When it comes to politics and social issues, Jay Z hasn’t always been outspoken in public. But recently he’s taken a public stand on issues such as prison reform and police brutality. In a recent episode of Oprah’s Master Class, the award-winning rapper shared some interesting views on race relations.
“I think that hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons,” says Jay in the clip. “Save Martin Luther King, because his dream speech we realize[d] when President [Barack] Obama got elected. But the impact of the music, you know, this music didn’t only influence kids from urban areas. It influenced people all around the world.”
Jay Z also went on to explain how racism is learned through an early age, but hip-hop can change a person’s beliefs.
“It’s very difficult to teach racism when your kid looks up to Snoop Doggy Dogg,” he says, before discussing integrated social environments like clubs. “Before people partied in separate clubs. There were hip-hop clubs and there were techno clubs. Now people party together, and once you have people partying, dancing and singing along to the same music, then conversations naturally happen after that.”
Everything Jay Z has said is his own opinion and may be his own truth, but let’s not forget that hip-hop isn’t the cure to the ills of the world, especially when it comes to racism. Sure, hip-hop exposed people to black culture, but it has been appropriated and co-opted by those who could give two s—ts about the culture. Hip-hop is now just as American as racism. And let’s not forget how hip-hop has seemingly given some nonblack people free rein when it comes to their use of the n-word, because “Oh, it’s only just a word in a lyric.”
As much as I want to give hip-hop credit for bringing people together who share a love for the music, I’m not willing to give some of these people credit for using it as a way to learn about black culture. For example, back in the day, tons of people loved Sammy Davis Jr. and other black artists, but that still didn’t mean a white person (or any other person besides a black one) on the other end of the record player didn’t have his Ku Klux Klan hood in his closet.
So, sure, hip-hop has done its part, but let’s not play dumb and think that it’s bigger than some of our cultural icons who fought long and hard to alleviate racism back in the day, and even now.