Jay-Z is not in the name of this playlist only to create a punchline, rhyming with Salvador Dali - by the way, my first idea was to actually put a female rapper’s name. “Music to Nicki & Kandinsky lovers” seemed good. Nicki, Kandinsky, nice rhyme, nice references. I love Nicki Minaj’s music and Kandinsky’s paintings. Besides, she is as relevant as I’d need in order to attract people, and he is as abstract as I’d need in order to suggest that this playlist is here to take you out of your comfort zone. However, I couldn’t find any Nicki Minaj song that fills the sound purposes of this playlist (jazzy, or more like ambient music).
I’m not worried, though - there will be lots of women in this playlist too; but let me explain how I got to Jay-Z.
When I thought of songs that could sonically represent my idea of an intersection between sophistication (jazz), irreverence (rap) and subjectivity (visual arts), Jay-Z’s “F.U.T.W.” was one of the first songs that came to my mind.
Many of Jay’s lyrics contain lots of sexism and I don’t support that; notwithstanding, he is one of my biggest inspirations in terms of business and life approach, and “F.U.T.W.” is a great synthesis of this message.
The title stands for “F*ck Up The World”, which is not (necessarily?) an anarchist calling. Well, actually, the song does have a political tone, especially when Jay mentions black men who were silenced by the systems, like Malcom X and Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali). However, if it’s a calling to do anything, it’s to not let yourself be stopped from any worldly pattern telling you that you can’t do something. It’s also a calling to not “be good” but “be great”, like he raps at the beginning.
I like how Jay’s perceptions of how being “great” begins with recognizing your own greatness, in spite of what anybody wants you to believe. He mentions how “America tried to emasculate the greats”, and even so, he persisted in his purpose (“Just let me be great!”), he was brave enough to set out a date with destiny because he knew his destiny was to be great (“Me and Destiny got a date” - super clever line, by the way, considering that Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé, was once a part of a group called Destiny’s Child).
Furthermore, we have to understand that when he says “Don’t be good, my n*i**a, be great”, he is directing his message mostly to black people who, like him, did struggle to be respected, and/or still do.
Jay-Z got where he is now mainly due to his ability to “f*ck up the world”, to be hardworking and smart enough to not only survive but excel, in a world already so competitive and even harder for those who don’t fit the standard.
Jay-Z obviously wants his people to stop letting the world make them underdogs (“tell them rumble, young man, rumble, try to dim your lights, tell you ‘be humble’”), and to win (“Make a million, another million, let my n*ggas make a million ‘til we all check a billion”). He reminds them, however, that it’s not easy (“‘Cause the bars don’t struggle and the struggle don’t stop”).
Of course reality shouldn’t be like this to whose who are discriminated for their skin color or social conditions. Pressure makes diamonds, it’s true; however, it shouldn’t take so much sacrifice from one to feel included and respected. So, when Jay calls his fellow black brothers and sisters to “be great”, I believe it’s less because he wants them to keep living in a world where they have to fight for their rights, and more because he wants them to see, by his own example (“I’m from the bottom, I know you can relate”), that even if this day haven’t come yet, it is possible to break the pattern and be as great as you wish to be.
So how does all of this translates into music?
Jazz music came from black people, the same people who continued to be segregated as this genre became a symbol of elitism and “class”. So, I really like how the chorus of “F.U.T.W.” features such fine jazzy instrumentals that later align with a typical rap beat, in a perfect blending of being “refined” and being “hood” at the same time, genially alluding to the fact that the greatness of Jay-Z impresses even those who supposedly are not familiar with the high standards he hit (“Got stripclubs feeling like Oxford, I swear”).
Even if I don’t come from the same background as someone like Jay-Z, and even being very far from getting where he is, “F.U.T.W.” speaks volumes for me too, and I can’t help being fascinated by this song.
You can learn more about Jay-Z here:
About the curator: Ana Clara Ribeiro
Music, art and entertainment have always played a big role in the life of Ana Clara Ribeiro. She grew up in Gurupi (an inland city in Tocantins, the youngest State of Brazil), listening to all kinds of music, reading, writing, watching stuff and connecting them to her personal beliefs and other ideas she read about.
As she became a lawyer and a writer, all the topics to which she is constantly exposed continued to give her insights about life, people and the universe, through the lenses of art.
Nowadays, when she isn’t analyzing lawsuits or producing content about Law, Marketing, Business or Music, she is certainly doing something related to her various personal and professional projects, always to the sound of a playlist as eclectic as her life.