5 Ways Harry Belafonte Is Greater Than Jay Z

The rapper embarrasses himself and the black community with his attack on a civil rights legend.

Before becoming a rap mogul extraordinaire, Jay Z was an admitted crack dealer. According to the book Freakonomics, the African-American community is still feeling the harmful impact of the work of people like Jay Z.

While crack use was hardly a black-only phenomenon, it hit black neighborhoods much harder than most … After decades of decline, black infant mortality began to soar in the 1980s, as did the rate of low-birthweight babies and parent abandonment. The gap between black and white schoolchildren widened. The number of blacks sent to prison tripled. Crack was so dramatically destructive that if its effect is averaged for all black Americans, not just crack users and their families, you will see that the group’s postwar progress was not only stopped cold but was often knocked as much as ten years backward. Black Americans were hurt more by crack cocaine than by any other single cause since Jim Crow.

Gee, thanks Mr. Carter. 

3. Harry Belafonte helped elect a president. Jay Z helped embarrass one.

Though we take it for granted today, Belafonte became a trailblazer by becoming one of the first black celebrities ever to film a television endorsement for a presidential candidate. You can watch his ad affirming his support for then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy here. Belafonte served as a crucial conduit between Kennedy and the black civil rights community.

Jay Z, however, is best known for co-hosting fundraisers for President Obama, and for being an ongoing source of embarrassment for the administration. This embarrassment came to a head when he and his Mrs. took a controversial trip to Cuba, about which Jay Z then rapped, mentioning the president, furthering White House distraction and embarrassment. 

4. Harry Belafonte’s songs do not include the words b–ch, ho or n–ga.

I don’t think further explanation for this one is really necessary, but here is a link to Harry Belafonte’s most famous song, and here is a link to one of Jay Zs.

I will let them speak for themselves.

5. Harry Belafonte can engage in an intellectual debate without employing the n-word. Apparently Jay Z can’t.

While Belafonte has accused Jay Z and his wife of having turned their backs on “social responsibility,” below are the lyrics incorporating Jay Z’s classy response to some of Belafonte’s criticism:

“I’m just trying to find common ground/’Fore Mr. Belafonte come and cut a n–ga down/Mr. Day O, major fail/Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now/Hublot homie two door homie/You don’t know all the sh-t I do for the homes.”

According to the dictionary, in addition to being a racial slur, the n-word can also be used to describe “a person of any race or origin regarded as contemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.”

While I believe we will all be better off once the n-word is eradicated from the English language, based on the definition above, I think Jay Z was accurate in describing himself as one.

Keli Goff is The Roots special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.