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IR Theory and Rap

WIRES88794013EM074_JAY_Z_AND_CIA.jpgMarc Lynch has a brilliant post examining Jay-Z's feuds -- in particular, his settled beef with Nas, and his emergent conflict with The Game -- through the lens of international relations.

So what does Jay-Z do? If he hits back hard in public, the Game will gain in publicity even if he loses... the classic problem of a great power confronted by a smaller annoying challenger. And given his demonstrated skills and talent, and his track record against G-Unit, the Game may well score some points. At the least, it would bring Jay-Z down to his level -- bogging him down in an asymmetric war negating the hegemon's primary advantages. If Jay-Z tries to use his structural power to kill Game's career (block him from releasing albums or booking tour dates or appearing at the Grammy Awards), it could be seen as a wimpy and pathetic operation -- especially since it would be exposed on Twitter and the hip hop blogs.

The Realist advice? His best hope is probably to sit back and let the Game self-destruct, something of which he's quite capable (he's already backing away from the hit on Beyonce) -- while working behind the scenes to maintain his own alliance structure and to prevent any defections over to the Game's camp. And it seems that thus far, that's exactly what he's doing.

That may be the modern realist's advice, but I'd imagine that Kissingerian Realist would advise Jay-Z to identify and strengthen potential third-party agents against The Game. That way, if a conflict becomes necessary, it can be a proxy conflict, thus limiting Jay-Z's vulnerability. And given Jay-Z's hegemonic role in the hip-hop world, there are plenty of talented rappers who'd happily take up his battles in return for his eventual favor.

The question is, how to strengthen them vis-a-vis The Game? If one of Jay-Z's lieutenants is really going to be able to distract The Game, he'll need to launch a pretty spectacular attack. Jay-Z can likely equip him to do so: There's probably plenty of embarrassing moments in The Game's past, and may even be some weakly committed individuals in his entourage, for a well-funded, well-staffed operation like Jay-Z's.

The problem with this sort of strategy, as we've seen before, is that if the battle turns against the proxy, then the benefactor often has to step in directly, but is now faced with an opponent with some battle training and more than a bit of momentum.

Photo credit: Ethan Miller of Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 13, 2009; 5:44 PM ET
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This might be your most impressive post today, Ezra. But, do Jay-Z and Game risk mutually assured destruction?

And what of Jay-Z's war on Auto-Tune? Is he officially the winner?

Posted by: pbasso_khan | July 13, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Am I old if I don't know what "the Game" refers to?

Posted by: pj_camp | July 13, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Among people outside of the US, who know next to nothing about HipHop, JayZ has already won: I couldn't avoid stumbling about his name every now and then, but who tf is "The Game"???

Posted by: Gray62 | July 14, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

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