‘The Story Of O.J.’ by Jay-Z is quite possibly the most important hip hop song of the decade, and relatively speaking, not many people have heard it.
Featuring lyrics that reference the controversial statement by O.J. Simpson: “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” where O.J. claims society defines him by his wealth and success not his race, Jay-Z uses the track to respond by saying that one’s skin colour does in fact still shape how people are viewed in society, regardless of their financial class or levels of fame attained.
The song starts off with JAY-Z rapping, “Light n****, dark n****, faux n****, real n**** Rich n****, poor n****, house n****, field n**** Still n****, still n****.” In one move, Jay-Z protests the racist mentality of those who paint all black people with the same brush, and calls out out black people who attempt to distance themselves from the black community.
Watch: Jay-Z – ‘The Story Of O.J.’
As Billboard points out, the song’s video — a black-and-white cartoon that offers a glimpse of the past and present experiences of black people in America — added further depth.
Jay-Z encourages listeners to pay it forward and invest in their communities in order to share the wealth, displaying his growth and knowledge as a musician and businessman.
You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit
You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it
The above interlude is a key moment in the track, where Jay-Z pleads with his listeners to transform their income into something bigger, and not simply spend salary and income cheques on short term pleasures.
These lyrics also act as a protest to hip hop itself, where spending money on strippers and luxury mark the measure of success in most commercial hip hop tracks. Jay-Z points to the Jewish community as a culture hip hop can learn from.
So why has “The Story of O.J.” by Jay-Z been slept on?
The truth is, the lack of reach the song has had is probably Jay-Z’s own fault. It was only on Dec 4 last year (2019) that Jay-Z’s music made available on the largest music streaming platform Spotify.
This kind of lack of exposure can’t be underestimated. While Jay-Z, arguably the biggest rapper the world was stuck behind a pay wall on niche streaming service TIDAL, it meant his record had no chance of virility. To illustrate this, Jay-Z’s ‘The Story of O.J.’ has only got about 100m views on YouTube, compare that to Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’, which has 1.3 Billion.
Huge difference, huge miss by Jay-Z.