I’m asking this in ignorance because I really don’t know, but can anybody name a single Motown star that had a huge career or even a big hit before they signed with Motown?
I know of stars that left Motown to continued or even bigger stardom like Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5 which ultimately, of course, produced Michael Jackson, but when you think of that incredible roster which included – and I’ll be brief – The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Four Tops, you think of them primarily as young artists groomed and promoted by the Motown machine; possibly nobodies before, usually nobodies after, and probably nobodies without.
Now, looking at the roster of “new” stars at yesterday’s Roc Nation brunch, I couldn’t help but notice that a bunch of them seemed, artistically at least, a little long in the tooth.
I mean, I heard my first Fat Joe song back in 1993!
Then there’s Remy Ma who may or may not have something left in the tank.
Actor Clifford “T.I.” Harris was also present who, rumor has it, was also once a rap performer.
The most controversial attendee, of course, was Jim Jones, but not because he committed suicide in Guyana after ordering his followers to do the same, but because he, like Fat Joe, once had a very chilly “beef” with Roc Nation head and erstwhile rapper Jay Z (& if you gang members are watching, “beef” is settled with business, not with guns).
Still, in signing all these geezers, it seems like Jay Z’s forgoing the Berry Gordy-Motown strategy of inducing a self-perpetuating young people’s movement, to rock with the 80’s Al Davis Oakland Raiders strategy of signing aging stars with possible chips on their shoulders and already with one foot, possibly two, in their athletic graves.
Even more oddly still, it also seems that Hov’s shockingly forgetting a fundamental law of the music industry: that it’s a youth-driven industry and the one thing the kids want most of all is their own stars.
Jay Z himself is everybody’s father’s favorite rapper.
Could he have simply lost his fucking mind?
Legendary Atlanta-based New York DJ Tone Fresh suggests that Hov may be such a control freak that he’d sign a bunch of former foes just to be in authority over them.
That’s possible too.
Or could Hov be going for either one last smash hit per artist or one significant mega-album which would reinvent music as we know it?
I remember how right after chipping with the 49ers, Deion Sanders appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline “Why Is This Man Worth 35 Million?” which was what his new Dallas Cowboys contract was worth.
The article argued that if the Cowboys, with Sanders, won even one ring, he’d have proven well worth the investment.
The Cowboys went on to chip that very same season.
And maybe that’s what Jay Z has in mind.
I mean he does have some younger talent.
There’s J. Cole of course, Yo Gotti, DJ Mustard and the ever radiant Rihanna; who looked for all the world like she was enduring the Roc Nation brunch with the same plastic grin and gritted forbearance as a bride-to-be sitting through her mother showing baby pictures of her to her intended.
— Romy (@badg4lrihanna) February 12, 2017
If, perhaps, Jay Z could pull off a worldwide mega-tour with all the marketing and merchandising that would naturally accompany such a feat, signing all those old heads may indeed be a coup.
Provided, of course, no one falls and breaks a hip along the way.