When JAY-Z released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, in 1996, social media wasn't a thing. At that time, the internet as a whole was barely a thing. But 21 years later, social media is the internet, an advent that has completely changed our everyday lives and the way music and news are consumed and discussed on a daily basis.
Ahead of his recent BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge performance, Jay spoke with Clara Amfo, who asked the legendary emcee if he pays attention to and is aware of the commentary made about him, his life and his music on social media and whether or not he's bothered by it.
"That's not my life but I'm aware of it, I'm aware of its existence," Jay told Amfo. "I get things and I see posts but that's just part of it. It's not personal, I don't take it personally. I think people are funny. I find the humor in things. I like to laugh, so I laugh at myself. It's just part of the gig. It is what it is. It's not personal to me, it's the position I hold. When I'm not occupying that space, and I'm not this public figure that you say, whoever occupies that public space is going to have to go through that same thing. So when you look at it like that, and you see that it's not personal, you kind of make light of it."
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The negative effects of social media usage, specifically on creatives, has been a consistent talking point in 2017. Just last week, Massachusetts emcee Joyner Lucas wrote an open letter and posted it to his Twitter and Instagram accounts, admitting that "social media fucks up my mood" and suggesting a decline in usage in the near future. This follows similar announcements made by Joey Bada$$ and Meek Mill, among others.
While JAY-Z has age, experience, and confidence—and a bank account with a lot of commas—on his side to help combat the downside of social media, most younger artists, who like their fans are highly impressionable, struggle to separate constructive criticism with the handiwork of trolls who do nothing but spew venom and hatred.
If younger artists take anything away from Jay's commentary on social media, it should be to accept that, as a public figure, it's become a necessary evil. Or as Jay put it: "It's part of the gig." If social media is truly fucking up your mood, as Lucas recently admitted, simply scale back your usage. And if that doesn't work, take a break altogether.
Jay might barely know how to tweet, but he has wisdom on his side. Now, you do too.