Hip hop has been known for decades to have hidden meaning in its song. Recently due to the rise of trap and mumble rap, the meanings have changed to Drugs, Money, and Degrading women. The rise of trap and mumble rap caused some older rapping to either adapt or fall off. A veteran rapper like Jay z, who always stay true to his own style would not succumb to this problem. In most people’s eyes, Jay Z is considered a rap legend, He is respected by his peers and either inspired or paved the way for others. From songs like 99 Problems to Empire state of mind, Jay Z has been nominated 77 times and has won 22 Grammy awards. Jay Z has many hidden messages in his songs, He can give a clear message and deliver sick flows to the listener understanding. In one of his more recent projects called 4:44 in which he won a grammy. On there he has a song called The Story of Oj. The song and its music video have deep cultural meanings with a tone of awareness. The story of Oj makes the black community ask what should our priorities really be and how we should approach them. The Story of O.J. shows the viewer the darker side of American history through images and wordplay. How the Dark past has affected their identity.
The starts off with the person singing “skin black, my skin is black” this chores was sampled from the late Nina Simone, an African American Singer and civil rights activist. The Song Jay Z sampled is Nina Simone Four Women the Song is about empowering black beauty. The animation style is based on the old early 1900s of black facing and monkey-like imagery to depict black people, also known as minstrelsy. It was America number 1 form of entertainment around the 19th century white men would put pitch-black oil and white gloves to perform their acts. The acts would use black stereotypes like eating watermelon for the jokes and loudly exaggerate black voices; this was not only degrading but racist. An early example of minstrelsy is with Warner Brothers Looney Toons and old Disney animations Disney. In looney tunes, characters would wear white gloves, fake black voices there was even an episode where Bugs Bunny uses oil to blend in with black people.
The chores “Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga, Rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga, Still nigga, still nigga I like that second one, Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga, Rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga, Still nigga, still nigga” (Jay Z). The chores came from the idea that since black people came from nothing which is understandable, that when we get success and money, we forget about our culture and where we come from. Another idea came from a Malcolm X speech, X said back during slavery there were two kinds of Negroes. The house Negro who always looked out for his master because of the better treatment, and then you had the field Negroes they hated their master because of there treatment. These lyrics parallel to Kanye west lyrics in his hit song All Falls Down “Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe,” most interpret no matter how much money and success you accumulate you’re still black in their eyes. In the music video during the first chores, they show all the types of Black people Jay z was referring too and lastly showing O.J. who the song is named after. Oj Simpson was an American football player from San Francisco California. He went to college at USC, where he would win the Heisman trophy the most prestigious award in college football. He got drafted by the buffalo bills, there Oj rushed for over 2000 yards in a season. Since Oj was so successful and accomplished as a football player, he thought he was above the racial conflict. In 1994, Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her boyfriend, Ron Goldman. He would be found not guilty of the crimes, during the trial he uttered the famous quote “I’m Not Black, I’m O.J.” this is where Jay Z gets his famous one-liner “I’m not Black, I’m O.J., Okay” in his song Story Of O.J.
His verse rap verse starts with “House nigga, don’t fuck with me, I’m a field nigga, with shined cutlery, Gold-plated quarters, where the butlers be, I ‘ma play the corners where the hustlers be” (Jay Z) while during the scene it goes to Jay Z cartoon style picking up cotton this goes back to the Malcolm X’s reference to the African slaves who worked in the house. They often grew fond of their master since they were treated better than field slaves. This dynamic caused some house slaves to preserve and protect the slave institute. House slaves believed their lives were optimum, while field slaves hated their masters and wanted to escape. Then switches to Jay Z on the counter of a new york street which probably references his hard beginning where he had to sell drugs on the corner to get by, this contrast to him being a field negro when he was a drug dealer.
Still In verse one the line “I told him, Please don’t die over the neighborhood, That your mama rentin, Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood, That’s how you rinse it” ( Jay Z). This refers to how violent gang neighborhoods are and how gang members die over a counter or block that the government owns. Mostly all drug dealers don’t have happy endings staying in the game or profession, so instead Jay Z believes you would use your drug money and by the neighborhood rent it out and make it a better place. This goes into Jay Z talking about financial literacy. The Next verse and scene start off with jay talking to his psychiatrist about the better financial decision. The lyrics go “I bought every V12 engine Wish I could take it back to the beginning’ I coulda bought a place in DUMBO before it was DUMBO. For like 2 million That same building today is worth 25 million. Guess how I’m feelin’? Dumbo” (Jay Z). Hip hop has created a lot of harmful ideals.
One of those ideals is about forging whips. Typically when black rapper or athlete get their first big payday, they spend it on an expensive car instead of buying a piece of property. Jay Z trying to teach the viewer that instead of using the money to buy an expensive that depreciate quickly, buy a piece of property that gains value over time. The music video then goes to a stripper dance with Jay tells us, ” you wanna know what’s more important than throwing away money at a strip club? Credit. Jay giving us more financial advice this time about credit, which in fact it may be just as important or more valuable than money. If you have a bad credit score getting a loan from a bank, it’s almost impossible. Then he givens us a lesson on how Jewish people own all properties in America. The music video show how he bought artwork for 1 million and each year it when up in value. Jay Z, according to Forbes, is the first billion-dollar rapper most of his wealth was accumulated in artwork and real-estate. The last scene shows Jay Z coming out from below the deck of the slave ship with the white sailor saluting him. The scene represents that he made it out of the struggle and now own the boat. The song goes to its chorus and shows all the historical black figures rapping along, finally once again showing a dark past. Since early America, it took African American over one hundred years to find their self meaning and identity because of all the set back they have faced. Jay Z Story of O.J masterfully shows this struggle.