JAY-Z challenges race and wealth on latest music video, “The Story of O.J.”

Eric Gasa

The Story of O.J.
Roc Nation

JAY-Z’s latest music video will be offensive to some and provocative to others; such is the essence of an artist born both in the tradition and spite of the Brooklyn projects. “The Story of O.J.”, directed by Mark Romanek and Jay himself, is as unsettling as it is campy. Jay rhymes over a sharp beat that cuts right into the heart of the post-racial myth in America.

But it’s the animated visual that makes “The Story of O.J.” all the more provoking. In it, Jay is reimagined as an offensive Disney caricature ala Jim Crow, meant to mimic vintage blackface cartoon characters. The idea isn’t exactly meant to make viewers uncomfortable but rather symbolize the antiquated views black persons still face when in the spotlight.

“O.J. like, ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.’,” the cartoon Jay rolls his eyes and sighs, “…okay.”
Regarding the lyric, the rapper said in the 8-minute mini documentary, Footnotes for The Story of O.J., “O.J. would get a free space where he’s like ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.’ Like Tiger Woods would say, ‘I’m above the culture,’…And that same person when he’s playing golf, and playing great, [he’s] protected. When you’re not, they’re gonna put pictures of you drunk driving and embarrass you. That world will eat you up and spit you out.”

In summation, wealth and success doesn’t always equal fair criticism. The rapper also hints on his personal capital.

“Financial freedom my only hope/F*** livin’ rich and dyin’ broke,” he raps, “I bought some artwork for 1 million/2 years later, that s*** worth 2 million…I can’t wait to give that s*** to my children.”

Today, JAY-Z is worth an estimated $810 million thanks to his many business ventures; an incredible rags-to-riches story, given that he grew up selling drugs to pay rent on the street of Brooklyn. By the end of the track’s four-minute run, Jay drops some knowledge on guarding wealth, preserving identity, and building up your folks back home.

On the politically-charged “The Story of O.J.” the beat is dark, the rhymes are cynical, and Jay is back on his lyrical throne. He even gives some serious financial advice to up and comers: “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit.”

The track is only one of ten songs from the rappers latest album, 4:44, released June 30. Hailed as a return to form for the nearly 50-year-old MC, 4:44 finds Hov sounding as vital as ever. It’s an amazing story from a guy who went from hustling on the corner to hanging out with former President Obama; now he’s standing on the very top of the rap game.