At midnight, Jay-Z dropped 4:44, his latest album on his streaming service Tidal as well as Sprint. It wasn’t the Lemonade-level visual album that many had suspected, but along with a number of disses and an apology to Beyoncé for cheating, he released a beautifully animated music video for the album’s second track, “The Story of OJ,” giving us a rich history of anti-black racism in the U.S. (along with a heap of financial advice) both lyrically and visually.
The style of the video, directed by Jay-Z and Mark Romance, is inspired by racist Looney Tunes cartoons from the ‘30s and ‘40s, undermining the horrific caricatures proliferated by the Censored Eleven, a group of those cartoons that are almost never broadcast anymore due to their racist content.
For instance, Jay-Z himself is reimagined as “Jaybo,” a play off of Sambo, and Nina Simone, whose song “Four Women” is sampled in the song, also appears in the video. A host of other caricatures also make appearances.
He raps, “Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga / Rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga / Still nigga, still nigga,” as images of slaves picking cotton, crosses burning, KKK members being manufactured in a cotton mill, slave ships, and lynchings play out. It’s a powerful song and an even more powerful visual.