The Story of O.J.

Album: 4:44 (2017)
Charted: 23

Songfacts®:

  • Here, Jay-Z touches on various topical talking points within the African-American community. The song title and the hook are about colorism.

    O.J. like, "I'm not black, I'm O.J." …okay

    This lyric is a reference to O.J. Simpson's famous statement ("I'm not black, I'm O.J.") during his trial about being able to escape the color of his skin. Jay appears to dispute Simpson's declaration.
  • Other topics that Jay-Z touches on during this song include those of black ownership, socioeconomics and business acumen. He explained to iHeartRadio:

    "'The Story of OJ' is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we're gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger."
  • The song starts off with a sample of Nina Simone's 1966 tune "Four Women," a conceptual track about the way many black women had been brainwashed into hating their bodies. Producer No I.D. also borrows the drum kicks from Kool & the Gang's "Kool's Back Again."
  • The animated video was co-directed by Mark Romanek and Jay-Z himself. Romanek previously won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Direction for his work on Jay's "99 Problems."
  • Speaking during a TIDAL 8-minute documentary titled Footnotes for "The Story of O.J.", Jay-Z reflected on the song's "I'm not black, I'm O.J" lyric:

    "We tend to as black people - because we've never had anything which is understandable - we get to a place where we think we separate ourself from the culture. Like where O.J. will get to a space where he's like, 'I"m not black, I'm O.J.'… I've never had an inferior complex ever. I'm the opposite, I was more defiant to the system. That's how you end up hustling, you're felt like you were dealt an unfair hand and you use a cheat card. You have to live on the other side of the law.

    When I came into this business I remember telling Ty Ty like, 'Man I don't care about any of this.' I was who I was. My first album came out when I was 26, by the way. So I'm like a full developed human at that point. I had a sense of who I am and I had a strong belief in my talent. So I didn't defer to anyone… It's gonna take for the way-showers to do it and not get to that point and then turn into like, 'I'm not black, I'm O.J.'"
  • One of Jay's lyrics from the song prompted critics to accuse him of anti-Semitism:

    You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?
    This how they did it


    Hova defended his use of exaggeration during an interview with the Rap Radar Podcast claiming that the context of the song absolves him:

    "It's hard for me to take that serious because I've exaggerated every black image in the world. If you in the Jewish community don't have a problem with the guy eating watermelon. If you don't have a problem with that and that's the only line you pick out then you're being a hypocrite and I can't address that in a real way, I gotta leave that where it is because it was exaggeration.

    Of course I know that Jewish people don't own all the property in America, but it was an exaggeration much like the racist cartoon. Context is everything and the context of this song outlines what I'm trying to say, and the point that I'm trying to make is actually, 'You guys did it right.'"

Comments: 1

  • Carol Tatum from San Francisco My 12 year old great grandson recently brought this one to my attention. Asked me what I thought and then told me his thoughts. I love him for his depth of thought that was much more succinct than mine.
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