Since releasing his new album on June 30, Jay-Z has managed to do two things in less than a week — gain platinum status and stir up anti-Semitic controversy. While the former sounds great, there are some who are less than enthusiastic about the lyricist’s accomplishment, including the Anti-Defamation League.
The veteran rapper and business man whose album entitled “4:44” dropped a song last week “The Story of O.J.” containing a line that sparked fury in the Jewish community.
In the song he raps, “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.”
While on the outside appearing to give praise, the track immediately ignited a heavy debate about whether or not Jay-Z was promoting harmful stereotypes.
The Anti-Defamation League, a non-government Jewish organization that monitors bigotry in the U.S. and abroad, voiced its concerns.
A rep for the ADL told Rolling Stone, “The lyric does seem to play into deep-seated anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. The idea that Jews ‘own all the property’ in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish ‘control’ of the banks and finance.”
Even Twitter was set ablaze with opinionated tweets.
One tweet read, “I don’t appreciate Jay Z perpetuating a stereotype about Jewish culture in his discussion of black culture.”
Another contained a blank-stare face meme.
But despite the mixed reactions and criticism, the ADL did acknowledge that they did “not believe it was Jay-Z’s intent to promote anti-Semitism.”
“On the contrary, we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism,” the ADL continued.
Madonna and U2’s manager, Guy Oseary, who is Jewish and was born in Israel, came to Jay-Z’s defense in an Instagram post that included a picture of him standing next to Jay-Z.
“Jewish people do NOT ‘own all the property in America,’” Oseary said. “Jay knows this. But he’s attempting to use the Jewish people in an exaggerated way to showcase a community of people that are thought to have made wise business decisions. An example of what is possible and achievable.”
Oseary continued by adding, “In my opinion, Jay is giving the Jewish community a compliment. ‘Financial freedom’ he mentions as being his ONLY hope. If you had to pick a community as an example of making wise financial decisions achieving financial freedom who would you choose? I’m not offended by these lyrics.”
Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul who co-founded Def-Jam Records, made similar remarks on social media.
“Mischief makers would like to take Jay’s statement about the culture and practices that exist within some parts of the Jewish community (notice I say some),” Simmons wrote on twitter.
“The fact is this culture that promotes good business and financial well-being is and has been a guiding light to the black and specifically the hip-hop community,” he said.
“From music to film, television, fashion, technology and financial services, the hip-hop community including myself have partnered with Jews where there were no blacks to partner with,” read a statement that not only supports Jay-Z’s intentions, but touches on the history of Blacks finding support for their businesses during a time when it was exceptionally scarce.
Though startling for some, Jay-Z said on iHeartRadio that he created the album “4:44” to empower his community. In an explanation of the meaning behind each song on the now platinum album, Jay-Z described the “The Story of O.J.” being a song about “how we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward.”
According to The Atlantic, Jay-Z responded to prior criticisms in his book “Decoded” and wrote that, “when I use lines like this, I count on people knowing who I am and my intentions, knowing that I’m not anti-Semitic or racist, even when I use stereotypes in my rhymes.”