Eight summers ago, Jay-Z described his impossible journey from no-name to brand name in eight sly words: “I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, man.”
A triumphant little zinger, no doubt. But what about the rest of us? When an artist self-identifies as a corporate entity, are we still Jay-Z fans? Or are we Jay-Z customers?
The answer to that late-capitalist riddle arrives with the rap icon’s insidious new album, “Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail” — which first appeared last week as a data collection exercise disguised as a smartphone app capable of delivering a bundle of mediocre rap songs to your mobile device.
Here’s how it worked: Samsung purchased a million copies of “Magna Carta” in advance, then, via the app, made the album available to subscribers five days before its widespread release. In exchange, users were asked to share access to their social media accounts, their phone calls, their GPS location and more. If the medium is the message, we finally had an answer to that fan-or-customer question.