Jay-Z’s ‘The Story of O.J.’, Directed by Mark Romanek and Jay-Z
“The Timeless Story of America”
Originality – 4
Cleverness – 5
Entertainment – 4
Jay-Z plays a modest black performer in the role of a caricature cartoon. He documents the reality of the black man’s generous spending habits and reveals how his gregarious lifestyle drives his financial status into turmoil, limiting his economic freedom. The more compelling case is that the entertainment they pay for is also performed by their black counterparts (athletes, musicians and dancers). This focuses on how the blacks have been mentally sanctioned into being both the consumers and performers in America whilst never retaining any actual accumulative wealth since they don’t own anything and dispose of their income as soon as they get it.
Jay-Z also reveals his rise to riches allowing him metaphorically escape the slave ship (and hop into a yacht), abandoning the population who can’t think or fend for themselves. They end up getting auctioned into the workforce to toil away for the man.
Although Hov parties with the wealthy white supremacists, his outspoken ways make him dangerous, and thus, he’s targeted and lynched. He does, however, leave behind his music which acts as a blueprint to success for the black community.
The Jigga man plays Back to the Future in this timeless music video, referencing a number of time periods including: Slave Trade, The Gatsby era and OJ’s prime time amongst many others. The time periods he allows the audience look into reveal not only how America hasn’t changed sociopolitically, but how the black mind still lacks cognitive development.
This is constantly shown with the primitive obsession with women and the general ignorance of the populace. When Jay-Z speaks of his art dealing, the community fails to comprehend it, labeling it ‘bougie’ and when he voices his financial investments, his peer is focusing on a woman’s bust. Hov also drops game, pointing out that Money is the sole key to liberty, however, as soon as the money is handed over to the black man, it’s consumed without thought, reflection or even remorse. Throwing away the key to liberty on short-term pleasures and non-durable goods is in no way rational but it’s a habit that seems stuck within the community.
The cartoon parodied the style of early Disney (gauge the white gloves), evoking a strangely dark undertone in reference to the exaggerated facial features black cartoon characters comprised of in early television. This is reinstated with the black stereotypical act of eating a watermelon and by their overly jovial reactions to entertainment. The African-Americans are also given animalistic looks through the film, ranging from dogs to monkeys insinuating that they primitive minds.
Lastly, ‘Jaybo’ is not only an acknowledgement of ‘Dumbo’, it acts as a reference to the term ‘Jiggabo’ or ‘Jigaboo’ which is a condescending and discriminatory term used against the blackies…
The amount of self hatred based on skin color is amplified here from start to finish. There is a melancholic tone in the female voice claiming her skin color; this is due to the animalistic and sub-human connotations associated with the darker skin tone derived from and driven by the Entertainment, Media and Educational sectors of America.
This war on blacks uses psychological warfare to coerce black hatred within the black community and it happens from a young age. This inspires self-loathing which incrementally deprecates self esteem and devaluates the person in his or her eyes. That’s the reason why O. J. claimed not to be black, he believed that his success transcended him from the black community. But you know how that ish go…
Although Uncle Ruckus fondly remains in our memories, black self hatred is personified by no other than ‘Stephen’ from Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’, his character is subtly utilized here as the “House Nigga”. What’s intriguing is that upon self reflection by the spoon, he clocks Jay-Z. This is a nod at Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Blacker the Berry’ which also speaks on the theme of black hatred, pointing out it’s protagonist (K.) as a hypocrite. Black on black hate ranges from killing one another to refusing to support each other i.e. Jay-Z’s Tidal has been met with utmost resistance.
The cross features twice in the video and is an empirically important aspect. It symbolizes ‘Truth’ and ‘Sacrifice’. The first time it’s shown, it’s used to introduce Jay-Z and signifies that he (like Jesus) is going to speak the truth and be a sacrificial lamb. The second time it’s shown, it’s being burnt (like that in the KKK). What’s important to note here is that Jay-Z is the cross and after being burnt (killed), the cross doesn’t fall because his message in the music is immortal and has already manifested in one of the slaves. It also provides the notion that blacks are still living in a ‘White America’ and that the system endorses self hatred and self mutilation within the black communities.
The ending is utmostly significant as it ties everything together and reveals the reason for the ‘Timeless’ concept. After all America has been through, it’s still run by white supremacists, the people are still enslaved and left indebted to large organisations and black killings are still very prominent. Whilst America initiates global war, the majority of America stays distracted and enticed by the allure of clubs, media and entertainment.
The country is glamorized, glorified and maintains a semblance of liberty and utopia but the reality Jaybo depicts is far from it.
A cartoon jam-packed with subliminal symbology would have been great, but Jay-Z elevates this film using 3 distinctly entertaining characters:
Jaybo: The protagonist and dejected entertainer. A self-sacrificial lamb who reveals the truth and is targeted by the supremacists.
The Child Monkey: Jay’s depiction of his current rap peers who are absolutely oblivious to all that’s going on. They ride on his success (and work) and perform with an unintelligible skill set. The Child Monkey ends up surprised at having been shipped off into an auction. His childish qualities and small frame reveal how ignorant and dense his mind is. He knows nothing… kind of like Jon Snow
The High-Flying Dumbo: The cartoon referenced is of a young circus elephant who learns he can fly. Jay-Z flies above the projects (has left it) and this character is used to represent his music (coming from up above like the gospel) which gives the kids invaluable knowledge on how to navigate their lives, even with financial shortcomings, in white corporate America.
…before they get a chance to sabotage him, Jaybo fakes his death and evades the country without a hint as to his final destination. The only thing he leaves behind is the music, which acts as a blueprint to success for the black community.
Jay-Z turned Uncle Remus here, giving us a dark yet insightful ‘nigga spiritual’ with this lullaby tune and comical cartoon. It’s one of the more thought provoking cartoons involving political commentary and it maintains exceptional originality, articulation and sophistication… but you would expect this from Mr. Carter.
This is the most densely compacted piece of media that rap has brought out since TPAB. It seems like a black consciousness is resurfacing within the music and culture so it’s only right for one of the greatest lyricists to carry the torch.