“The Story of O.J.” has clear indications of representing multiple genres, regardless of Jay-Z being characterized as a rapper. Rap is a genre that started as a “slang” and was intertwined with Hip-Hop, because of its roots and meaning. Rap was identified by the lyrical aspects of it, that it sounds conversational. That “conversation” is revolved around current social and politics problems surrounding a culture. Before rap, it was “griot”, an ancient African tradition that transformed to where we get rap today. Griot was a traditional African communication that involved talking and communicating while music is playing. Hip-Hop formed in the 1970’s where it was defined by the gatherings of people listening to this music. In this modern case, “The Story of O.J.” is a rap song that discusses black culture and wealth in the face of racism and discrimination while referencing the deep history behind the genre and black culture.

As a genre, rap is very loose, utilizing samples and other genres to personalize its sound. Though, lyrically and stylistically it must remain the same; spreading a message and historical references through music. Stylistically, “The Story of O.J.” contains ad-libs, 808s, and high hats; which are all common components of rap music, though the sound stretches. Jay-Z samples from other genres and artist and personalize the message behind his song. Layering black cultural backgrounds in the music makes it deeper and more meaningful to both the artist and audience. His two main samples in this song are the jazz and blues elements in “Four Women” by Nina Simone (1966) and the soul and funk styled drums in “Kool is Back” by Funk, Inc. (1971).

Layering and sampling become a huge factor for any artist that is involved in rap and hip-hop. It creates more meaning and significance to the essence of the song. In “The Story of O.J., Jay-Z relies on the rap component of the song to get across his story and message, because any sound effects or visuals are revolved around the lyrics. Since Jay-Z is referencing dated entertainment and historical issues, he utilizes those real instruments instead of production. Such the piano, drums, bass instruments, and other soul and funk related sounds. With those cultural sounds, heavily linked to historical black culture, Jay-Z is able to discuss controversial topics and issues. Rap and hip-hop are genres that involve that controversial factor, because it’s about the message being represented as much as the music itself.


Here is a brief video describing the genre rap and its origins to help better understand the context:




Guan, Nancy. “Here’s Why Jay-Z’s ‘The Story of OJ’ Is Still Relevant Today.” ENTITY, 26 June 2018, www.entitymag.com/jayz-the-story-of-oj/.

Kabango, Shad. “Hip-Hop Evolution: The Birth of Gangsta Rap.” Netflix Official Site, 2 Dec. 2016,  www.netflix.com/watch/80141896?trackId=200257859.

Mize, Cole. “History of Rap – The True Origins of Rap Music.” ColeMizeStudios, 29 Oct. 2015, colemizestudios.com/how-did-rap-start/.


– Justin Leon