The Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish organization dedicated to fighting anti-semitism, says they are concerned about the implications of a lyric on Jay-Z‘s new 4:44 song, “The Story of O.J.” On the track, the rapper rhymes, “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit/ You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”
“We do not believe it was Jay-Z’s intent to promote anti-Semitism,” a rep for the ADL tells Rolling Stone. “On the contrary, we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism.
The organization, however, finds the particular lyric problematic. “The lyric does seem to play into deep-seated anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. The idea that Jews ‘own all the property’ in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish ‘control’ of the banks and finance.”
A rep for the rapper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The lyric immediately sparked a debate on social media over whether the lyric was anti-Semitic, and if not, whether Jay intended it to be complimentary despite signaling to long-held stereotypes about Jews. Madonna and U2’s manager, Guy Oseary, who is Jewish and was born in Israel, offered his interpretation in an Instagram post that featured a picture of himself with Jay-Z.
Oseary argued that the line taken out of context could be seen as anti-Semitic, though he noted that Jay-Z uses exaggerated stereotypes in both the lyrics and video for “The Story of O.J.” “Jewish people do NOT ‘own all the property in America,'” Oseary said. “Jay knows this. But he’s attempting to use the Jewish people in an exaggerated way to showcase a community of people that are thought to have made wise business decisions. As an example of what is possible and achievable … In my opinion, Jay is giving the Jewish community a compliment. ‘Financial freedom’ he mentions as being his ONLY hope. If you had to pick a community as an example of making wise financial decisions achieving financial freedom who would you choose? I’m not offended by these lyrics.”
Russell Simmons also defended the rapper earlier this week on Twitter, writing, “Mischief makers would like to take Jay’s statements about the culture and practices that exist within some parts of the jewish community (notice I say some). The fact is this culture that promotes good business and financial well-being is and has been a guiding light to the black and specifically the hip-hop community.”