Jay-Z's 'The Story of O.J.' is Clever and Insightful
    • FRIDAY, JULY 07, 2017

    • Posted by: Jake Holzman


    Jay-Z's 4:44 is getting all the praise it deserves, as well as its fair share of controversy. This controversy has ranged from fans being annoyed with Jay-Z's partnership between Tidal and Sprint making it harder to actually listen to the album (which is already a thing of the past, seeing as how the album is out today on Apple Music), to accusations of anti-semitism. Hopefully, though, all of the controversy will not overshadow the power behind his writing. 4:44 is one of the most well-conceived achievements in Jay-Z's career, and is too profound, at times, to be ignored.

    One of the most well-written tracks on 4:44 is undoubtedly "The Story of O.J." In this track, Hov expands upon his views on not only achieving success and maintaining it, but also having the foresight to transform that success into something bigger. He recalls his own regrets on wasteful spending ("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 feeling? Dumbo") and takes aim at rappers who show off their advances on Instagram ("Y'all on the ‘Gram holding money to your ear, there's a disconnect, we don't call that money over here"). Or, as he bluntly says, "Financial freedom my only hope, fuck livin' rich and dyin' broke." The track also samples the Nina Simone classic "Four Women," which shares a similar theme to "The Story of O.J." In that song, Nina Simone brilliantly wrote from the perspectives of four different black women to express the everlasting legacy of slavery across generations. In the chorus of "The Story of O.J.", Jay-Z reflects on how African Americans simply cannot separate themselves from that culture and history. This really shines through in the lyrics when he recalls O.J. Simpson's famous decree, "I'm not black, I'm O.J." Jay can only roll his eyes at that, it seems.

    This week, Jay-Z released the video for "The Story of O.J.," and it does exactly what a good music video should do: it's entertaining to watch, while also emphasizing the meaning behind the words. The best image in the video has to be the final shot, which sees a cartoon Jay-Z (or rather… "Jaybo") flying away from the Earth, and winking to the camera, as all of the land behind him is devoured by a flood. It suggests exactly what the lyrics suggest: through foresight and investment, you can rise above whatever cultural or societal difficulties try to hold you back.
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