I have to admit I like OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) better than I liked Oprah’s own television show. It is more interesting, and has more depth and shows that she has far more than you can contain within an hour show. I might actually watch it more than Discovery Health, the network that is being replaced. There are 15 shows, and some of the shows from Discovery Health; Mystery Diagnosis and Delivery Me, will continue to be shown.
Today I saw a show on the network called Master Class, where people at the top of their field tell their story. The episode I watched featured Jay Z. I know that Jay Z has been on Oprah’s talk show before, and that 50 Cent had a lot to say about it but I often wonder why, out of all rappers, is Jay Z affiliated with Oprah. She was one of those individuals from the old school that did not get rap and felt that it was the worst thing in the world. But Oprah also follows her audience and has a knack for knowing what they like before they even realize it themselves.
Oprah’s audience, while often defined by her most dedicated fans, middle aged White women who drive up to the season premiere of her final season in a truck after going on a road trip she paid for, also includes young Black women with the same aspirations that Jay Z speaks about. Oprah said that Jay Z has a way of getting his fans to believe in themselves and their own dreams, and we have all read articles by writers that connect to Jay Z on a deeper level. Sure Jay Z sold drugs, but he comes across as a Black man with style, sophistication, and class, not as a thug. Jay Z found a way to reinvent his image and encouraged thugs to clean up their act and take it to the next level.
You cannot say that about other rappers. My only disappointment in the focus and obsession on Jay Z is that we have always had artists that came from the same background that he did that chose other paths. Rappers have always come from the streets and have all encouraged their fans in different ways. Many rappers take a path that speaks to an intellectual curiosity, others take a spiritual path. You may disagree with the politics of how a rapper goes about connecting with his fans, but I don’t see where Jay Z is necessarily any better at it than other rap artists.
If Christopher Wallace were still alive he would have done the same thing. In the movie Notorious he is portrayed as a young rapper who was killed before he could turn his life around. Tupac Shakur wanted to turn his life around as well. Jay Z is an artist who not only lived long enough to come into that realization, he was able to do so without losing the connection that he had with his fans and without losing any of the success that he had. But that is not to say that what he has done, is not anything that other artists has not attempted to do or wants to do. Eminem still has a very successful career and can still sell records when he wants to. A lot of rappers that were around when Jay Z started can still sell records when they want to.
A lot of rappers that were around before Jay Z got into the game lost their way, but it is not because they do not possess the talent that Jay Z does, it is because they cannot connect with their fans. Jay Z knows how to market himself in ways in which other artists have failed, and can do so as thoroughly (if not more) than he can write rhymes. The media has embraced him and he continues to give us things to write about and has not disappointed us at all. He maintains an air of mystery and intrigue and makes you want to know more, and you never really learn anything new about him, but it is always interesting to hear what he has to say.
Other artists used to possess that gift; 50 Cent continued to remain even more interesting in interviews than he was in front of a microphone but hasn’t said anything I wanted to listen to for a while. The skills that Jay Z has with the media, you would think that he were a movie star or a pop artist, or even a politician at times. Master Class is a very promising show. Fans who cannot get enough of Oprah’s brand, and I will admit I lost a few hours of my life this morning, will now be able to saturate themselves 24 hours a day. It will be interesting to see if Oprah can keep up the same momentum I exhibited earlier today, throughout the day for the years to come. If you can imagine the clean, polished appeal of Oprah’s show, on 15 different programs, all day long, then you have a good feel for what this network is offering.
Old favorites such as Gayle King, Suze Orman, Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil are on board. We will get a look behind Gayle King’s radio show, and she is going to give the reality show genre another shot at it; this time she is looking for someone to host their own show. A lot of the shows are focused around the lives of famous people, but she seems to have taken a different approach on talking about celebrities than we have seen before. I might actually want to watch these shows. One thing is clear, instead of building celebrities and creating personalities from obscurity, like the other cable networks have, well okay, like Bravo has, OWN has found a way to take celebrities from the past and put them in front of us without making it seem like an afterthought. There is nothing in the way of what you would expect from VH1 on this channel …