OKP Editorial: Jay-Z vs. The #Occupy Movement - Okayplayer

OKP Editorial: Jay-Z vs. The #Occupy Movement

Jay-Z and Russell Simmons conferring at the time of the Occupy protest in NYCs Zucotti Park

With the 1-year anniversary of the Occupy movement fast approaching (Sep. 17th), Jay-Z had a few choice words about the movement to share with acclaimed novelist Zadie Smith in a recent interview with The New York Times‘ T Magazine. Recalling a conversation he had with Russell Simmons, he told the mag:

“I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?”

Jay did not mention his previous attempt to capitalize on the movement last fall, when Rocawear announced their “Occupy All Streets” T-Shirt in which the company refused to donate any of the profits of sales to support the activists. (The shirt was quickly discontinued after some public son-ification, and now appears on the site as “back ordered.”)

Occupy’s response? A teach-in organized by the Guitarmy (guitar-army, get it?) at the upcoming September 28 Jay-Z show at the new Brooklyn arena, the Barclays Center, which is partly-owned by Shawn Carter himself, and named after the scandal-ridden Barclay’s bank. In a statement the Guitarmy wrote:

We have spent one year on the streets organizing for exactly the things Jay rapped about in his early days, ending urban poverty, ending Stop & Frisk and police use of lethal force, of returning dignity and hope to the everyday people of New York City. These are simple civil rights issues we know Jay-Z must support, and we would love to help open his heart and mind to the work Occupy has helped do in his own former communities.

While the Occupy movement has certainly been criticized for its lack of clarity in terms of goals and complaints, it’s not too hard to glean the general gist of what the movement supports, and one would think it’s something that Jay-Z (given his work with the family of Sean Bell, among other causes) would identify with if he was better schooled in it. So we thought we’d put it in terms Jay-Z may be able to better understand:


I beat the pussy up, up, up, up, up, up, up
I beat the pussy up, up, up, up, up, up, up
I beat the pussy up.


Oh wait, that’s not the quote we meant to pull. It’s here:

I say f**k the police, thats how I treat em
We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom
We’ll buy a lot of clothes when we don’t really need em
Things we buy to cover up what’s inside
Cause they make us hate ourself and love they wealth
That’s why shortys hollering “where the ballas’ at?”
Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack
And a white man get paid off of all of that

But if Kanye West (those lyrics are from his 2004 single “All Falls Down”) is unwilling or unable to get through to Hov, 2012 Russell Simmons seem perfectly capable of breaking it down. In an Op-Ed titled ‘Jay-Z Is Right 99 Times, But This Ain’t One’–published today on his site Global Grind–Rush had this to say:

I went to Zuccotti Park, the home-base of the Occupy Wall Street movement, almost everyday for months. I listened to the young people talk about their 99 problems. The 99 percent. Healthcare reform. Prison industrial complex. The war machine. Bad schools. Lack of access to affordable higher education. Genetically modified food. Gay rights. Immigration reform. Crumbling housing projects. Climate change. Everyday, there was a new protester with a new sign, fighting for the rights of the under-served. There was never an official agenda or media-friendly talking points. Zuccotti Park and the Occupy camps that sprung up around the country were places for any and every person to come and share ideas about how to better perfect our union. Our democracy.

Rush was definitely there in Zucotti Park (Kanye, too–see the video below for proof). And to his credit he goes pretty deep on the 99+ issues at stake for the Occupy movement–including their mostly un-examined impact on the imminent presidential election. He concludes his breakdown with a direct appeal to Mr. Carter:

So, Jay, here’s the deal. You’re rich and I’m rich. But, today it’s close to impossible to be you or me and get out of Marcy Projects or Hollis, Queens without changing our government to have our politicians work for the people who elect them and not the special interests and corporations that pay them. Because we know that these special interests are nothing special at all. In fact, they spend millions of dollars destroying the fabric of the black community and make billions of dollars in return. For example, the prison lobby paid politicians to create a so-called “War On Drugs” that resulted in a prison economy that disproportionately locks up black and brown people, including many of your friends and mine. They took drug-infected, diseased people, locked them up, educated them in criminal behavior and dumped them back into our community, thus producing a jail culture for our streets. There are more black people under correctional control (prison, jail, parole, probation) today, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War. This is just one issue that has been bought and sold. If we have to occupy Wall Street or occupy All Streets to change the course of direction of this nation, then we must. We must take our democracy off the market and let the world know that it is no longer for sale! Mic check!

We couldn’t have said it better if we were 2004 Kanye.

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