When I was kid nobody seemed as tall as a cowboy. The cowboys I admired changed as I grew up, from Roy Rogers singing on the range to Clint Eastwood delivering harsh retribution. I knew nothing about sports, but was astonished by how Michael Jordon flew, arching higher and higher in magnificent flight. Latter heroes loomed large to me as rock-and-roll giants. They delighted me with their music, clever lyrics, and brilliant shows. Giants they were, till I encountered someone larger by far.
I was in Manhattan, headed for a gallery opening downtown. Tower Records in Times Square projected a moving image eight stories high of Jay-Z walking majestically and confidently, striding out of a fog filled back ground, Savile Row overcoat slung over
Armani shoulders, his penetrating eyes looking at, and then through me. A completely over-powering image, commanding and compelling. The after-image has stayed with me as strong inspiration to stand up for what’s right in my own life. His surprisingly political music was at both ends and the middle of the radio dial.I heard him in the cabs and on the street. The strong clear lyrics indicted George Bush and his failed regime. Jay-Z put the blame where it belonged. Blame for selling out our country, and blame for abandoning the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Dramatically a few weeks back, Jay-Z announced he would do free shows in support of Barack Obama’s Campaign, the first show to be in Detroit. He passionately championing the Obama message, to an overflowing huge stadium crowd, performing
“American Dream-in’” thunderously rapping out the words with incredible intensity. The band was tight, and then tighten more as Jay-Z boomed into full voice for “Minority Report”. Huge background screens alternated between pictures of Bush and bleak images of New Orleans. Images of suffering and tragedy. “ – put money in the hands of the fool who left my people stranded – ” The images came faster, the band picked up to match. “helicopters swoop down for a better scoop, but the don’t scoop you! – out on the roof for seven days – no damn food or water, and the baby’s gonna die.” Now the screens showed George Bush saluting as flags slowing drifted in the background. And
Jay-Z brought it home. “-jet blue, jet blue – what you do, if that fool fell from the sky?”
(silence, then he shrugged and theatrically walked away, turned on his heel and said) “you useless, mutha-fucka.” Pyrotechnics filled the stadium and the sky above for all to see with stark silver-white light, then “YES-WE-CAN.” The band drove the music faster still, the pace intense, but Jay-Z was even faster, leading the chanting crowd in “Obama Now”, and “Yes We Can.” A picture on Bush flashed on the center screen and Jay-Z absolutely
screamed “- YOU GOOD WITH THIS SHIT?, …. hell no.” Lights killed and in the dark boomed his voice “YESS-WEE-CANN!” Now silent, but for the breeze, small back and white photo displayed of Mr. Obama, his wife, and daughters, and mixing with the wind, carried ninety three thousand voices with, “yes, we can.”
The following morning the McCain camp conceded Michigan to Obama and took their campaign efforts elsewhere. Now, and for all time without any question, I know who is, and shall remain, the very tallest of them all.