Today we are so easy in our judgement of individuals nowadays that we have become what many would call “soft.” And being that our judgments have become “soft,” in result we are giving too many people passes. One individual that I feel gets a really big pass is the rapper/mogul Jay-Z. Jay-Z has been the poster child on how to be the perfect rapper inside and outside the game. He is often glorified for his respected rap career and his business ventures outside of music. With all of this, he has been anointed the Greatest Rapper Ever. Now I agree that the rapper has been the most successful rapper musically and does have one of the most natural talents that any rapper has ever had. But is that enough? Is it enough to be called the Greatest. I ask the question, what has he done for the people? His Fans outside of rap? I recall a rapper whose music and philosophy was rooted and was also spread in African-Americans through knowledge on poverty, liberty, egalitarianism, black nationalism, and more. But this article isn’t about said rapper who rhymes with “jukebox,” it’s about Jay-Z.
I don’t really know where to start so let’s just start in house to his own Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. Anytime I brought up Jay-Z and his lack of social presence, his supporters would always point that he has his own charity. Now even though that’s not what I meant by having a social presence I decided to look into it anyway. The Shawn Carter Scholarship foundation was founded in 2003 with the mission “to help individual facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institution of higher learning.” Around 2012-2013, which marked about ten years since foundation’s inception, it was reported by the foundation that over 750 students have received awards totaling over 1.3 million in individual grants of $1,500 to $2,500. 1.3 million?!!?!?! You’re telling me in a ten year period, that’s it?! Remember, Forbes calculated Jay-Z’s worth to be $500 Million Dollars!!! 1.3 million should be a down year in a big time scholarship fund, let alone a ten year period. To make it worse, in 2012 , tax returns from 2010 revealed that Jay-Z made $63 million but only donated $6,000 to his charity that year! It was reported that out of all the doners, Jay-Z gave the lowest donation to his own cause. Jay-Z’s publicist didn’t deny the $6,000 donation but she defended the small donation stating that Jay-Z contributes in “other ways.” “Other ways?!” Is he helping move the prospective students into school? Is he tutoring them for their test in school? Is he providing stress relief for them during finals week? What is “other ways?” I can’t even buy my used car, that I spent two summers/school years working at a summer & after school program camp with $6,000.
So the line of defense against this argument above for Jay-Z fans is “Well in 2013 he started a partnership with Barneys New York where 100% of the earnings go to the Shawn Carter Foundation.” So I looked into this deal as well. So the original deal between Jay-Z and Barney’s was originally slated to were Jay-Z would give 20% of those funds earned to the Scholarship Foundation. Now a quick history and biography on Barney’s New York. Barney’s New York since the 1990s has been caught up in not one but multiple cases of racial profiling. It spawned a report by Johnnie Roberts, a Newsweek reporter, to account a racial profiling incident with the store in 1990 with African-American customers. It became high profile again in 2013 (around the Jay-Z partnership) when Trayon Christian, a 19 year old African American, purchased a $350 belt and was arrested shortly after police received a call from the store. Soon after, another African American shopper, Kayla Phillips, came forward after a similar claim when she bought a $2,500 handbag. With many fans and people wanting Jay-Z to back out of the deal, he garnered much criticism (especially from the daily news) after a very safe and attenuate response saying that he would look into the matter more in depth and not make a quick judgment, saying “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion.” It was then announced that the deal would continue but with him taking the leadership role of the deal and stating that 100% sales from the BNY SCC collection will go to HIS Scholarship Foundation and that Barney’s agreed that 10% of retail sales on November 20th of 2013 from all stores nationwide would go to the foundation. Seems to me only after realizing the PR nightmare that could be in front of him was it in Jay-Z’s best image, to please the fans calling for his partnership end with Barney’s, that he increase the proceeds percentage from 25% to 100%. And it’s not like the Barney’s racial profiling is something new. It was happening in the 1990s so there should have been some more research into a company your partnering with “if you don’t know facts.” Yeah, thanks for partnering with a company that marginalizes against African-Americans Jay-Z.
Enough? No, there is more. Musician and civil rights activist/pioneer Harry Belafonte was openly critical of Jay-Z and Beyonce in their safe political stances. He stated that they “have turned their back on social responsibility.” So how did the grown, African-American man Jay-Z respond? Well he responded by referring to Mr. Belafonte as a “boy” and proceeded to say, “My presence is charity.” First off, who the fuck does Jay-Z think he is disrespecting a man who was one of Martin Luther King Jr’s confidants and helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. Don’t ever respond so disrespectfully to someone so important to the advancement of African-Americans in America and helped paved the way for yourself and the career you have by referring to him as “boy.” Secondly, your presence alone isn’t charity. Your not providing hope when you show up at a public appearance (only Obama does that) and your presence can’t even bring in more than $6,000 in 2010. Jay-Z, you need to become more proactive and stop waiting to take a stance on a subject only after someone else stands out. For example, the topic of gay marriage has been around for years. Yet Jay-Z had never spoke on the matter until he stood up for gay marriage AFTER President Obama backed it up in the 2012 elections. Also, Jay-Z in Minority Report used only one verse of that song to talk about Hurricane Katrina AFTER Kanye West spoke out about in the infamous “George Bush doesn’t like Black people.” *Side note, Lil Wayne had the best Katrina song.* I feel Jay only spoke up about these topics to support his great friend Barack Obama for his reelection and to back up his little brother Kanye West. Hey maybe I’m crazy and that’s not true but why can’t he ever be the one that’s stating something on his own on the forefront? He had a chance during the Occupy Wall Street Movement where Jay-Z, using Rocawear, decided to make a t-shirt line based on slogans from the movement. Once the activist of the OWS movement wondered if the profits could be shared with the movement (which could have provided much needed financial support to the activist), Rocawear mysteriously stopped selling the t-shirts. Jay-Z would then respond by saying that he never actually supported the protesters and that they lacked clarity in their messages and their demonization of entrepreneurs. He stated “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about.” But you wanted to make shirts supporting the movement?? Interesting.
Look I’m sorry to all the Jay-Z fans that have their pitch-forks ready outside my house (one including my girlfriend). But I’m really not hating on Jay-Z, its actually quite the contrary. Yes, I am disappointed in Jay. BUT it’s because I think he can play a bigger role than any African-American celebrity alive. Jay-Z is from the hood and comes from one of the toughest environments that a kid can come through. Yet he is a multi-millionaire and has created a successful life. This is great because Jay-Z is one of the few that can play both sides of the fence. Basically his word could be respected within all our country’s social classes due to the fact he’s been apart of them all. He has the “cool” factor and the “it” factor that could get through to troubled African-American youths. All I’m asking for is that hope. Speak up on racial issues, reach out to our troubled youths, create a example on what being a Man is not just a business man or rapper, and also donate more than fucking $6,000 to your own charity. Jay-Z can have the chance to put his name with the pioneers of the African-American greats and I think he NEEDS to do that. So I’m calling you out Jay, what are you going to do about it.