Jay-Z, The Black Branch Rickey, Brings The Nets, And Gentrification

By Guest Columnist Dec 03, 2009

By Jamilah King On my way to work this morning I was listening to Jay-Z’s Brooklyn Go Hard (such a better precursor to that annoying ass NY anthem that’s colonizing the radio right now). In it, I noticed a line I’d missed all of last year: "Now when I bring the Nets, I’m the Black Branch Rickey." The New Jersey Nets, which Jay-Z partially owns, recently broke the NBA’s record for the worst start ever by going 0-18 this week. All this comes just a week after it was announced that Cleveland-based developer Bruce Ratner cleared his last legal hurdle with the state to go ahead with the massive Atlantic Yards Project in downtown Brooklyn. The project — which has displaced scores of longtime residents, many of whom have organized against it — is pretty much the Manhattanization of downtown Brooklyn. The centerpiece of the project is a multimillion dollar sports arena, slated to be the new home of the Nets. Jay-Z has played made a massive PR effort to move the team to Brooklyn. The fact that Brooklyn’s prodigal son is leading the charge to displace some of its most vulnerable residents underscores the fact that despite rap’s proletariat beginnings, Black popular culture, specifically hip-hop and pro sports, has become a major vehicle for gentrification in the past twenty years.