I was thinking of doing a long in depth analysis of the Story of OJ vs New Slaves, but the songs do a good job of explaining themselves. Take a listen
Key points to ponder:
- OJ Simpson, during his trial back in the day, mentioned that he didn’t identify as black. The irony is race was the focal point of his defense.
- “Niggas” are a collective. No matter how you try to differentiate, niggas are still niggas. Jay-Z tries to activate the collective consciousness of the black plight. While I see what Jay is saying, the black population/experience in the US isn’t monolithic. While there are collective experiences (injustice, racism, etc) black people experience, there’s geographic, socioeconomic, educational, lineage differences that create a segmented reality. For example, I don’t have drug money and therefore cannot use it to buy the neighborhood. That’s a whole set of experiences I’m just not exposed to.
- Jay tries to put people on game…. Buy assets that appreciate and don’t give in to the consumerist lifestyle/ trying to keep up with the Jones. To Jay, black people in America can only improve if they focus on asset acquisition.
Take a listen to New Slaves.
Key points from New Slaves:
- Kanye is a very angry place when he made this album. This song is initially a moment of expression about his current challenges around engaging the fashion community. He feels like the gatekeepers of fashion don’t accept his ability to enter the space. So while the song has racial features, the ultimate struggle he’s arguing against is gatekeepers of consumerist culture.
- Like I mentioned, Kanye invokes a lot of racial history and visuals. He makes a pivot into a larger audience in the first verse though; “Use to only be niggas, now everybody’s playing.” This differs from Jay’s approach as Kanye is speaking to a larger group than black people. He’s speaking to the power dynamic between consumers and corporations.
- Kanye talks about all the other institutions that corporations own/run/influence and ultimately scheme to keep the status quo.
- Kanye’s solution to fighting the man is to increase his voice, tear down walls/ misconceptions, and share with the world through his music. Oh yes, can’t forget sleeping with the mans spouses… I believe its a reference to the old slave masters fear of their spouses being raped by slaves and how its manifested presently in how black men are perceived in our society today.
The Story of OJ and New Slaves share a lot of the same imagery and messaging around slavery and racism. They both talk about power dynamics of the oppressed and the oppressor. Ultimately, they are reflection of Jay-z and Kanye and where they were in life. Jay has risen to prominence through flipping / selling value to his community. Not to put downplay Jay-z’s accomplishments, but he hasn’t done anything revolutionary. Kanye, on the other hand, is less of a business person and more of a creative. He’s faced people, even Jay at times, that wanted him to stay in his lane (ex: as a producer). Kanye’s had to fight and prove his ability to gatekeepers at every point of his career. New slaves is a critique on institutions that prevent him from actualizing his creative potential.