By Mike Andrews
With the release of “Watch the Throne” and its lines that could be described in the very least as “confidence” (I wish I could give you this feelin’/I’m plankin’ on a million), many fans have simply forgot the humble street beginnings of rap mogul Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z.
For Soren Baker, who proclaims his self as “the white guy…hip-hop to the core” and author of the new book “I’m the White Guy- The Jay-Z Edition”, he hasn’t forgotten Jay-Z’s humble roots beginning under the wing of The Jaz. That’s because he is one of the few these days who followed the now multimillionaire since his first appearance on Jaz’s “Hawaiian Sophie”.
Baker’s book is his second in his “I’m The White Guy- The Journey of Soren Baker’s Life as a White Rap Journalist” series. His first was his account while spending time with Tech N9ne. Baker admits in the beginning that he did not spend as much time with the Rocafella mogul, understandably so, but makes up for it in his insight on Jay-Z during his debut in the music and industry and during the release of “Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter”, two periods where there hasn’t been much perspective on thus far.
The book begins on his following of Jay-Z since the track “Hawaiian Sophie” with The Jaz back in 1989. Having the chance to meet Jay-Z for the first time seven years later at the Rap Sheet Convention in Washington D.C., Baker experienced a quiet, shy, Jay-Z, not the Jay-Z that the mainstream population is used to hearing through his lyrics. As he accounted his few minutes with the artist whose debut album hadn’t even dropped yet, the reader is left wondering when he is going to get Jay-Z to fully open up to Baker.
The chance is there during Baker’s first interview with Jay-Z in early 2000. In the transcript from the interview, the chance for juicy details or gossip is ever-present, but never fully satisfied. While disappointment might set in initially, Baker shows the reader that his interview was never about getting the gossip or drama involved. It’s more about understanding the thought process of a man who at that point was one of the biggest names in hip-hop. Much of the insight on Jay-Z in the book does not come from the transcript of the interview, but from his interpretations during the experience of his interactions with Jay-Z; things such as the drunk/stoned Beanie Sigel in the background, the undertones of Jay-Z’s desire for control and the perspective from another rap industry consultant on Jay-Z’s legal problems at the time. Baker later got to have another short visit with Jay-Z during a visit to a High School during his promotional cycle for “The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse”. This experience shows a completely different side of the Grammy-winning artist. The two chats with the artist are nearly night and day in comparison and begin to show his transition into the artist that he is today. The book (coming in at 31 pages including credits and other extraneous parts) is a quick read and although it gives a perspective on an artist who shelters his self more than most in the hip-hop world, it does not expand on Baker’s struggle as a white hip-hop journalist. More commentary on actually getting the interviews and what the environment for him is like in a world that is mostly dominated by African-Americans would have justified his foreword in the book, but it does not by any means detract from the main purpose (which Baker accomplishes) of it: trying to crack the expressionless half of the multi-million dollar throne. Soren Baker’s “I’m the White Guy- The Jay-Z Edition” is available digitally on amazon.com (http://tinyurl.com/43c72wp) and on lulu.com (http://tinyurl.com/3s6q44e).