“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” by Jay-Z
There was a juncture in the history of rap music, i.e. the era in which this “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” was released, that auto-tune was being relied on so heavily some listeners started having adverse reaction to it.
Of course T-Pain, the king of hip-hop auto-tune, gets a pass. So does Kanye considering that, in Jay-Z’s opinion, they use the technology to make quality music. But to other, shall we say copycats, the ones who utilize it as a “crutch”, he isn’t so lenient. And this emotion was spurred when he witnessed Wendy’s restaurant, of all people, abusing the fad on a commercial. So Jigga decided to bring it to the rappers who are making such mocking possible, though he doesn’t actually resort to dropping their names or anything like that. But either way it’s like when Jay-Z speaks, given his senior status in the game, people have to take notice.
Goodbye to Auto-Tune
And the legendary rapper starts off the song with the chorus, which itself commences with what appears to be a hearty expression of “goodbye” to auto-tune. He then drops a braggadocious line, proclaiming himself to be the “only rapper to rewrite history without a pen”.
This alludes to the Mr. Carter’s mythical freestyling skills, i.e. his ability to come up with raps on the spot without having written them prior.
Now as we were trying to get to concerning Jay-Z’s status earlier, when he comes out with a song like this of course those familiar with his artistry know that he’s not only upset with auto-tune. Rather, to him the whole fad represents the contemporary state of the industry. And to Jigga, relying on the titular audio processor is symbolic of an overall emasculation of hip-hop – or a “lack of aggression”, as he puts it, amongst other choice words.
Death of Auto-Tune
And as we get into the second verse, he expounds on why this song is called “death of auto-tune”, as he is likening his lyrical assault against the technology to a murder. The vocalist also alludes to the notion that he is behaving in such a manner in the name of preserving true rap music, namedropping two individuals in that regard, Funkmaster Flex and Mister Cee, who even predate him in the game.
Then, as we warned earlier, he goes on to attack contemporary hip-hop in general. This includes the fashion sense of more-modern artists, whom Jigga feels clothes are too “colorful” and “tight”. Also as far as their raps go, their ‘voices are too light’.
So there’s once again these roundabout allusions to effeminization. But also, Jay-Z contrasts his style to theirs by noting that he “might wear black for a year straight”. And of course, black is also the color associated with death/mourning. So as with earlier in the verse, he presents himself as some type of a killer more in a literal than symbolic sense.
End of Verse
In closing out the verse, Mr. Carter once again gives a shoutout to Hot 97, which is perennially the most-popular hip-hop radio station in New York City. And the reason we are saying once again is because the aforementioned Flex and Cee are well-known employees of said station.
Jigga then proceeds to namedrop DJ Clue and DJ Khaled as further illustrations of rap purity. But as far as the auto-tuned cats are concerned, Jay-Z is labeling them deceased in a musical sort of way.
Shoutout to the True Rappers
And so begins the third verse, with the rapper giving a shoutout to Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne, presumably as other examples of true rap artists. He then goes on to acknowledge a handful of powerful Black street gangs – the BMF, the Bloods and the Crips.
Afterwards the rapper recognizes another fellow hip-hop star, Andre 3000. But then, Jigga decides to further elaborate on what’s pissing him off about the auto-tune trend. It’s also that rappers are “singing too much”, which may explain the tone of some of the disses he levied earlier.
And in that regard he also namedrops the aforementioned T-Pain in a less-than-flattering way, though it isn’t really a diss against him. Furthermore, what Jigga is apparently saying in closing out the verse is that rap per of the day are not violent enough for him. So the implication is sort of like in the mind of Jay-Z, more gangsta rap equals less auto-tuned hip-hop.
Well the funny thing, if you will, about this whole outing is that Kanye and Jigga actually conceptualized it while working on a number of auto-tune songs themselves. So it’s like, take what’s being said with a grain of salt.
Or as we put forth earlier, Jigga opted to use an anti-autotune premise as footing to attack the new crop of rappers. You know how they say every generation feels that they’re superior to the next one. And in his mind, the 1990s’ ideological nightmare of rap music becoming imbued with singing has been realized.
Moreover, current rap artists are too girlie and mainstream for his liking. So he uses the opportunity to bring it to the whole system of things which he feels the auto-tune hip-hop revolution represents.
“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” Facts
Album/EP: “The Blueprint 3”
Was “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” a single release?
Yes. It was a single released from the rapper’s eleventh studio album, “The Blueprint 3”. June 5th of 2009 was this tune’s official date of release.
Writing and Production
It was written by Jay-Z alongside the following:
- Ernest Wilson
- Dave Sucky
- Dale Frashuer
- Paul Leka
- Janko Nilovic
- Garrett DeCarlo
The song was produced by the hip hop, R&B producer, No I.D.
In 2010, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” won Jay-Z a Grammy Award for “Best Rap Solo Performance”. It beat the following nominees to achieve that:
- Eminem’s “Beautiful”
- Drake’s “Best I Ever Had”
- Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘n’ Nite”
- Mos Def’s “Casa Bey”
It had another nomination for the “Best Rap Song” but lost to Jay-Z’s own “Run This Town”. The other songs in the category were:
- “Best I Ever Had” (Drake)
- “Day ‘n’ Nite” (Kid Cudi)
- “Dead and Gone” (T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake)
- U.S. – 43
- UK – 79
In the song, Jay-Z was trying to address the excessive use of Auto-Tune in the music industry. This obviously did not go down well with rapper “The Game” who went on to release a diss song, “I’m So Wavy (Death of Hov)” directed at Jay-Z. The rapper felt Jay-Z at age 39 was too old to be in the music industry.
DJ and record producer, DJ Webstar wasn’t happy with the song, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”. He was shocked when he heard that from Jay-Z. DJ Webstar admitted the rapper had done a lot for hip hop and had more money than younger artists but that shouldn’t mean whatever he says is right. He questioned who Jay-Z was to say people don’t want to hear Auto-Tune. This was during an interview with RealTalkNY.
Rapper, Lil Wayne criticized the song and threw his support behind T-Pain who has been known for the use of Auto-Tune.
- Rick Ross – “Tears of Joy” (2010)
- Canon – “Out My New Life” (2010)
- Girl Talk – “Let It Out” (2010)
- Lil Wayne – “D.O.A.” (2009)
- Pac Div – “The Greatness” (2011)