JAY-Z released 4:44, his first album in four years, on Friday. Critics and fans alike have praised the project, which contains some of the Brooklyn rapper’s most personal songwriting in years, but some have characterized the lyrics of one 4:44 song, “The Story of O.J.,” as anti-Semitic.
“You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit,” he rhymes on the song. “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”
Now Guy Oseary, a prominent music industry figure who manages acts including Madonna and U2, has issued a defense of JAY-Z. “If you read the lyrics out of context I can understand why people are jumping to that conclusion,” Oseary, who is Jewish, wrote on Instagram. “But if you listen to the song in its entirety you will hear that the whole of the song is based on exaggerated stereotypes to make a point. There are African-American stereotypes throughout the song.”
Oseary added that “Jay knows” his assertion on the song is false, “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.” Earlier in the song, Jay laments his failure to buy a building in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood before real estate value there skyrocketed.
The controversial lyric juxtaposes with 4:44, which generally has been praised for JAY-Z’s atonement for past failings as a husband and father and for its progressive stance on LGBTQ issues. “Smile” features JAY-Z’s mother and serves as a forum for her to come out as lesbian. GLAAD praised the song’s content in a statement issued Friday, noting that “by sharing her truth with the world, Gloria Carter is increasing visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time and sending a powerful message of empowerment to the entire LGBTQ community that is perfectly timed with the end of Pride Month.”