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The Story of Oj

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“The Story of OJ” is about conflict between black people and white people but, most importantly, is about people who deny this conflict is still relevant in nowadays’ America. The message Jay Z shouts is pretty clear: even in 2017, if you’re black, no matter what you are going to achieve in your life, you being a nig** is the first and the last thing people are going to say about you.

In order to make his message so understandable Jay Z decides to follow two main storylines: the first is about the history of black people in the US, the second one is far more personal, is about him and his growth, is about the construction of a self-image.

The first thing we need to point out is that the video is a black and white cartoon, so we need to ask ourselves where its imagery comes from. The answer is easy: it comes from the racist cartoons that were popular in America at the beginning of the 20th century, particularly from the “Story of little black Sambo”, an illustrated book that came out in 1899. From that we also learn why Jay Z’s alter ego in the video is called JayBO.

The video opens with some landscapes from New York (Brooklyn, Queens…), all the places where the rapper grew up. Then wee see a tipical 1930s burlesque show, with only black people attending, and a woman pianist that represents Nina Simone, whose song “Four Women” has been sampled inside “The Story of OJ”.

At 0:39 a wooden cross comes up and, after that, we meet JayBo. He immediately states the main message of the song and, after eating a watermelon (one major black stereotype) we also get to see OJ Simpson, one of the most controversial black figures US ever had.

The second time he repeats the opening lines we see some important characters: specifically the distinction at 1:04 between the Faux Nig**, who is the clearly taken from Samuel L Jackson’s character in Django and the Real Nig**, who is Huey Newton, the founder of the black panther movement. At 1:10, at the end of the climax, we see JayBo sit in a bus with the “Colored” sign, another reference to black American history, specifically the Rosa Parks situation in 1955.

Right after that we have the first crucial moment: we meet Oj Simpson. Him saying “I’m not black, I’m OJ” is the key to understanding the title. Oj, once he became famous, started to live as a rich white person, denying its background; but, during the trial in 1992, he needed it back.. That’s why in the video we hear that “Ok” by JayBo with the eye rolling.

At 1:32 the story shifts towards Jay Z’s personal background. We see his growth, his getting rich, his washing the streets he grew up in. He’s taking action against the idea that black people die in their neighborhoods selling drugs.



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