Jay-Z's New Video Subverts Some Of Our Most Toxic Racist Caricatures

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

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.

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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.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.
This image was removed due to legal reasons.
This image was removed due to legal reasons.
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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.

Isha is a staff reporter who covers pop culture, representation in media, and your new faves.