Jay-Z on Racism, His Past and His Music

Jay-Z and Beyoncé (via @beyonce's Instagram)

By Aidan Loughran

For Jay-Z, music serves as a portal — whether it be to escape, enjoy, cope or come together, music is always there.

Music was there for him in his time of need. Jay-Z was born and raised in the United States, so his nationality is U.S. although his ethnicity is Afro-American. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he endured many hardships. For starters, he was a crack dealer by the age of 13.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2009, he said, “Drug dealers were my role models. Rappers weren’t successful yet.” Not only that, but he also witnessed his first murder at the age of nine, and shot his older brother when he was 12.

Jay-Z and Beyonce (via Instagram)

Jay-Z expresses his feelings about his brother and the shooting in his song, “You Must Love Me.”

Another thing that stuck out to me the most in his interview with Oprah was when Oprah asked, “So, when you were five, your family moved to the Marcy projects – and then your father left when you were 11. When you look back at that, what did your 11-year-old self feel?” Jay-Z replied, “Anger. At the whole situation. Because when you’re growing up, your dad is your superhero. Once you’ve let yourself fall that in love with someone, once you put him on such a high pedestal and he lets you down, you never want to experience that pain again. So I remember just being really quiet and really cold. Never wanting to let myself get close to someone like that again. I carried that feeling throughout my life, until my father and I met up before he died.”

When you’re growing up, your dad is your superhero.


Having to adapt to this new life without his father shows Jay-Z’s cultural diversity. Not only did he have to learn how to live a life without his role model, but this was also when he came to the realization that he needed to change his ways. As he grew, he turned to music.

While he was still living in the same place, surrounded by the same people, Jay-Z had to deal with major cultural shifts which in my eyes makes him culturally diverse. He was surrounded by the same culture and race his whole life, and when this tragedy struck, life as he knew it changed. Especially, when he entered the music scene. That is when his cultural background was put to the test.

Jay-Z and Beyonce via Instagram

Jay-Z and hidden diversity

Jay-Z had to make sure he could stand out in the competitive music industry by expressing his culture through his lyrics. Hidden diversity also plays a part in this.

Many people aren’t aware of Jay-Z’s background and probably never will be. Sure, he talks about it in some of his music, but people will not always know the story behind his songs. To some, he’s a talented and successful rapper who is married to Beyoncé. Many would say his life is perfect. If they only knew, they would understand that behind the microphone and the expensive clothes, is a man who has endured more heartbreak and horror than most.

Jay-Z and racism

Jay-Z is also an advocate for ending racism. He says, “I think that hip hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons.” Click here to watch the video. He, along with many others, believes that racism is learned from a young age. He also notes that music, as I previously stated, brings people together.

“We all realize that we’re more alike than we’re separate,” says Jay-Z in the same video. When artists such as Jay-Z preach these words, there comes hope for a better tomorrow.

Seeing how his life shifted from violence in the projects to being a multimillion-dollar music artist should be inspiration for anyone that may feel lost, trapped, or alone.

Jay-Z and Beyonce via Instagram

Aidan Loughran has a strong passion for the world and the people that surround her each and every day. When writing for Culturs, she wants her readers to relate to everything she writes. She fills her writing with a passion for the world, cultures, and life in general. Third-culture kids along with all other individuals of unique ethnicity, race, culture, and tradition all have a story to tell — a story that she wants to be a part of.

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