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Kanye, Jay-Z, Mary J., and Rihanna clamor for diva status 

Wednesday, Apr 16 2008

As Ye-Day approaches, one question looms large: Can any arena contain Kanye West's massive ego? The 20,000-seat HP Pavilion, where hip-hop's favorite college dropout plays April 19, is hardly large enough for a performer of his stature. He deserves a venue truly worthy of his Ye-ness: a biosphere, or maybe one of the rings of Saturn. After all, as "Stronger," his recent foray into house music, made clear, Kanye is Not of This Earth. Just like Daft Punk, whose futuristic cybershtick he co-opted in the song (and video), Kanye is simply too cool for us terrestrial beings. Who else could be known for both his blinged-out Jesus piece and a song ("Diamonds from Sierra Leone") about conflict gemstones? Who else could address both spirituality ("Jesus Walks") and groupies ("Gold Digger") with equal reverence? And who else could claim to be important enough to be mentioned in the Bible, were it written today? Let's see: Peter, Paul, Corinthians, Ecclesiastes, Kanye. Yup, sounds about right.

Clearly, Ye is on the shortlist for Diva of the Century. However, he has some competition. On April 20, one day after his "Glow in the Dark" tour (also featuring Rihanna, N.E.R.D., and Lupe Fiasco) hits San Jose, the Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige "Heart of the City" tour lands at Oakland's Oracle Arena. Having trouble deciding which diva deserves your dollars? Here's a quick run-down to help you make your choice.

Bitchiest Attitude: Kanye's frequent outbursts at awards shows (including the 2006 Grammys and the 2007 MTV Europe Music Awards) take the cake. No, Ye, you're not as big as U2. Get over it.

Least Humble: Kanye might have appeared as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone, but Jay-Z takes chutzpah to a higher level. His official Web site refers to him as "Hova da God," which seems redundant, but gets the point across.

Trendiest: Kanye comes close for teaming with Daft Punk and appropriating Star Wars imagery on his tour logo. But the 20-year-old Rihanna not only makes Janet Jackson look like Bea Arthur, she also appears to be headed for a long career of catchy but fluffy pop music.

Nerdiest: N.E.R.D.'s Pharrell Williams produced Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot," while Jay-Z formerly sold heroin and reportedly married Beyoncé. So they're out. Kanye's "hip-hop preppy" look is kinda nerdy, but Lupe Fiasco wins the pocket protector prize for making an intellectual concept album (Lupe Fiasco's The Cool) in an age of strip club soundtracks.

Most Overrated: An easy call. Kanye, Jay-Z, Pharrell, and Mary J. have all sold a shitload of records, but few of Ye's songs can rightfully be called classics. Don't tell him that, though.

And the deserving diva is ... Mary J. Blige. She's a survivor whose emotive soulfulness raises her otherwise-formulaic material to a higher plateau. She's also the closest thing to classic soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross that contemporary music has to offer. Twenty years from now, you'll happily tell your kids you saw Mary J. live, long after Kanye is forgotten.

About The Author

Eric K. Arnold


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