[Perspective] Jay-Z’s 4:44, Still N***a: What Would Jigga Do?


JAY-Z’s new album 4:44 sheds light into the experiences and beliefs that have ultimately shaped his reality and sculpted his success. The hit single ‘The Story of OJ’ sheds a reminiscent light on the inevitable future of race relations, as imagined by JAY-Z.

The ‘Jaybo’ persona depicted in classic black and white cinematography illustrates America’s early depiction of the enslaved African, properly known as the ‘n***a.’ Jaybo, the n***a, takes a journey exploring the multifaceted history of the enslaved African. Despite leadership in America’s military, successfully dealing in estates, brokering fine arts, even participating as a brother in the Klans rituals, the face and fate remains the same for Egypt’s architect, still n***a.

One can easily be overwhelmed by the power of the audio visuals and fail to remember the song’s inherit focus, a football player named O.J. Simpson.

The music video begins standing briefly with an image of the famed Oiler, O.J. Simpson, unmasked, testifying before the media, in the form of a man, black in color. O.J., the man, exclaims that he can only be defined by his name. O.J.’s revelation is mocked by the n****s, transitioning the viewer into Jaybo’s warning (the entire video), your still n***a. It seems Jigga is skeptical of O.J.’s belief that any descendent of enslaved Africans can or ought to transcend the American racial divide.

“I’m Not Black, I’m O.J.”

Has JAY-Z perfectly captured the dichotomy of the American dream in ‘The Story of OJ’? Could the absence of illustrating civil rights efforts also illustrate JAY-Z’s belief that it may be misleading to give hope that our country could ever stand United?

One may argue that American forefathers framed the constitution allowing the powers of “We the people” to forge a future where the essence of American principles are greater than race. An honorable idea and interpretation could very well define the necessary and predetermined sacrifice of America’s builders. Too often we observe Black men in the likes of O.J. attempt to stand as individuals above racial and financial barriers only to face systematic ruins. (Kanye West, Tiger Woods, Martin Luther King, Bill Cosby, O.J. Simpson)

Who is confused? Is the Big Pimpin’ owner of alcohol, gangster rap, urban denim brands too far invested in urban culture creating partiality towards the idea of individual freedom?

The black and white depiction fails to take into account foreigners kindred in race and class ability to rise and establish a piece of the American pie. Are JAY-Z and his investments threatened by a new wave of African American hustlers willing to work cooperatively and maintain relationships across aisles and borders, if possible without racial interest? Or should we trust the experiences of one of hip hops most earliest and most prominent moguls? Does JAY-Z have insight into societies foundations?Should young black men be weary of a false sense of independence, luring them to an island of vulnerability, alienating us from our source of protection?

Increased government transparency confirms accusations of systemic racism within American systems. Improved access to police and courtroom footage heighten suspicion that the American system profits from targeting black males. So what is O.J to do in a Master Jaybo world ? I have faith Jay-Z understands the truth in contradictions. In one part yes, all persons are gifted with a God-given right to uniquely define self. However, limited resources and private interest infiltrate community politics. Institutional power guided by realist ideology in a capitalist system tends to weigh greater than the individual’s voice. Western ideology recognizes the immediate influence of fear and the long-term affects of trauma.

Reasonable Doubt

Jay-Z would probably argue that he has plenty of white friends, but understands you can not love or do just business with someone you do not respect or feel is equal. Power does not concede power. Under the lenses of the American bifocal, power is earned, purchased, or taken. The newly established private equity and asset fund manager, Mr. Carter, would probably urge descendants of enslaved Africans to continue efforts establishing an institutional source of Central Power. Membership within a self-governed institution possessing the authority to exercise and fund Jaybo’s ability to clasp hands with individuals domestic and abroad would multiply the nigga’s populist beyond the confines and bias of western thought. Author of, “Salvation of Love”, Belle Hooks, argues that slave and master will regain humanity once America’s institutional power overcomes the conquering spirit in an effort to enact a commitment to defending the marginalized against policies and measurements that make you and I, still n***a.

The question remains: Will the descendants of enslaved Africans will always be n****s despite progress?


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