David Halfbinger’s study of Jay-Z’s far more than cosmetic involvement with the Brooklyn Nets (“With Arena, Rapper Rewrites Celebrity Investors’ Playbook“, New York Times) is that rare combination of quality reportage and something that might well be fodder for Phil Mushnick’s next column. While Halbinger describes Jay-Z’s keen attention to details, his meeting of the minds with the sickening Brett Yormark and dedication to cross-promotion and branding, it’s the following paragraphs that suggest the savvy, cynical operator isn’t Sean Carter, but rather, developer Bruce Ratner.
Ratner often says he overcame his concerns about Mr. Carter’s more offensive lyrics — celebrating gangster culture and denigrating women — only after learning there were cleaned-up “radio versions” of the songs, too. And Mr. Carter, he said, appeared nervous about having to meet with David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, who asked him to discuss his guilty plea to stabbing a record producer in 1999. (Mr. Carter described the incident, for which he received three years’ probation, as a symptom of “the world I lived in once,” Mr. Ratner recalled.)
Mr. Carter’s involvement frustrated opponents of Mr. Ratner’s development plans in Brooklyn who saw the arena and proposed residential and office towers as a subsidized land grab that could ruin the neighborhood. They complained that residents who might have been wary of Mr. Ratner’s promises to create jobs, nonetheless trusted Jay-Z, who invoked his roots and insisted he could never support “anything that’s against the people.”
“Bringing in someone who grew up in public housing, with a rags-to-riches story, who could identify with Brooklyn and African-Americans, that was slick,” said City Councilwoman Letitia James, a critic of the project. Mr. Ratner played down Mr. Carter’s importance in overcoming opposition. “Had Jay-Z not come along,” he said, “we’d still have an arena.”