Far from timid • Caveat Lector

Verses: The Story of O.J.

Verses: The Story of O.J.

On June 30th, 2017 Jay-Z released his 13th Studio album 4:44. Instead of doing an album review I decided to do a 10-Part Verses Series breaking down each track from my own point of view. 

Here's Part 2, The Story of O.J.

"O.J. like, "I'm not black, I'm O.J." …okay"

The opening line to The Story of O.J. is perfect. It kicks off the entire feel of the track and NO ID's sample of Nina Simone's "Four Women" is haunting. The intentional pause that Jay placed was done with purpose. You almost can hear a collective sigh and eye roll at that one infamous line to summarize the sentiment of what O.J. Simpson believed he was, bigger than blackness. Black success has been synonymous with whiteness throughout history. When a black man or woman elevates socially or economically their surroundings often do not reflect their upbringing. At the time O.J. felt his legacy was bigger than being black and he was soon reminded otherwise. 

"House nigga don't fuck with me

I'm a field nigga, go shine cutlery"

If the first line was the setup then the following line was the overhead spike. Jay positioned himself in the field denying the obvious advantage his complexion would have afforded him. More often than not black men and women of wealth and higher standard forget no matter what position White America will place you, you can be quickly reminded of who you really are. The color of money can be viewed as a shield against your complexion albeit a poor one. Tiger Woods is another example how white acceptance can soon turn its ugly head. His fall from grace off the golf course has affected his professional play as well as how he is viewed in the media. 

I told him, "Please don't die over the neighborhood
That your mama rentin'
Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood
That's how you rinse it"
I bought every V12 engine
Wish I could take it back to the beginnin'
I coulda bought a place in Dumbo before it was Dumbo
For like 2 million
That same building today is worth 25 million
Guess how I'm feelin'? Dumbo

Simply put, buyers remorse. Jay is reflecting on what his money could have afforded him outside of luxury items. Property, equity and essentially and opportunity to cultivate Black living standards. Although I don't believe anyone should aspire to sell drugs with the hopes of cultivating the community I believe the point Jay was trying to make was there is a better use of finances outside of superficial items. "Guns and butter baby."

Also of note, not "dying over the neighborhood, that your momma renting" speaks to the violence in communities we have no official claim over. Lines like these personify the necessary need to remind the youth that the love we have for the hood and the blood shed in the streets are futile. 

"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"

"Y'all out here still takin' advances, huh?
Me and my niggas takin' real chances, uh
Y'all on the 'Gram holdin' money to your ear
There's a disconnect, we don't call that money over here, yeah"

Finances have always been an issue when it comes to the black community. One thing that we can't come to agree upon is how we spend and save our money. "Throwing money away at a strip club" has always been a sign of financial freedom for some especially in rap. Making it rain or walking in with a garbage bag full of money is seen as a status symbol. As well as cars, clothing, jewelry and luxurious houses. All of which has been revealed as rentable commodities. While a show of money to us may go as far as your local hustler REAL money in the corporate world comes in assets. Again guns and butter. The credit system whether you like it or not is how you move around with the big boys. In fact, the entire United States of America has a credit score. So as much friction these lines have caused denying the truth of it is ignoring the very staples of our society. 

Now let's briefly discuss the money to your ear line. If Jay hurt your feelings by telling you holding a few bands to your ear isn't real money, get over it. It isn't. It may be real money where you're from but to Jay and his constituents, it isn't. I'll go back to a dope Pusha T line.

"A half a mill in twenties like a billion where I'm from." - So Appalled

Perspective. To YOU in your world, that's a lot of money. To people like Jay, it is not. Period. What people miss in this song, is that Jay starts by telling us what he thought money and freedom was. He bought every V12 engine instead of a building which appreciated in value. When he grew and started to realize what financial freedom really was, he spent one million dollars on a piece of art work which is worth way more now. If all you took from this entire song was Jay trying to diss us listen again. The message is subtle and filled with nuance. For one, no matter how successful we become to the rest of the world, light, dark, hood, rich, field, or house we are still niggers. And as soon as we fail the world will be there with that not so humble reminder. Two, financial freedom isn't instant. It takes years and years to attain wealth and even longer to maintain it and pass it on. Armed with the knowledge of how to do so, we can gain access to the things that are more important than what we see in a video. Just my thoughts. 

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