“The Story of OJ” was written and released by Jay-Z during the summer of 2017. This was a controversial year in the United States, especially in politics. President Trump’s inauguration, police brutality, riots and protests, and a lot going on in music to reflect. Jay-Z released “4:44”, a ten track album, which included “The Story of OJ” as the second song, through Roc Nation, an entertainment company founded by Jay-Z. He hadn’t released an album since 2013, creating a very anxious fanbase anticipating his next work.
Jay-Z is known for being involved in social movements, and for voicing his opinion through his songs. He represents a strong era in music in terms of generation and reputation; often being compared to legends in the music industry as one of the greats. In “The Story of OJ”, Jay-Z wanted to address the social stigmas involved in black history and culture; the color of someone’s skin has become a tool to explain the rooted perspectives of race in American history. “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” stated O.J. Simpson during his trial, which was reiterated in “The Story of OJ” as a message to bring awareness to that stigma. Jay-Z did not agree with O.J. Simpson’s expression of his trial’s outcome, he believes that O.J. committed a disservice to not only his race but to the social movement being fought for centuries, implying that he aided the stigma in a sense. However, the song does a good job of leaving room for interpretation for the listeners; Jay-Z has a lot of experience in connecting with his audiences.
The song’s sociological imagination is focused around the hardships of becoming financially rich as black. Jay-Z is utilizing his platform to preach the right things to worry about and to ultimately educate his audience. O.J. Simpson and his famous case, to Jay-Z, are the perfect examples to exploit the societal restrictions on minority races in the United States. The song’s music video, which was released the same summer, vividly represents the lyrics and messages by Jay-Z. Being styled satirically towards racist cartoons and animations in the 1900s, Jay-Z wanted to represent the stereotypes in mass media as well as the issue of black wealth in America.
“The Story of OJ’s” second verse starts with, “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.”
These lines are clear indications of stereotypes in America, and are also good representations of how Jay-Z guides you his opinions and messages while leaving room for interpretation in his music.
“4:44” – album by Jay-Z: https://genius.com/albums/Jay-z/4-44
“The Story of OJ” – Jay-Z (music video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM7lw0Ovzq0
O.J. Simpson Trial: http://famous-trials.com/simpson
– Justin Leon