Just watch out for kicked balls while you're down there, Hov.)
One thing, though: That "politicians never did [poop] for me" line doesn't really square in the narrative of the Nets' move to Brooklyn, the Atlantic Yards project and the building of the Barclays Center. That featured plenty of political action and inaction, including evasions of environmental review, a dubious project approval process, millions in state and city subsidies for developer/part-owner Bruce Ratner's Forest City Enterprises, and the exercising of eminent domain to effectively "gobble up homes and transform a neighborhood" into the site of a massive arena.
I've got no quarrel with Jay-Z's hustle and I know he's referring to the Republican members of Congress with bees in their bonnets about the Cuba trip, but if he's going to brag about making millions off his investment in the Nets, maybe he should doff the Yankee-hat-he-made-more-famous-than-a-Yankee-can to the New York state and city lawmakers who helped bulldoze Barclays' way. (Also, President Barack Obama — with whom Jay repeatedly reminds us he is quite tight, offering another such reminder in this song — is a politician, too. Kind of a big one.)
In conclusion: "Reasonable Doubt" was a really good album, and it's still fun to say "dweeb."