With the current controversy surrounding high-end retail store Barneys and racial profiling allegations, one thing stands evident. Harry Belafonte was right about Jay-Z. In the midst of this controversy, fans have called on Jay-Z to end his partnership with Barneys, in which his new holiday fashion line is going to be sold. Jay-Z’s response has been a calculated public relations effort in which he negates any real responsibility to his default, “I’m doing it for charity” statement. Currently, Jay-Z is continuing his partnership with Barneys with his collection set to launch next week.This “doing it for charity” response only further highlights Jay-Z’s disconnect with the masses that he often claims to represent. This notion of accepting racism in exchange for charity is downright laughable. If a charity is supposed to be helping people, why work with a store that appears to marginalize his own fan base due to class and race perceptions. Now, Jay-Z claims he’s being demonized for his partnership with Barneys. He’s not being demonized. He’s being realized.This is where Harry Belafonte comes in. Months ago Belafonte called on Jay-Z to play a more active role in social movements and help to drive social change. Jay-Z’s response was to refer to the 86-year old civil rights icon as “boy.” Jay-Z went on to state that due to his mega star status, his very presence was “charity.”Harry Belafonte’s critiques were not superfluous statements. They were part of an insightful analysis of how star power can be used to affect societal movements. With over 50 years of civil rights activism, Belafonte can spot both genuine and superficial involvement. The latter, is what Jay-Z is often engaged in. This superficial support of “the people” is laden with corporate driven interests.For example, during the height of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Jay-Z decided to make a t-shirt line based on slogans from the movement. His plans changed, once Occupy Wall Street activists asked if he would share the profits. The idea of having to share the profits (which would have helped provide much needed financial support to activists) was unthinkable to the hip-hop mogul.Then, there’s the controversy that surrounded 2010 tax records from The Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. During that year he reportedly earned, over $63 million but only donated roughly $6,000 to his own charity. This is not a normal practice for charity founders, who often provide a large portion of their charities’ financial costs. Out of all donors, Jay-Z reportedly gave the lowest donation to his own cause.Finally, there is the N*ggas in Paris fiasco in which his friend Gwyneth Paltrow, decided to tweet the title of the song after attending his concert. This resulted in Twitter backlash over her usage of the term. Jay-Z, who is an enthusiastic advocate for the usage of the N-word, was silent on the controversy. Having millions among his fan base embrace the N-word is a part of his crossover hood status appeal that provides further economic security.According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2012 White/Caucasian audiences represented 79% of music buys, 81% of CD buyers and 80% of digital buyers. So don’t expect Jay-Z to engage in any significant dialogue with fans about using the word. With him it’s the same old, “people give words power” and “this is the least racist generation” excuse. It’s not economically feasible for him or any other corporately invested hip-hop artist to do anymore than brush off the issue. Yet this is someone people expect to fully grasp or care about race related issues?The African American community has to get beyond this belief that just because someone from our community attains fame or wealth, that they’re somehow intellectually superior, a role model and someone to be admired. The same can be said for Russell Simmons with his Rush Card, Blood Diamond, and Harriet Tubman controversies. And Kanye West, who often laments about racism but strives to uphold the same materialistic values that help drive economic disparities. Do you really expect any of them to be deeply invested in activism against a classist system from which they benefit?Harry Belafonte was right. Jay-Z isn’t genuinely standing up against racism or classism because this activism may affect profit margin (something he learned while selling crack).
jay-z is a captialist so I’m not surprised by what he did with that Barney’s deal
Kanye West has the right idea without the intellectual capabilities to communicate his ideas in a simplified message to an audience who largely do not understand his point of view. His inability to communicate his message effectively leads to him becoming frustrated and coming across misunderstood. My next statements are formed on the basis of the interview he did recently with Power 105.1 Breakfast Club. Charlemagne argued the point that; why should it matter whether Nike are allowing him to produce the next pair of Air Yeezy’s, is that not just materialism surely freedom they argued is having the love of your family and loved ones etc. Kanye argued that he wants to be part of the social elite to ensure that his daughter is looked after way after his death.
Expanding on Kanye, I agree with his statement it is important for us as black people to gain access to key industries that affect black people. Black people or rather black culture continues to influence mainstream society and yet black people do not own fashion houses (the actual manufacturer’s of garments) we equate becoming designers as success, black people do not own music distribution companies we are simply musicians. In simple terms we have our face on the product but do not own or create the product where the real wealth is created, the kind of wealth that creates generations of wealth.
Jay-Z projects an attitude of self preservation, a need to align himself with white powers that be in order to preserve himself. He does not want to stir up any bad blood around him so he overlooks the frustrations of his community for self gain. My point being people like Jay-Z, like Kanye are not only the problem, the whole culture as a whole is the problem. We want to carry on knocking on the door instead of saying “FUCK YA’LL” and creating our own doors, creating our own fashion houses, our own music distribution companies, our own record labels and investing that money back into our communities. Instead like Jay-Z we want that wealth to ourselves and then align ourselves with people who do not care about our people or the culture they continually rape everyday for their own gain. Capitalism within itself breeds narcissistic selfish tendencies but capitalism is what we live in, it is here, it is real and until we begin to educate ourselves on how capitalism works and how it can work to our own advantage we will be forever crying and complaining. We cried to be let on the forefront we now are, we are on television, radio, music, fashion etc but we are just the faces the real POWER belongs to those controlling these mediums.
We need unity, we need educating, we need an understanding of power by first understanding that just because Jay-Z is on TV does not mean he has power, we need to understand how to gain power, how to get it, how to keep it.
"There’s room at the top they are telling you still, but first you must learn how to smile as you kill, if you want to be like the folks on the hill” - John Lennon (Working Class Hero)