Jay-Z accused of anti-Semitism on new album '4:44'
Guillaume Baptiste (AFP/File)
Rap legend Jay-Z has been accused of evoking anti-Semitic stereotypes by rapping about how Jews "own all the property in America" in a track featured on his 13th studio album, "4:44," which was released on Friday.
The album has generated a fair amount of buzz for its soul-bearing lyrics, which include an admission of infidelity and apology to wife Beyonce, and an outpouring of love for his mother whom he reveals to be lesbian.
But a line on the track "The Story of OJ" has come under scrutiny as being possibly anti-Semitic.
"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," Jay-Z raps.
A song biography released with the album said that the track is "a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward."
"We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists, especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger," it says.
Twitter users criticized the line, apparently intended as praise of the savvy of investment and credit building, for evoking common stereotypes of Jews: That they are all wealthy, and that they dominate property markets.
Jay-Z, whose "4:44" marks a return to rap after a four-year hiatus, has been outspoken against racism in the past, and race politics are a common theme throughout the album.
The rapper appeared alongside fellow music mogul Russell Simmons in a 2006 public service announcement condemning racism and antisemitism.
"What’s not cool is antisemitism. It’s a long word for racism. Antisemitism and racism are the same thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise," Simmons says in the clip.
“Speak out against anything racist, any kind of bigotry the minute you hear it. Let’s fight all types of racism and antisemitism together,” he says.
"Don’t be silent, remember, we are one. One voice," Jay-Z adds.
Jay-Z's mind on "4:44" is more on his own "legacy" -- which is the title of the last song in which the 47-year-old addresses his children, vowing that the family's fortune and philanthropy will outlive him.
"I'd like to see a nice peace fund / Ideas for people who look like we / We going to start a society within a society."
- 'Sorry for cheating' -
Jay-Z's jaunty anthems made him one of rap's all-time greats and then, as he amassed a business empire and married fellow superstar Beyonce, he drew an ever thicker curtain over his private life.
"4:44," came out Friday as an exclusive on his upstart Tidal streaming service whose new part-owners, telecom provider Sprint, is banking on the release to woo customers.
The album delivers a long-awaited public reply to Beyonce who chastised him for infidelity on her acclaimed "Lemonade" album a year ago.
"I apologize / Our love was one for the ages and I contained us," Jay-Z raps over a brassy Gospel refrain.
"What good is a menage-a-trois when you have a soulmate? You risked that for Blue?" he asks rhetorically, referring to the couple's five-year-old daughter Blue Ivy.
Beyonce recently gave birth to twins, her father revealed on social media, although the family has yet to confirm details. Jay-Z on "4:44" suggests they conceived the twins naturally.
- Embracing lesbian mother -
Jay-Z, who recently became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, infuses the album with touches of house music and reggae, giving a sleeker, contemporary sound to the artist whose later albums had veered into mainstream pop.
On the soulful "Smile," Jay-Z for the first time confirms hushed rumors that his mother is lesbian, explaining how she turned to substances to cope with the stigma.
"Mama had four kids but she's a lesbian / Had to pretend so long, that she's a thespian," raps Jay-Z, who has spoken of how his father's absence contributed to his troubled youth in public housing in Brooklyn.
"Don't matter to me if it's a him or her / I just want to see you smile through all the hate," he raps.
"Smile" opens with a snippet from Stevie Wonder and closes with a poem by Jay-Z's mother, Gloria Carter, who recites, "The world is changing and they say it's time to be free / But you live with the fear of just being me."
Jay-Z, like many rappers of his generation, employed homophobic slurs in his early music but was also one of the first prominent voices in hip-hop to speak out in favor of gay rights.
(Staff with AFP)
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Fame does not imply intelligence. Even Nobel prize winners are antisemites.