JAY-Z, Mahershala Ali, Kendrick Lamar and Chris Rock Get Very Real About Race Relations in “The Story of O.J.”

This conversation arrives at a perfect time.

JAY-Z is riding high on the success of his latest album 4:44, which in five days has already gone platinum and sparked some much-needed discussions within the hip-hop community. One of the very prevalent topics on this album, however, is the topic of race relations and how Black people are surviving in this climate of political and social unrest. And in usual JAY-Z fashion, he brought important figures in the culture for back up.

The rapper/mogul released a short clip from his short film “The Story of O.J.” The title is inspired by O.J. Simpson’s rocky relationship with the Black community during his steady rise to fame in the 70s as a football star. In the 2016 documentary O.J.: Made In America, an old interview clip resurfaced where Simpson explicitly said “I’m not Black, I’m O.J.” to describe his mainstream success.

Using O.J.’s dis-ownership of blackness as inspiration, Jay recruited popular Black entertainers like Chris Rock, Mahershala Ali, Van Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Michael B. Jordan, and others, who gave personal accounts of racism they’ve experienced in their lifetime.

“We don’t have the capacity to play offense,” says Ali, who is also Muslim. “Like we can’t move cause we are constantly looking for the moment when you’re going to be disrupted so you walk through the world very aware that the world views you a certain way. So you gotta play defense and you gotta play it real smooth.”

In a clip that’s been floating around on social media, Chris Rock tells a saddening story about how his own mother, and other Black people in her South Carolina hometown, had to see the veternarian to get their teeth pulled because local dentist offices were for whites only. This story has widely shifted his view on race. “Some sh*t that’s not going to happen in my lifetime. There’s going to be racism ’til the day I die,” Rock says in the film.

Watch a preview of “Footnotes for ‘The Story of O.J.’” below and watch the full video on Tidal.

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