James Turrell, “Afrum I (White)” (1967) (image by Michael Lowell, via Flickr)

Yesterday saw the release of a single from Jay Electronica, the second this month from the elusive London-based rapper. This latest song, a remix of a track originally by Drake and Soulja Boy, features Jay with alphabetic ally Jay Z, to whose Roc Nation label he is signed. Though the younger artist uses the song to drop some of his heavily traveled Five Percenter religious material, Jay Z deploys his verses to settle a more earthly score: a response to a comment Drake made about his Picasso proclivities in a Rolling Stone profile last month. In that interview, Drake sagely put down “trendy art shout-outs” in rap: “It’s like Hov can’t drop bars these days without at least four art references! I would love to collect at some point, but I think the whole rap/art world thing is getting kind of corny.”

Hence this rejoinder from Jay Z, which can be heard at the two-minute mark in the Soundcloud version below:

Sorry Mr. Drizzy for so much art talk
Silly me rappin’ ’bout shit that I really bought
Why these rappers rap about guns they ain’t shot?
And a bunch of other silly shit that they ain’t got.


A classic Eggersonian smarming, as laid forth in Tom Scocca’s recent treatiseDo not dismiss a book until you have written one, do not dismiss art talk until you have art, etc. Though in our estimation Drake’s original assessment is only bolstered by such contrived puffery, Jay Z’s insinuations may also prove inapplicable — in that same Rolling Stone piece, Drake mentioned that not only did he “fuck with Turrell” (“a big influence on the visuals for my last tour”), but a foray into collecting was imminent:

Inside the next installation, a LACMA guide named Jason says something like, “If you look long enough, you’ll notice that your sense of depth begins to . . . ,” but Drake is busy having his assistant snap pictures of him. In one shot, Drake throws up his arms in a crucifix pose; he gazes off morosely in another. When he’s done, we make our way through the rest of the retrospective. Museumgoers stop and gawk as Drake drifts past. One security guard calls out, “I love your shit!”

“How much would it be to get a ‘Perceptual Cell’ for your house?” Drake asks Jason. “Twenty million?”

“Wow, I don’t know,” Jason says. “Turrell does do residential commissions, though.”

“I’m gonna find out,” Drake says.

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

27 replies on “Jay Z Disses Drake in Art-Collecting Tête-à-Tête”

  1. Wow, so weird to see James Turrell and Drake in the same sentence… I love Drake and he may be able to buy a piece but he’ll probably never be able to understand it.

      1. I’d give his rapping on Belafonte as an extraordinarily huge lack of awareness in general that discredits him having any true understanding beyond his immediate hiphop expertise. His reaction was telling beyond his lack of knowledge of history but his understanding of the world which art requires some semblance of awareness beyond spouting names like a laundry list of designer labels ones acquired. We can also point to his recent line on Beyonces album again a general cluelessness while deftly wielding a metaphor a lack of understanding the inappropriateness of context. Again J no longer gets that benefit of the doubt for understand exactly what he’s referring to, he lacks that sort of depth and understanding as proven regularly in his own lyrics while he aspires to depth (lyrically he’d love to be talib kweli apparently) he continues to prove with his still clumsy with context.

    1. If he’s not a billionaire, he’s pretty close. I think he understands human nature better than you’re giving him credit. It’s not even close to his first foray into the art world, and he’s got quite the collection to boot.

      1. Nah he’s gotten that chance several times in 2013 and continues to prove he’s a collector sure, but an understanding beyond the cash value of what he’s collecting belongs to his advisors. Great advisors much like a great stylist who advises celebs what to wear.

        1. Art is about 2 things – taste and what you can afford. It’s pretty clear JZ can afford just about anything he wants.

          But your assertation that he has no taste in art is ignorant. It’s ignorant simply because you have no way to verify this.

          Just because he didn’t get an art history degree while he was rapping his way to Tribeca doesn’t mean he knows nothing about art or that he can’t form an opinion. I would argue that his ability to put together an extremely large collection of hit records (gold & platinum), successful launch and sale of street wear brand, successful collaborations with other brands (Ace, samsung, energizer), financial wherewithal not to lose every dollar, chain of 40/40’s, and a sports agency would all be indicative of someone that’s pretty smart. I bet he’s probably got his own level of artistic taste and is able to buy what he wants and doesn’t give a fuck if some guy says he bought the wrong Basquiat.

          Even in the hood whack shit gets bombed over. But having money like JZ has probably makes it easy because Gagosian and Zwirner aren’t going to carry whack shit to begin with, so all he has to do is pick what he likes.

          1. Art is about just two things?…Thanks for edjukatin’ me. I was yearning for a few more options. Checkers always sell more than chess, too.

          2. “So vast is art, so narrow human wit.”
            ~~Alexander Pope

            “Art is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep.”
            ~~Paul Strand

            “That’s it Mister! You just lost your brain privileges!”

            Hey, c’mon, Drop some science.

          3. A collection of other peoples thoughts that don’t contribute your own assessment. All you’ve done is reaffirm art is a matter of taste (and when taste sucks, something that money can support).

          4. “OK, you’re right… Art is just a matter of taste and money. And I should not reference people smarter than I, to buttress my oppositional view- points.”{sarcastic font)…………Nuff ced.

            But I’d wager all, you are left of 50, as I am on the wrong side of 50?
            Like you, when I was young, I knew so much more.

          5. Higgs, I’m not sure what age has to do with this. Using that as a buttress is even weaker than using other people’s words. Also the backhanded insult doesn’t do you any favors.

            See the words used have a certain context and the context they used them in and the context you’re using them in are so separated that it doesn’t make sense. I could quote Forrest Gump and make it seem relevant to our conversation, but really it isn’t.

            Art is as simple as your tastes, and the more you try to muddy the waters the harder you make it for yourself. Ready made work proves this, how else can you explain a urinal held on the same set of walls as a Delacroix? If you do or don’t see something as art that is your own personal taste; furthermore if you have enough money (steve cohen) you can practically push anything into the museum level, time will determine if you’re correct, but at least temporarily you will be. What I think is good, you may think is bad? Does that make either of us wrong? No.

          6. Marcel might be the first to say, When one makes a declarative statement, especially about art, the opposite can be true. When one is youngish, hard clear dogma sometimes appears attractive. Seeing an artist in the deep mtns of Bhutan, he didn’t seem to contemplate finances or tasteful followings. I don’t think James Castle did either.
            Forrest has a more open clarity.

            Art can be functional, too?

          7. I think we’re veering away from what the purpose of my comment was, but as long as you don’t mind continuing I don’t either.

            Looking at an artist creating art in the mountains of Bhutan is interesting, because it enters into that ‘tree falling’ question. Better minds came up with this conclusion: Albert Einstein is reported to have asked his fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard he (Einstein) may try, he would not be able to prove that it does, thus giving the entire riddle the status of a kind of an infallible conjecture—one that cannot be either proved or disproved.

            If art has no audience is it art? It seems it can’t be proven or disproved. But I think if an audience is able to view it, it quickly becomes quantified, there are definitely good and bad pieces. The wisdom of crowds are worth more than one persons opinion. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have an opinion, and I think everyone should have an opinion about art. You should know what you like or don’t like and be able to freely discuss this.

            As for the ‘screw’ video, it strikes me more as thoughtful design and less like art. Yes the two overlap, but a screw has a clear function which it performs before it ever gets the ‘smile’. When Marcel takes the urinal out of context and puts it on a podium the function is destroyed and it becomes solely about the form. These clever screws never lose function, and the thoughtful design really comes to life when the screw is used at the end of the video.

          8. No proper tool = No proper screwing. (Screwing is an art form)

            Wait until you live in Kyoto, so many black or white beliefs, this or that observations, hard and fast “art” rules, dissolve into a sea of lovely gray categories and definitions. Let me know when you go, I’ve got addresses for you.

          9. Um, no art is about more than that but since thats all it is to you and apparently J (btw even the taste is questionable because again that is being given to him he doesn’t even get that much credit) those would be your limitations. Don’t put that on others that would be ignorance. You can set your value all you want on his artists taste. Based on your argument and his own words i can put his knowledge of it on a very low baseline intimately tied to affordability. Its pretty clear you and he lack any sort of knowledge.

          10. I’ve said it’s about taste and money. You’ve done nothing to refute it.

            If tastes align and generations agree something is beautiful we preserve it e.g. sistine chapel, mona lisa, field of crows. If tastes align and generations agree something offers a new way to look at the world we try to preserve it e.g. duchamps urinal, christo’s wrappings, pollacks drips. If tastes don’t align, then the art isn’t preserved, it gets lost, recycled and used up, tossed out, and isn’t really art.

            Money can push something forward that otherwise wouldn’t have made the cut.

            So either point out something new or get over yourself.

          11. If you dont know, i’m not here to tell you. Show me the money you so clearly value to gain that taste and what i value knowledge. LOL

            There is nothing to refute btw. You clearly agree that this is worth nothing more to J (and you)than money.

          12. I’ve never said that I value money, or that money can buy good taste. I’ve said that money can be a support for art in the same way that taste is. I’ve also pointed out the artificial nature of that money, but it doesn’t still doesn’t discredit the function.

            I do think art is worth more than money, intrinsically I think that’s why we seek to preserve certain works. Having a museum putting up large sums of money emphasizes the cultural importance. You’re an idiot for thinking otherwise.

          13. You’re the one emphasizing it and making art exclusively about two things, one of which was pretty clearly money, as well as backing up the silly statement several times. I’m not arguing your values or J’s. Tell us what else you think art is about but at this point the conversation is too far gone and frankly you aren’t to be taken seriously and no neither is Jayz.

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