5 Ways Harry Belafonte Is Greater Than Jay Z


(The Root) — Besides sex scandals, there's nothing the media loves more than a good feud. When two powerhouses battle it out in lyrics or on Twitter, it gives all of us something to write about. Basically, feuds are good for business. But true feuds only work when the parties involved are perceived as on arguably equal footing, either in terms of talent or intellect.

Which is why this media-created "feud" between Jay Z and Harry Belafonte is so ridiculous. The increasingly hyped feud has gained traction in recent days, thanks to criticism by Belafonte regarding a lack of activism on Jay Z's part and Jay Z's lyrics in a recent song "dissing" Belafonte by calling him "boy."


Yet these men are not equals in any way. Jay Z will never be in Belafonte's league, no matter how many CDs he sells or millions he earns (or how many presidents he pays to hang out with through political fundraisers). The only thing making this fake "feud" marginally interesting is that Jay Z seems oblivious to this fact, as do some of his fans, a few of whom are so intellectually lacking that they are unaware of how much greater Belafonte's legacy is and will always be than that of "Hova."

To help those people out, below is a list of all of the ways in which Harry Belafonte is more relevant and more of a man than Jay Z will ever be.

1. Harry Belafonte gives money to black people. Jay Z takes money from black people. 

When it comes to philanthropic endeavors that have benefited the black community, Belafonte's contributions are too numerous to list. A brief overview includes helping to financially support the family of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while King was a struggling pastor and up-and-coming civil rights icon, and helping to bail King out of jail following his arrest in Alabama. Belafonte also helped fund the Freedom Rides. Yep. That means if you are black and reading this article from an integrated location somewhere in the South, you owe Harry Belafonte a big old "thank you."

As far as Jay Z (birth name Shawn Carter), here's an analysis of his charitable giving by one outlet:

In 2010, Jay-Z only reportedly donated $6,431 of his $63 million earnings to his own Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund, and Beyonce is being drawn into the mix too. Out of the $87 million she earned in 2010, not a single penny went to her husband's foundation. According to Jay-Z's representative, Jana Fleishman:

"Jay, along with his family, provided office support, overhead support, Mrs. Gloria Carter's 100 percent effort and time [his mother], computers, FedEx expenses, accounting, and treasury function support," she wrote in an email to The Daily, adding. "This was at no cost to the charity."

But that office support didn't add up to much that year. According to tax records, $1,209 was spent on office expenses, $1,401 for the telephone, and $4,696 for other expenses. Of the three charitable donations that were given to the Shawn Carter Fund that year, which totaled $218,849, Jay's was the smallest.


But that's not the end of Jay Z's "charitable giving." By merely being a performer who graces the black community with the tremendous opportunity to give Jay Z money to see him perform, he is engaging in charity — at least according to Jay Z. In response to Belafonte's recent criticism, Jay Z responded, "I'm offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama's is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough."

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 Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter. 

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter