The Vindication of Jay-Z

posted April 07, 2005 12:00:00 AM CDT | 7 comments

If you think Jay-Z is a biter, you are probably just uneducated in this game...or a hater. It's really as simple as that. Every rapper flips, borrows, or adopts rhymes from other rappers, it has been going on for a long time. Just look at the "Heard It All Before" section in XXL, they find 5 instances every monthmany of those where Jay is the lender. When Jay does it, there is one distinct difference; he uses lines from songs that everyone knows. Pretty much everyone who listens to Jay, listened to Biggie, they listened to Pac, so it is pretty damn easy to identify Big's contribution to "I Just Wanna Love Ya."

But I'll bet you had no idea when Ghost flipped nearly an entire verse from an old Divine Force song called "Holy War." How many people knew? How many kids have even heard of Divine Force? Several emcees, from Method Man to Talib Kweli to Erick Sermon borrowed from Audio Two last year alone. But how many even know Audio Two's classic "Top Billin" and all the times it has been used in rappers rhymes? Run DMC have had more lines used than I could even begin to count, by just about every emcee alive. KRS-One has borrowed from Kurtis Blow, and Divine Force for that matter. The list goes on and on.

Yet all the haters continue to take shots at Jay because they happen to recognize his source, unbeknownst to how many other rappers do it every year just because they aren't schooled. Just look at the Slick Rick line from that audio clip. The song is called "The Ruler's Back," Slick Rick's nickname was The Ruler (which Jay even points out in the song). So naturally, Jay flips a Slick Rick line in the song. But this is biting? Not paying homage to the man? Is it really that hard to figure that out? Or maybe some cats just don't know Slick Rick was the original Ruler. Or maybe they just don't care because it would mean they could hate Jay less.

There are about 40 bars in that audio clip that Jay-Z has been accused of biting. In his career I'll take an educated guess and say Jay has spit 12,000 bars, give or take. More importantly, most of those bars have been incredibly clever, witty and quotable. Does anyone ever claim Jay's best lines are those one's he has borrowed? No. So Jay has borrowed lines in about 0.4% of the bars he has spit. So did he decided to borrow those lines to pay homage or to put his own spin on a line he liked, or is it because he just wasn't talented enough to come up with a few more bars? He could handle those other 12,000, but that 40 was just more than he could handle. Get fucking serious.

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