Why does JAY-Z present a ceremony of prejudiced likeness in his two newest videos for “4:44″ and” The Story of O.J .?” The latter purposely cram as numerous as possible into its four-plus minutes — we get the Sambo persona, the watermelon eating, the caricaturishly oversized lips, the cotton picking, the Hottentot Venus, the Aunt Jemima, the African baby, the pickaninny, the auction block, the Klan, the human beings in chains and on and on, until I feel like I’m drowning in it. I ordinarily recoil from the kind of likeness. They provoked me. But I enjoy” The Story of O.J .” I feel like it’s a video of empowerment. What’s going on that realise them add up to something powerful here, when it’s so distressing to see these images in other rooms?
” The Story of O.J .” works in the way Kara Walker’s remarkably potent visual art works. Walker makes epitomes from slavery — rightfully grotesque incidents covered on grey walls in one tint of pitch-black as if attended through shadows. I never miss one of Walker’s displays because I’m always blown away by her sentiment and because her artwork performing a stunt I desire. She reaches into our collective recollection and takes authority of these distressing epitomes. And as she uses them to tell a story, I can’t help but be blown away by her splendour as an creator. Her talent empowers me. Her courage be talking about this tendernes and make sure we remember it empowers me. Her they are able to get these painful works into museums and galleries, that very empowers me. We have a genius Black woman authoring the narration and as she tells it she speaks of herself, and that floor is stimulating .
JAY-Z, in his video, is also taking control of those likeness. He’s using them in his own project to speak about his opinion of the world and how far we haven’t come. And critically, he’s implicating himself in all this. The Sambo character is a stand-in for Jay — a direction to say he too cannot escape living in the coloured area; he extremely cannot transcend race. He is one of us. Thus these unpleasant likeness are offered in the sense of parish and the feeling of attaching us together, saying: this is part of who we all are, even now. Let’s not forget because we cannot ever transcend it.
Except this: JAY-Z plucks the rug out from under his own tournament, and by video’s goal, Jaybo wins. He starts to gain impetu where reference is appreciate a representation of Tommie Smith’s fist at the 1968 Olympics, then he’s walking through “the worlds” with ease. He’s gone world. He moves in front of Klansmen but not for them — a victory disco symbolizing his freedom and their impotence. We visualize him walk through the hull of a slave carry teeming with chained up parties then burst through a opening to reveal he’s now on his own yacht with a squadron of grey male maids. Yes, toward the end he gets killed, which is hard to watch although there are Jaybo is a cartoon, but after that, in his final instants, we encounter Jaybo moving over the hood, obliging it rain coin on all the boys and girls. And thus JAY-Z has redeemed the specific characteristics. He was downtrodden at the beginning, unable to transcend hasten, but at the end he’s winning. And to see Jaybo win in the end is to rescue him and us, too.
In the “4:44” video Jay is playing a different play. Here we get a rush of negative portraits but they’re almost always paired with an image of magnificence. It’s the duality of Blackness — the agony and the rapture — side by side. We get Beyonce floating in liquid like an angel, then slaves bending before a lord wholly humbled, then modern daylight Black ladies stepping freely down the street. The video desegregates grainy determined personas with highly stylized ones. It’s all about confrontations. Someone cries about being wrongfully charged then suddenly we’re in an extraordinary street move panorama. We see strippers onstage then a being exclaiming in prison robes then Lauryn Hill rocking a show then police thumping a humankind bloody. We get joyous laugh beside a grisly gondola crash. Is this a the representatives from what their relationship felt like or an internetish montage of likeness? I don’t know. I think it’s a visual color lyric about Blackness itself, with JAY-Z use his video to make a larger affirmation to say there’s great glee in Blackness and there’s great pain. We are both. That’s our yin and yang.
Jay and Bey, of course, are a yin and yang. The narrative about them centers the video. We appreciate two great dancers in sumptuous shoots curving one another as aesthetic renderings of Jay and B. The humankind wears a Yankee hat and a gold chain, the woman a nice dress. It all seems to build toward the moment when the Jay figure presents his series to the Beyonce figure. A overcome eventually the video retards to discover her all but hanging herself with it. Is that how Beyonce experiences he did her? Or is that how Jay appears he did her? Maybe both?
Late in the video they are onstage, moving while Al Green’s classic adore ballad “Judy” extends them. It’s a sugary, quiet anthem. Bey comes toward Jay and they lock into a lilt — dancing together, their bodies in harmony. They’re one. At that minute such relationships seems perfect. And the racket of Judy is so soft that it feels like a private minute. Of route it’s not — they’re onstage and when the chime cuts it’s to the crowd calling along to” Drunk In Love .” It’s as if their private instant has abruptly grown public. But perhaps it was never private embarking upon.