.

'New York Times': Jay-Z Had Tougher Upbringing Than Sinatra

Sinatra's gangster image was more about 'being a wannabe, an idolator, than any actual mob affiliation'

December 13, 2010 1:08 PM ET
Jay-Z performs in Sydney, Australia, December 13, 2010.
Jay-Z performs in Sydney, Australia, December 13, 2010.
Don Arnold/WireImage

In "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z declared that he's "the new Sinatra." And in a New York Times op-ed, writer James Kaplan argues that Jay's assertion that Sinatra had "a little tougher [upbringing] than mine" is wrong. Kaplan, author of the recent Sinatra biography The Voice, writes: "In fact, Jay-Z, who grew up with a single mother in the drug-and-bullet-riddled Marcy housing projects in Brooklyn, had a much tougher youth than Frank Sinatra, who was the only child of upward-striving, financially comfortable parents in Depression-era Hoboken, N.J."

Photos: Jay-Z and Eminem's NYC Blowout With Kanye West, Chris Martin, Drake and Nicki Minaj

The article — which was published to commemorate what would have been Sinatra's 95th birthday — further examines connections between the late singer and hip-hop. "Sinatra's unfortunate flirtations with the Mafia later on — much like the gangsta affectations of many rappers — had more to do with being a wannabe, an idolator, than any actual mob affiliation," Kaplan writes. (In his new memoir, Decoded , Jay discusses his days as a drug dealer at length.)

Yet that affectation, Kaplan argues, was far from Sinatra's greatest strength — in fact, the opposite was. Sinatra's "vulnerability is at the core of his magic," he writes. "There was an operatic intensity to Frank Sinatra's existence. ... The conflicts filter into the molecules of his music. We hear, we respond." Indeed, he writes that Eminem's "Not Afraid" is a stellar example of how the best rappers attain a similar goal, exposing "the sorrow and humanity that underlie the swagger."

Straight Outta Hoboken [New York Times]

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com