They’ve got the money, but he’s got the microphone. This weekend, Jay Z threw some punches at the big tech companies who compete with his upstart music streaming service Tidal. The freestyle came as part of Jay Z’s “B-Sides” concert, a performance of some of his rarest songs that was supposed to “exclusively” be available for live stream on Tidal.
Naturally, videos of the show immediately ended up on YouTube.
Tidal touts exclusives from its all-star lineup of partnered artists like Kanye West, Daft Punk, Beyonce, Arcade Fire, and Madonna. The problem is that fans don’t take kindly to pay walls, and inconvenience encourages piracy.
For more on why Tidal sounds doomed, check out my rant video:
But something special did come out of Jay Z’s show. He ripped on Google as well as Jimmy Iovine, head of Apple’s Beats Music, for apparently trying to buy him out. He roasts YouTube for what he considers tiny payouts to artists.
Then Jay Z, also referring to himself as Jigga and ‘Hova, addressed criticism that Tidal’s partnered artists are rich, so why should fans care about making sure they’re paid? He admits his Tidalers “own shit” but asks why people don’t have a problem paying Apple for iPhones or Phil Knight’s Nike for shoes. Plus Spotify is valued at $9 billion so they’re not exactly starving artists themselves.
“Don’t ever go with the flow. Be the flow.
I don’t need no middlemen to talk to my n*ggas / I understand if you don’t understand I figure I’m Jigga / That’s where we differ / I take what’s mine you accept what they give you, I get you / I don’t take no checks, I take my respect / Pharrell even told me ‘Go with the best bet’ / Jimmy Iovine offered a safety net / Google dangle ‘round a crazy check / I feel like YouTube is the biggest culprit / Them n*ggas pay you a tenth of what you supposed to get
You know n*ggas died for equal pay, right? / You know when I work I ain’t your slave, right? / You know I ain’t shucking and jivin’ and high fivin’ / You know this ain’t back in the days, right? / But I can’t tell by the way they kill Freddie Gray right / Shot down Mike Brown like the way they did Tray, right? Let ‘em continue choking’ n*ggas / we gon’ turn style / I ain’t your token n*gga /
You know I came in this game independent, right? / Tidal / My own label / same difference / Oh n*ggas is skeptical cause they own shit / You bought nine iPhones and Steve Jobs is rich / Phil Knight’s worth trillions, you still bought those kicks / Spotify’s nine billion and they ain’t say shit / ‘Lucyyy you got some splainin’ to do’ / The only one they hatin’ on look the same as you / That’s cool / I know they tryin’ to bamboozle you / Spending millions on media tryin’ to confuse you / I had to talk to myself ‘Hov, you used to it’ / It’s politics as usual.”
But for all of Jay’s witty rhymes, Tidal’s problems remain. It’s starting way behind in the music streaming race, it has no free ad-supported tier to pull in users to pay $10 a month, few will pay $20 for HD sound, and its top exclusives get pirated. At least Tidal is raising the question about how artists can be fairly compensated, even if it doesn’t have the answer.