November 18, 2018

Is Jay-Z’s new song anti-Semitic?

Is Jay-Z’s new song anti-Semitic? Does it perpetuate negative stereotypes about Jewish property ownership?

That’s what some are saying online after the June 30 release of Jay-Z’s new album, “4:44,” which features the song, “The Story of O.J.” The song contains the lyric, “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This is how they did it.”

“Wasn’t really expecting Jay-Z to go anti-Semitic when I started the new 4:44 album this morning,” a Twitter user said in response, as BuzzFeed reported.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), however, said the song is not anti-Semitic.

“We do not believe it was Jay-Z’s intent to promote anti-Semitism. On the contrary, we know that Jay-Z is someone who has used his celebrity in the past to speak out responsibly and forcefully against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism,” the ADL said in a statement. “The lyric does seem to play into deep-seated anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money. The idea that Jews “own all the property” in this country and have used credit to financially get ahead are odious and false. Yet, such notions have lingered in society for decades, and we are concerned that this lyric could feed into preconceived notions about Jews and alleged Jewish “control” of the banks and finance.”

In 2006, Jay-Z appeared with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in a public service announcement denouncing anti-Semitism.


The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), the self-described “national address for Black-Jewish relations,” sponsored the 2006 pubic service announcement. Simmons chairs FFEU, which also promotes Muslim-Jewish relations. 

In the wake of criticisms that the new track is anti-Semitic, Simmons defended Jay-Z.

“I am the Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and my job for the past 20 years or so is to point out the ‘sameness of different religions and races.’ First, let me state that mischief-makers would like to take Jay’s statements about the culture and practices that exist within some parts of the Jewish community (notice I say some),” Simmons tweeted July 4. “The fact is this culture that promotes good business and financial well being is and has been a guiding light to the black and specifically the hip-hop community.”

On Instagram, Israeli-American talent manager Guy Oseary said the lyric, if anything, compliments the Jewish community.

“Jewish people do NOT ‘own all the property in America.’ Jay knows this. But he’s attempting to use the Jewish people in an exaggerated way to showcase a community of people that are thought to have made wise business decisions…In my opinion, Jay is giving the Jewish community a compliment,” Oseary said.

Jay-Z has previously rapped about Jews in a controversial way. On his 2007 soundtrack album, “American Gangster,” Jay-Z raps, “Had to get some challah bread so you can holla back and holla that/My Jewish lawyer too enjoyed the fruit of letting my cash stack.”