By Leslie Gornstein
Burning Question: I'm a huge Jay-Z fan, but I don’t know what to think about his new album distribution deal with Samsung. Will he suffer at all for looking like a sellout? — M.O. Handsome, Kansas
No, because Jay-Z is ridiculously wealthy, and if fans get angry with him, he can just buy a murdered-out matte black Cessna, and fly away to a private island to nurse his sorrows in the cushion of Beyoncé's bosom.
Sure, some fans vented displeasure with Jay-Z’s latest offering, which required early-bird listeners to give up not only names, ages and current locations, but also information on their Samsung phones' storage and system tools.
In certain instances, Samsung even asked for the right to post on a user’s Facebook or Twitter account, in exchange for advance access to "Magna Carta Holy Grail."
The New York Times called the app "coercive." Gawker slammed it as "basically a massive data-mining operation." (Heck, even a bunch of hackers cloned the app and added anti-Obama messaging in the name of freedom.)
Rapper Killer Mike has criticized the clunky-looking marketing effort. So have a few Twitter admirers.
And that's not even counting those who found the app so glitchy it didn't even run on some phones.
But, like many a music aficionado, rap and hip-hop fans are complex people. As much as they may distrust big corporations, they also have a soft spot for a guy who knows how to rake in cash, particularly in creative ways. And it's no secret that Mr. Carter made $5 million off of this Samsung deal before it even launched.
The result: Jay-Z may look a little disconnected or insensitive to some. But to most, he’s the kind of futuristic outlaw genius whom rap fans admire.
"Folks know Jay-Z to be the innovator," says veteran music publicist Hanif Sumner. "When you're leading the troops you may be leading them in the wrong direction, but you're the one who has the balls to do it. He got to be the innovator. So he came away looking like a bandit.”
A rich bandit.
"Hip-hop is about everybody making their money," says Vanessa Satten, editor-in-chief of XXL (http://www.xxlmag.com). "Right now Jay-Z is a bit untouchable. He can almost do no wrong. The bigger the business deal he makes, the more then fan base tends to be impressed rather than alienated."
Even if that means that those fans have to sacrifice a chunk of their own privacy.
"Young people don't care," Satten insists. "They want what they want, and they want it now. I don't think hip-hop fans care so much about privacy. It's about getting it first, and, in the case of Jay-Z, it's about being first."
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