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Did Jay-Z Misfire on Holy Grail? Trashed for Crass Commercialism

Jay-Z's Samsung deal is drawing fire for selling out his fans.

Jay-Z’s Samsung deal is drawing fire for selling out his fans for profit–his profit.

Jay-Z may have scored a coup when he convinced Samsung to pay $5 million to give away his new album “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” but he’s drawing fire from top music critics for crass commercialism. What’s more, Samsung got the better part of the deal.

The New York-based rapper, real name Shawn Carter, crowed that he had changed the music industry’s rules. The phone maker will pay him $5 million and distribute up to one million albums to customers.

But once the deal was dissected, it turned out that Samsung was getting unprecedented access to the social media accounts, phone calls, and even the GPS locations of Jay-Z’s fans. Samsung even got the right to post on a user’s Facebook or Twitter account.

Jay-Z, who prides himself on being a “businessman,” got zoomed. Samsung is a $178 billion corporation. As such, $5 million is chump change. And, that’s just how the Korean phone maker played the so-called street-smart rapper.

But his fans are the ones who got royally screwed for an album that serious critics are calling mediocre at best.

Chris Richards, pop music critic for The Washington Post, called the album “insidious,” and said the rapper had turned his fans into “customers.”

“Rooting for this man in 2013 is like rooting for Pfizer. Or PepsiCo. Or PRISM,” he wrote.

“Plus, all of this Samsung hullabaloo has only distracted listeners from the fact that, musically and lyrically, ‘Magna Carta’ is one of Jay-Z’s blandest offerings,” he added. “There’s no mood, no verve, no vision to this music.”

New York Times music critic John Parles called the Samsung album app “coercive.” He was particularly piqued by the condition that fans allow posts on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“For the gift of the album, fans aren’t anonymous to Jay-Z now. He’s another data miner, gathering more than half a million e-mail and social-media accounts. Maybe he should send us an apology,” he wrote.

Gawker, of course, went ballistic. “Fans used to obsess over album liner notes; now they freak out about terms-of-service,” wrote Adrian Chen.

But the most incredulous comment came from Vanessa Satten, editor-in-chief of XXL, an urban nusic website and magazine.

“Young people don’t care,” Satten told Yahoo Music. “They want what they want, and they want it now.

“I don’t think hip-hop fans care so much about privacy. It’s about getting it first, and, in the case of Jay-Z, it’s about being first.”

Maybe so, but there’s no glory in selling out your fans.

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