Somber Post JayZ Concert Reflections

Disclaimer:“There is a racial joke made in this post.Though it was not my intention to offend anyone, it may in fact do that. My apologies before hand, but insulting anyone wasn’t my intention.”


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


As you may or may not be aware, I find humor in everything. I find that all events however crass or refined are cause for reflection. While things in an of themselves have meaning, whatever meaning they carry is trumped always by the role that events play as a doorway to a greater meaning that encompasses not only the situation which spawned the event but all situations and all times.

The one thing common to all of us is that we are on a search for meaning, mostly because in my view meaning is all we have to combat the constant strife and change that is the quintessential human condition. I quote the author of La Condition Humaine Andre Malraux

The crucial discovery was made that, in order to become painting, the universe seen by the artist had to become a private one created by himself.
Andre Malraux

While many may not think that  going to the JayZ concert this weekend can impact one’s thinking I emphatically disagree. Of course the connection between lines like:

You know I – thug em, **** em, love em, leave em
Cause I don’t ****in need em
Take em out the hood, keep em lookin good
But I don’t ****in feed em

and social identity may be a bit tough to take seriously but there is something rich there  for me at least.

The Reality

My understanding of what America is very unique. I grew up in a segregated metropolis surrounded by people of other cultures and ultimately of other ideologies. I am not in saying segregated referring to Segregation the once legal institution, I am in fact talking about the invisible socio-economic and racial barriers that carve the city up in a way very differently that you see on the map.

NYC is a big city the majority of which is not seen by tourists. Just as Malraux says that Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides, so too a city isn’t what it appears on the surface to be, actually for me it is what it hides. JayZ towards the end of the concert talked about how much things have changed, and that really struck me. I remember when Rap and Hip Hop first came out and the reaction it received. It was the devil’s music,  jungle music,  a corrupting influence on the youth, it was something only for black people.

When the opening DJ asked all his Caucasian people to make some noise and the Arena was filled with subsequent deafening roar I immediately turned to my friend El Viejo and made a historical-racial joke. I said: “memorize the exits… when that many white people are in one room,  and will be gratuitously saying the word “Nigga” there may be a lynching.” (this joke again is not intended to insult anyone. Rather it was intended to be a remark on how things have historically changed a lot, no ill will is intended)

The black couple in front of me chuckled. And that’s the point, we could all chuckle and laugh at it because things had changed so much.  When I go out and hang with my friends: it’s completely mixed: black white red yellow -every demographic represented. That is so amazing and was completely unheard of in the 70’s and early 80’s. That’s progress! It’s a beautiful thing that the audience was really representative of the diversity so many of us in the city have taken for granted. But even with that said there was something that bothered me.

In my building where I grew up in my father was mugged and shot at twice on a Thursday around 7pm.  I remember it like it was yesterday: He rang the bell and I clicked the buzzer to let him in, for some reason I didn’t run down stairs to help him with the bags. I opened the apartment door  for him and before I could  turn and sit back down I heard 2 gun shots. My mom told us to sit down and stay put and we stayed there  for some time not knowing if  my father was alive or not.

That’s NYC. It is many stories like that swept under the carpet. We ended up at one point living in 2 room  basement with no heat for over a year that opened out into an alley way littered with garbage and hopelessness. Sometimes there were fights behind the door. There was even a crazy police chase one time .

All these personal stories and more flashed in front of my eyes when I heard the JayZ’s songs I used to listen during those difficult times. I realized that for many people these songs were just that: songs. They were what they heard at clubs when they went out to party or to spring break. But to me lines like this are real to me

I was raised in the pro-jects, roaches and rats
Smokers out back, sellin’ they mama’s sofa
Lookouts on the corner, focused on the ave
Ladies in the window, focused on the kinfolk
Me under a lamp post, why I got my hand closed?
Cracks in my palm, watchin’ the long arm o’ the law
So you know I seen it all before

Realizing in the middle of all the concert’s festivities that we were all enjoying the music for different reasons was as uplifting as it was sad.  There are many neighborhood that stay the same no matter whether there is a Democrat or Republican in the oval office. They only change when developers come in and kick everyone out to build new high rises.

The Barclay Center is beautiful. My elementary school isn’t far from it, as well as the church where I got baptized received my first communion and confirmation. The apartment where my great grand mother used to live is near by as is my college. My dentist use to be 2 blocks from the arena. But that whole area is gone. I could even remember any more what was there when I got outside the train. There were some stuff there that was the same as memory but in 5-10 years it will be gone.

So yes things have changed but not without some collateral damage. The Barclay Arena rests the memories of a bygone past, which are hazy already.

So I wonder what is the dream now?  Is there a slight chance that in achieving the “dream” we have ostracized some people? Have we deferred the dream in the search for material gain and if so, what again happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Or ………….?



Check out how I prepared for the concert here


  1. I can dig it man. I left home (the Bronx) in 1998. I come back for the occasional visit but it is never the same. My vision of growing up is rather hazy as well. I think it’s for the best though.


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