The Story of O.J.: What's All the Fuse About?
Welcome Back Mr. Carter
Once again, Jay-Z and his marketing machine have managed to inject their presence into the mainstream consciousness. Although he's never very far from the spotlight, it's been four years since his last album. And, from day one people have been talking about it. The critically acclaimed 4:44 album. Is it simply good fortune and talent that lands Jay-Z back on top of the charts or with this album is Mr. Carter attuned to the evolution occurring within the black community? Delivering an on-point message some celebrate and others find disturbing.
For many people of color, the topics of conversation within our community are indeed changing. No longer are we discussing job opportunities and government assistance, but rather how to unite and take care of ourselves - build wealth, educate our young, police our communities and caring for our elders. Issues a more mature Jay-Z, directly and indirectly, addresses on this album. In particular, there's lots of chatter about the lyrics and video for The Story of O.J. I must admit this one had me confused for a minute, and I went back and forth about the pros and cons of the video and its message. There are so many contradictions found here that I had to work through my feelings, beliefs, and personal vision for the future of our community.
What the heck are you talking about?
You're probably thinking, "it's just a video!" Well, at face value, I agree, it is just a video. However, the symbolism and imagery, historical as well as modern-day context, and the lyrics come together to form a compelling story. Without that understanding, we will miss out on the significance of this tale and what is being conveyed. Now, I'm not here to critique the album or Jay-Z. I decided to write about this because we have an opportunity to learn something from the artist about how he sees the world and our place in it. You may view the video and see something entirely different than I do, and if so please comment below. I'd like to know your take on it.
For me, the lyrics and visuals presented in The Story of O.J. have the potential for a positive influence and a negative one. The repeated chorus, still n*ggas, albeit catchy is fraught with messaging issues. In my opinion, it perpetuates the victim status of blacks in this country. Yes, there are many things wrong with the society we live in, and certainly institutional injustice and racism are prevalent; however, we cannot subscribe to the victim mentality. It's low-level thinking of which neither you or I can afford to agree. So be aware of the messages that came along with the rhythm and catchy hook. N*ggas or n*ggers are both the same. I shared my views on the N-word in a separate post, so there's no need to rehash it here.
On a positive note
Jay-Z raps about building wealth and utilizing our resources wisely, the alarming number of black men dying in the streets, and the drugs that have overrun our community. I don't know the average age of a Jay-Z listener, or if the intended audience is in the very neighborhoods we desperately want to reach, but if they are, perhaps listeners will be more inclined to give heed to these messages; given that Jay-Z also came up in similar conditions. I sure hope so, because we are struggling to keep our youth from violence and incarceration. And, right about now we need all voices and hands on deck - not to preach or judge- but to gain access to the ear of our at-risk youth.
I may not agree with everything Jay-Z says or the images used, but that doesn't matter. What is important is the unconscionable number of people that are dying in our neighborhoods every year, and the ravishes of drugs and incarceration on families. These issues must be our focus, all of us. So it's a good thing to see a mainstream hip-hop star returning to the roots of rap music by addressing the social problems that were present back in the day and have become cancerous in some areas now.
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