Why The Hell Doesn’t Jay-Z Understand The Importance Of Occupy Wall Street?

 

There used to be a time when hip hop stars made it very clear that they didn’t desire to be role models, or that they weren’t the people that should be sought after for opinion on matters such as politics and social injustice. Although you always had artists like Public Enemy and Dead Prez, the gross majority of rap/hip hop were very clear that they would steer clear away from these topics. It made sense. Hip hop should focus on wax, not Capitol Hill.

Recently, Jay-Z startled us by admitting that he knew very little about the Occupy Wall Street movement. In all honesty, Jay-Z didn’t really say he didn’t know about the Occupy Wall Street movement. He said what a lot of people said behind closed doors. He couldn’t figure out what the movement’s goals and objectives were and because of that he found it difficult to support the movement.

“What’s the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for? … I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?”

“I think all those things need to really declare themselves a bit more clearly. Because when you just say that ‘the 1 percent is that,’ that’s not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that’s robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that’s criminal, that’s bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on.”

Interesting…

I’m going to share with you what Russell Simmons said in response to Jay-Z, but first, let me give my initial reaction. Regardless of what Russell is about to say, this statement makes it obvious to all that Jay-Z did not desire to pick up the phone or have an assistant figure out what Occupy Wall Street was about. We call that, complacency. However, Russell Simmons responded with an informative statement without being condescending or chastising Jay for his comments:

“So, Jay, here’s the deal. You’re rich and I’m rich. But, today it’s close to impossible to be you or me and get out of Marcy Projects or Hollis, Queens without changing our government to have our politicians work for the people who elect them and not the special interests and corporations that pay them. Because we know that these special interests are nothing special at all. In fact, they spend millions of dollars destroying the fabric of the black community and make billions of dollars in return…”

“This is just one issue that has been bought and sold. If we have to occupy Wall Street or occupy All Streets* to change the course of direction of this nation, then we must. We must take our democracy off the market and let the world know that it is no longer for sale! Mic check!”

* In the midst of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Jay-Z decided to sell T-shirts that said, “Occupy All Streets.” Then… he released a statement saying that his tee shirts were not a reflection of his support for Occupy Wall Street and he removed them from shelves. This guy…

Here’s the thing, I’m actually not mad at Jay-Z for knowing anything about Occupy Wall Street. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever looked to a rapper to take lead in any movement against injustice in our society. Furthermore, I think it’s extremely problematic that we put these entertainment figures in the position of taking the lead or being a voice when in fact it should be our community and civil rights leaders that we are looking to for leadership.

CBC weekend is coming up in a couple weeks and I remember the point in time when I started thinking that the weekend was an absolute joke. I remember one time a few years back, Diddy and Jamie Foxx were “ambassadors” for CBC weekend. The only thing that I could put my finger on that they did for the CBC was throw a few great parties at Love Nightclub. That’s a problem. I understand that in an attempt to increase exposure of these issues we’re bringing in entertainers who seem to garner more attention than a Hill Harper or Tavis Smiley, but damn son. There’s got to be a better way.

As it pertains to Jay-Z, the inconsistencies in his rap music make me wonder if we should ever go to him with these issues. Jay-Z was asked for his thoughts on gay marriage not too long ago and he said that he thought that gay people should be able to marry; I consequently thought of how many times I heard him use the f-word in his songs. And then there was this video…

How many times did these guys plan on saying the n-word while rapping a tribute song to the first Black President in the history of America? I actually wrote an article about this incident and others like it over a year ago.

[Jay-Z]
I pledge allegiance, uh, to my Grandma
For that banana pudding, our piece of Americana
Our apple pie was supplied through Arm & Hammer
Straight out the kitchen, shh don’t wake Nana!
Built a republic, that still stands
I’m trying to lead a nation, to leave to my little man’s
Or my daughter, so I’m boiling this water
The scales was lopsided, I’m just restoring order
Hold up, here comes grandma, what’s up YaYa?
What’s that smell? Oh I’m just boiling some agua
No papa, bad Santa
The streets raised me, pardon my bad manners
I got my liberty, chopping grams up
Street justice, I pray God understand us
I pledge allegiance to all the scramblers
This is the Star Spangled Banner

[Frank Ocean]
Sweet King Martin
Sweet Queen Coretta
Sweet Brother Malcolm
Sweet Queen Betty
Sweet Mother Mary
Sweet Father Joseph,

Sweet Jesus
We made it in America
Sweet baby Jesus, ooh
Oh sweet baby Jesus
We made it in America
Sweet baby Jesus, ooh
Oh, sweet baby Jesus,
We made it in America

In his own right, Jay-Z has been an outstanding performer, entertainer and rapper for a very long time. This shouldn’t take anything away from those accomplishments. This should shed light on the dangers of allowing our entertainers to influence our political stances. Many Jay-Z and Kanye West fans were standing alongside The Throne when their album dropped. While songs like Made In America and Murder To Excellence hinted at a new revolutionary side of hip hop, I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here. Rappers’ job is to sell records. Let them sell records. Anything else, I’m sorry, they’re just not qualified.

What are your thoughts about hip hop artists and entertainers stepping into the realm of politics and social responsibility? Outside of participation, is there an expectation that they be at the forefront of the charge? Do you get worried sometimes that these topics might be a bit out of their reach? Let me know your thoughts on these questions and more.

- Dr. J

PS – This isn’t just about Jay-Z. We could have gone in on Nicki Minaj & Mitt Romney today too. We have these things called word counts, but I’m more than willing to chop it up about it in the comments section.

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  • Clean3asy

    First off.. Great post and convo starter. I’m never disappointed. But I think historically musicians and entertainers have been a vessel for the pain in the black community. From James Brown to Harry Belafonte to Dick Gregory, these gentlemen helped simplify a simple situation. However in today’s political conversation, it’s hard to pin point the frustration. Is it realist to have an extraordinary rich person speak on “99%” issues when we raps about “1%” materials?

    To the point of topics being out of their reach, I personally feel that entertainers are just as ignorant to public policy concerns as the rest of average Americans.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

      Fair point, how can we hold entertainers accountable for being socially conscious when most of our peers aren’t. You can probably ask 20 random people about Occupy and they’d probably give worse answers than Jigga did

      • Smilez_920

        I agree to a certain extent. I don’t put celebrities on a pedestal. I do appreciate and give props to the ones who are informed and have used their career as a stage to do more for others. I think ( at least in the blk community ) performers or entertainers are somewhat expected to use their status to help uplift or inform their community kind of. Think of ppl like Ali, Marvin Gaye , The Last Poets , Harry Bellefonte etc… They took a stand ( or atleast informed) ppl on certain issues that they knew directly effected the blk community. They understood that they had the power to bring certain information or ideas to light that someone in their neighborhood would have never came across.

        That’s why I like Russle’s response. He was like ” hey Jay I get it your a business man , but don’t forget how you got here and don’t forget that others might have a hard time reachig that success when certain opportunities are being taken away from them. So just think before you speak “.

        I actually didn’t find a problem with the first part of Jay-z answer ( the occupy wall st) because even well known political analysis were saying that the movement need more clarification and direction . But the ” ppl shouldn’t hate on free enterprise ” is where Jay-z made me raise an eyebrow.

      • Clean3asy

        But I think Jay’s answer was valid. There is NO clear argument that has been articulated by the movement. In almost every successful movement (especially America) there has been a goal/leader/foundation

  • Fly_Free_Mind

    I don't think that anyone should look towards an entertainer for guidance on politics. Unfortanently our kids don't know any better. I'm slightly critical of those who irresponsibly market their art to young people. I have a strong disdain for artist such as Niki Minaj becuase she specifically targets young girls with this self hating blackface barbie bull. Jay on the other hand indirectly influences kids. Either way I think as a person one should take responsibilty for their impact that have on other people's kids. But we don't live in a perfect world.

    • Clean3asy

      I don’t think many people LOOK up to entertainers for policy/political advice.. But it happens because they are part of the media. I think it’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to judge what their children are listening to. I think there is nothing wrong about disagreeing with artist and their form of art, but the criticism needs to surround the real issue. I agree that maybe artist should think about how they influence kids, but it’s about money. Not kids.

  • Fly_Free_Mind

    I can't hate Jay for not taking a position on the Occupy movement but come on, selling those shirts was a Fail. First He bit a movement's name that no knowlege about, Then he made a profit from sales and not contribute to the movement of primarily middle class and working class young people-a group who largely supports Jay . Hip hop is meant to be controversial, it's meant to evoke emotional respose, as with other form of poetry. In a perfect world we would have more LupesWords can express my joy hearing my fellow student's, white and black engage in dialouge about "Bitch Bad". But I think more than trying to change everyone around us to conform to be positive role models, we should be role models ourselves and show our children how to react to influences in the world.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

      The shirts were in bad taste, especially knowing he had no idea about the actual movement so he basically saw a trending topic and make a quick buck off it.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan

    Now there isn’t a bigger Jay fan than me (Well probably So but that’s not the debate here) and while I actually agree with him on Occupy, I myself supported the cause but thought they lacked direction and execution. What was their mission statement besides we are the 99% percent, I’m gonna need more than 9′s that’s how Herman Cain screwed up.

    The issue in regards to rappers I simply know better. Most have high school educations, I don’t expect healthy socially responsible debate, I expect quality music. It sounds bad but perhaps I set the bar too low for our entertainers to not be surprised when #theignance comes out their mouths. Now if I was an aspiring rapper I would probably try to emulate Jay, back in my hoop dreams days I would try to be Iverson, in regards to simply looking for a role model I look elsewhere; they’re not in the same league, don’t shoot at the same basket #seewhatididthere.

    • http://learninglover.com/blog AfterMath

      "Most have high school educations"

      Don't knock it, I learned so much from Jay's "Rap Game/Crack Game", Biggie's "Ten Crack Commandments" and Mos Def's "Got", I mean that's an education via real life. And its like the kid says on Season 4 of the wire (in the schools) when the teacher asks him why he could count money and not other things.
      My recent post Visualizing Huffman Coding Trees

      • Larry

        Lol, no one's knocking it. I believe the point was many people (not all) in the entertainment industry didnt' have an opportunity or have an interest to study things such as political science or have much experience discussing/debating geopolitical events, movements or how social injustices affect society as a whole. Sure they have an opinion, but no one expects them to get on a stage and win a debate against Mitt Romeny or any other politician, lol.

  • Smilez_920

    One thing I like about this ” situation ” is Russle’s response. To often when one of our peers are unaware or misinformed , we point, ridicule them, and laugh at them instead of politely putting them on to some info. Now it’s the ” misinformed ” person decision to take the info or ignore but atleast someone tried to tell them.

    I think this is one reasons why a lot of Americans are uninformed on politics or not as deeply involved.

  • http://learninglover.com/blog AfterMath

    I love it when an artist is willing to put his rep on the line and become political, but I also understand it when they don't.

    I think Jay has a point here because there wasn't much cohesion there. You mention it yourself in the article. And its one thing to be in favor of it because its the right thing, its something else to be in favor of it because its popular – and that's what I feel like a lot of people were doing. Russell talks about moving from Marcy, but I didn't hear that theme mentioned. I heard a lot of anti banking stuff. Even this morning on NPR I heard that the Occupy movement had a controversy because they made too much money….now they have to use the banks. And they were spending it on BS stuff, so they decided to stop spending it.

    Its different to say compare this to the civil rights movement, or say a strike in favor of unions, or a march in favor of getting rid of the prison pipeline. The Occupy movement seems to be anti something, but I didn't hear a formulated objective in there like, "this is what we should be doing". And even the stuff they said were their goals were lofty at best, "more and better jobs", "more balanced distribution of income"? What do those things mean?
    My recent post Visualizing Huffman Coding Trees

  • http://inanimatethoughts.blogspot.com Animate

    I don't have a problem with entertainers speaking on issues…if they know what they are talking about. But that goes with anything and anyone with me. Don't speak on things you don't know about and only speak to the extent of your knowledge.
    My recent post Murci, Murci Me

  • Larry

    "What are your thoughts about hip hop artists and entertainers stepping into the realm of politics and social responsibility?"

    Feel free to support a movement or a cause you truly believe in, but by no means should they be obligated to speak on a group's behalf at length if they do not want to. The whole, "With great power comes great responsibility" line is being slightly abused in the sense that people want to define great responsibility outside of the realm of the entertainer's role capacity. If a rapper/singer/comedian wants to put on a show where all or the majority of the proceeds goes to helping a cause or something of that nature then, to me, that's responsible enough.

    Them going on Meet The Press getting interviewed on their political views by David Greggory does nothing of substance.

  • DeKeLa

    There is nothing in Jay's post that I find at fault, as he echoes the responses of many 'educated' and more well-informed people regarding the OWS. I have argued the same point about the movement and being that I am LITERALLY next door to it, I saw and heard more about it than most.

    Hell even the premise 99% is ludicrous because someone in the 90-98% is making between $150K to 500K and they ain't check for people making 50K a year or unemployed.

    Secondly I doubt people in Jay's strata is checking that hard if it doesn't affect their bottom line. While we are here making comments on the internet about his opinion, he's making money. They chose to Occupy Wall St, he chose to occupy his time with something else.

    Can't knock the Hustle.

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

      "While we are here making comments on the internet about his opinion, he's making money. They chose to Occupy Wall St, he chose to occupy his time with something else."

      I say this every time people are going in about a celebrity or someone that's doing well in life, but has come under fire for whatever reason…particularly on Twitter. Peeps will be there roasting while the person is putting more zeroes in their bank account.lol
      My recent post I Refuse to Live the Internet Life: So What’s The Real Slim Jackson Anyway?

      • Honeymack

        Yeah that’s true Mr. Slim but lets not forget if it was not for the consumer or average working man supporting them. They wouldn’t exist Lbs.

        • GoldenG

          Both make good points. Jay-z isn't obligated to know about Occupy wall street but he makes it his business to take my money when I purchased those WTT Tickets. Yeah I know, noone told me to give him my money but I'm supporting him at least he can do is know wtf is going on around him that could possibly effect his fans that's lining those fat pockets of his. If it isn't involving him or B or the damn 40/40 club or RocNation he won't ever care. self- centered, lazy, and complacent like dr. J said.. I think if you influence people in any way you should be involved with movements, revolutions or whatever. Because everyone is effected take Public Enemy for example deeply involved with politics, Little Brother as well. But Lupe Fiasco, and Nas Knew about it and attempted to do something about it why is that? Because they know it effects them as well as the common folk.

        • DeKeLa

          Nas and Lupe don't have Jay's finances, business acumen, Jay's side businesses and Jay's brand. They simply have more time on their hands than Jigga lol.

          But really, if you read his response he says he is aware of OWS, but doesn't get their message, their appeal and asks for them to define themselves and their mission. That's the total opposite of not being "in the know".

  • Uncle Hugh, BP

    "What are your thoughts about hip hop artists and entertainers stepping into the realm of politics and social responsibility?"

    If they want to be more politically involved, good for them, but their opinion means no more than anyone else who isn't an expert in the field. Their fame doesn't make them experts in politics or social consciousness. Jay-Z's opinion on OWS means no more to me than my mechanic's opinion on legal advice.

  • Streetz

    "Hip hop should focus on wax, not Capitol Hill."

    Cant agree with this. The fact that we had a whole movement back int he day about being socially aware of issues in potilics, and in our communities conflicts with that quote. Rap is about the world, what's going on, about your struggles, and about your successes. if that includes your political opinion then so be it. I would hope rappers would be more well informed about issues before they express them in music, but hip hop on wax = your experiences and your thoughts. if they expand to politics that isnt stepping out of the boundaries of the genre.

    I dont look towards entertainers for poltical perspective anyway, feel me?
    My recent post #30in30 Day 11: The Funniest Cookout Of Summer 2012

  • Bree

    I'm glad he has an opinion on more than T & A and hoes in different area codes and Hawaiian Sophie's and Big Pimpin etc etc etc. Thats what happens when u get married, have kids, get older, and grow up.
    It's called life.