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July 5, 2017 5:08 pm

Russell Simmons Defends Jay-Z Against Claims of Antisemitism

avatar by Shiryn Solny

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Russell Simmons. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons came to Jay-Z’s defense on Tuesday after the superstar rapper was accused of using an antisemitic stereotype about Jews in a song on his recently released album.

On the track “The Story of O.J.” from Jay-Z’s album “4:44,” he raps, “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 how they did it. Financial freedom my only hope. F*** livin’ rich and dyin’ broke.”

In a series of messages posted on Twitter, Simmons said Jay-Z’s lyrics refer to the Jewish community being a “guiding light to the black and specifically the hip-hop community” for promoting  “good business and financial well-being.”

Simmons further explained:

From music to film, television, fashion, technology + financial services, the hip-hop community including myself have partnered with Jews where there were no blacks to partner with…Jay Z was celebrating that bond that was built when no other community gave and continues to give us as much support in our fight for liberation in this very white country. I have spent 25 years analyzing and rebuilding this historic bond.

Simmons — who is the chairman of the non-profit Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) — ended by saying that Jay-Z “should not offer a single apology and we should not feed into the silly narrative. By trying to make him apologize or reframe his poetry we would be creating negativity. My opinion.” He added, “To all those focusing on negativity go buy the album, it’s focused on positivity.”

Jay-Z has yet to comment on the controversy.

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  • Stacy Ann

    If it were about blacks, they’d be screaming to high heavens.

  • the filmmaker

    They look for any reason to be offended, convert.

  • dante

    I respect Russell and appreciate his achievements and, to the point, his goodwill. But, at the very least, the controversial lyrics are wrong and there is some undeniable echo in them of classic anti-Semitic themes. The lyrics are not the most hateful or offensive words thrown at the Jews, by any means, not even close. However, the reason that extraordinary caution is warranted when it comes to Jews is that the Jews are the only group that has faced repeated or continuous lethal persecutions. And, just so that we’re clear, this is not merely a savage piece of history; the Jews face genocidal enemies, today. This is altogether different from hatred of the Italians or Irish or Africans, or any other group.