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Rapper Jay-Z, Harry Belafonte Laid the Blueprint for Your Freedom – Never Call Him a “Boy”.

July 16, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) I couldn’t help but notice that the rapper Jay-Z finally spoke up on his so-called beef with entertainment legend Harry Belafonte.   Harry called out today’s entertainers, many of whom seem to avoid any and all uncomfortable controversy so they can max out their bank accounts.  Beyond a few polite, neutered, politically docile charity events, most black celebrities wear shackles that surely keep a lot of them from sleeping at night.

Here are the lyrics that Jay-Z used to get back at Harry in his Samsung-sponsored project, “Magna Carta/Holy Grail”:

I’m just trying to find common ground
‘Fore Mr. Belafonte come and chop a n*gga down
Mr. Day O, major fail
Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now
Hublot homie two door homie
You don’t know all the sh*t I do for the homies

So, apparently, Jay-Z’s reference to the Hublot watch and two door sports car means that he’s convinced that having money vindicates nearly any form of ignorance that rolls out of his mouth.  Got it.  Not only has Harry Belafonte been able to afford an expensive watch or two, but I’m sure he could have gotten quite a few more if he’d been willing to sell his own people up the river in order to get them.  I’m a Finance professor, so I know the value of money.  But I also know enough about money to realize that an addiction to moneyRapperJay-Z-responds-to-Harry-Belafonte-in-a-song-on-Magan-Carta-Holy-Grail_ can make you nothing but a high-paid slave.

I wrote on Harry’s remarks about Jay-Z and felt that the challenge was an appropriate one.   I am about the same age as Jay-Z, and I see it as entirely appropriate that we look to our elders for guidance when we think about what to do with the opportunities and blessings in front of us.  As I planned my “Building Outstanding Men and Boys” Family Empowerment Series, I spoke with Min. Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger, each of whom set me straight on the manner by which I needed to make adjustments  in my approach.  In fact, they broke me down.

I listened, humbled myself to their criticism, and made myself a better man.

I’m not sure why Jay-Z, an entertainer who can’t find much to talk about other than the last Bentley he bought, can’t look to a great man like Harry Belafonte for guidance on how to make himself something more than just another dude who can spit dope lyrics.  Harry Belafonte is 86-years old with the political courage of a college student, and is using his final years on the planet to make the world a better place.  He has been more places, done more, seen more and overcome more than Jay-Z ever will, and Hova needs to respect that.

Any rational person who cares anything about the civil rights struggles of Belafonte, Dr. King and others, should be immediately taken aback by the shear audacity of Jay-Z’s decision to refer to Harry as a “boy.” I don’t care if this is hip hop lingo, or if it’s the only word that came to mind, but Jay-Z should probably realize that referring to an 86-year old icon like Harry Belafonte as a “boy” is as disrespectful as comparing Mrs. Carter to Lil Kim’s raunchy older sister.

I don’t pretend to know Jay-Z and I don’t know if I’ll ever meet him.  But he’d be wise to understand that Harry Belafonte is a MAN, a black man, and an extraordinary man at that.  The definition of a “boy” is someone who validates an otherwise bland and underwhelming existence by reminding you of how many Rolex watches he owns.  Jay can’t crush Harry Belafonte with his money, because Harry Belafonte learned a long time ago that there are things far more important than the cash in your bank account.  Real men don’t need to pull out their wallets in order to certify their manhood.

I hope Jay-Z will issue an apology to Harry Belafonte.  Were it not for the sacrifices of Belafonte and men of his generation, Jay-Z would still be”slingin” on the corner or rapping on the chitlin circuit.  He also wouldn’t have the right to go around the world selling records to white kids who love referring to him as a “n*gga in Paris.”   In fact, I argue that Jay-Z should probably keep Harry’s name out of his mouth, since he will never know what Harry Belafonte has gone through in order to clear a path for all of us.  That man is a legend Jay-Z; you’re just another N*gger in Paris.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins 

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit http://BoyceWatkins.com.

 

 


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Comments

11 Responses to “Rapper Jay-Z, Harry Belafonte Laid the Blueprint for Your Freedom – Never Call Him a “Boy”.”
  1. QuanZills says:

    I watched Selma yesterday and this made me curious about the controversy from some time ago. I would have loved to see a debate between Jay Z fans & Belafonte Supporters. I am not informed enough to speak on either of those men or their support for the community. I do know a few facts.

    1.) Jay is critisicized constantly for the same lyrics that he is loved for.
    2.) Belafonte was active in the civil rights movement.
    3.) John Lennon sang about political issues and addresed them on camera . However, if je was alive today I wonder would the press ask him to comment on Eminem’s or Justin Timberlakes’ obligation to his people and social issues. This ( comment) happened at a press conference in Switzerland of all places. Now every bodies got a problem with Hov-lol This is a man that publicy commented on another man, whether old or young after a certain age every man is going to voice his opinion against any one else. I have heard janitors give their opinion on Obama doestge janitor have the right? Yes. Did Mr. Belfonte fight for him to have that right ( yes & no), ( Belafonte) fought for that man to have the right to publicly voice that right. I also know you don’t take shots at Jay unless you expect him to fire back.

    Jay Z made his own money, led by example, he gives advice in every concert & on every song. Jay Z’s message is that of enterprenereal empowerment that of generating capital and wealth this the issue he feels passionateaboutbecause this was the biggest injustice he faced as a youth. He also has to sugar coat his messages or they wont get widely excepted we live in a covert society dead prez speaks out right but without proper public support they have co-ops and food drives snd katate classes but dont sell Jay Z numbers so Mr. Belafonte has had tons or media training and couldve easily named a few entertainers that do get involved as opposed to calling out the ones who don’t need any more publicity thats called spin. Mr. Belafonte has for been in a position for some time to create musical avenues that provide opportunities to artists he feels have a worth while message, I have not heard of any such vehicles. this was my problem with Oprah for a long time, when u have that much influence you can create the dynamic u prefer, back to Jay Z :He married a black woman first, then had a baby with her, So far he is sticking around to raise that child as a father even though his father own did a horrible job.

    Jay Z has employed many people and helped them become financially independent. He has help raise the esteem and mind state of the masses all while being admired by other races and many of his own people. Yet according to many of the comments, that’s not enough. Yet if we all did that people in general would be in a better menral physical and spiritual position. They always told me to keep my mouth shut when old folks are talking.

    That’s the problem, older people want respect and they deserve it…but don’t respect the youth and dont give them the respect. I know young people are loud and ignorant a lot but the young people dont know that they are until they get much older. A young man who has had to raise himself is going to react differently then a young man who was raised with a father or by elders he respected. Jay Z told you how he was raised amongst wolves and all he has he had to fight for against people oposing him with words or with violence Jay will defend himself on every level against any oponent young or old. That is the only consistent message in hip hop in general. Regarding Mr Belafonte, if he truly had a problem with what Jay was doing ” socially” he didn’t have to wait 20 years to speak on it to some strangers half way across the world.

    Oprah sat down with Jay why couldn’t Mr. Belafonte. A million rapper march or conversations between older musicians and younger musicians on or off camera with the proceeds going to some cause to help the community empower them selves instead of talking to the press. No one on this forum would appreciate hearing their name in the news mentioned by someone they admired slandering their actions especially if that person wasn’t aware of what may be in the grand scheme or what is being done behind the scenes. Go see #Selma this weekend it’s a good film and important, I hope we can stop judging these kids based on their jeans and help guide them out of the horrible situations that they have inherited. That’s the true problem. Entertainers Entertain & Leaders Lead.

    You can do both but start with the youth and do it with respect for them and their newly embraced culture that’s the only way they’ll listen if they listen at all.

  2. Real Talk says:

    It’s called poetic license. The reference to the watch was a play off the words, “it’s my TIME now.” Nothing more. Had nothing to do with flexing wealth. Obviously he knows who Harry Belafonte is, and what his career has been and done.

    The bigger issue which this article does NOT address is the age gap, which Mr. Belafonte brought into bear in the first place.

    Nevermind the fact that when Martin Luther King Jr called out and checked a young Harry Belafonte, he had the “GRACE” to do it IN PRIVATE, AND ON THE TELEPHONE.

    I believe the sentiment, which I’ve often felt as a young man is that, “You give respect to get respect.”

  3. Mary Lassiter says:

    I like your article very much

  4. Warren Smith says:

    Wealth and fame will open doors and offer opportunities, but it will not buy wisdom. This is a prime example of ignorance in control.

  5. Joann Saraydarian says:

    I Love both of them. Can you think of a time throughout History that Great Thinkers and Warriors did not challenge each other? I think what is important to acknowledge is that both Harry and Jay-Z are dedicated to Uplifting the Consciousness of the people, it’s natural that it happens to be in different and more specific “arenas” of experience and expertise. They are Humanitarians, that cannot be denied…it is never wise to judge a person’s deeds by the media or lack of information that we are privy to. I can’t see any merit in getting into an argument about who did or is doing more. These are creative men with Fiery Hearts, and men of this caliber challenge each other and “rouse” each others temperament. The importance is that they are creating Change, and the world is full of those who Honor and Respect them. When so many people in the world doing terrible things intending to hurt others and their future, why put energy into attacking two men who are dedicated to doing good? Strange world…ours. All in all, in understanding and appreciation of the thoughtful comments posted, I too can’t help but wish that they would voice more of a United Purpose.

  6. Onaje Malik says:

    This article misses the mark Dr. Boyce Watkins…I say that with love.

    Mr. Belafonte indeed deserves his due respect and I don’t think Jay-Z was being disrespectful. Though I recognize people’s opinion of Jay-Z, Hip-Hop, Young Black Men, etc are often mired in a level of disdain that only comes with finely tuned ignorance on who they are and what they really do beyond press clip research and media imagery.

    Mr. Belafonte has every right to speak to the anyone on matters of taste and responsibility to the greater good. The man has put in his work, but he has also made his mistakes and learned from them. Anyone who mentors or teaches young men and love them know that what you say will not always be received with the amount of reverence and recognition you’d want them to. That is not to say the message you are trying to get through is not being received. They may roll their eyes, disagree, claim to have it under control, or claim to know (when they really just learned to put it in context the moment you spoke to them lol).

    We can talk about what Jay-Z doesn’t do, but do you really put any effort into seeing what he does do? That doesn’t just apply to Jay-Z, but anyone that you seek to criticize or chastise for what you perceive their shortcomings are do you make an effort to connect to what is “right” about them? The answer unfortunately too often is no, because that effort usually comes with love and respect. Not the respect as in giving credence to the mistakes, but respect that says “I understand your miseducation, let me help you”. Mr Belafonte like Dr. Cosby are amazing men who should have all right to speak up on how young people and today’s culture need to change, but they both in their delivery fail to connect. If you don’t connect (connect meaning that love/respect) with the very people you are trying to lend guidance it is just seen as some paternal form of chastising…And what child ever loves hearing their parents tell them what they aren’t?!?

    It is laughable how people are so quick to condemn the response of the person who is in position to receive the negative criticism (real or perceived). Just as the elders have a right to voice their critique, the people who they direct it at have every right to reject or at the very least express a bristled sort of response…It hurts to be told what you aren’t doing when you feel you are doing your best or never seen your detractor (real or perceived) helping you get out of your on personal struggle to the position to “max out your bank account”…

    Is that a crime to make money? If they are taking care of their families, creating jobs, fostering their own positive community is that not worthy of note?

    A man like Mr Belafonte’s activism wasn’t in his art really…it was in his life how he conducted himself, the activities he participated in, and his relationships he developed around the sociopolitical dynamic of his day…To criticizes today’s entertainers for not doing what exactly…be activist over breadwinners in their family? I don’t get it…

    To get stuck on the usage of “boy” in a rap lyric of all places (A joke of a reference in itself) takes what could have been a productive discourse on the how to close the generational gap to create a better level of dialogue between the elders and the many young and not so young people who could benefit from their experiences turning it to a petty “beef”…ironically participating in the very kind of unproductive bravado that Hip-Hop culture is criticized for…

    Bottom line…Saying a Mr Belafonte “laid the Blueprint to your freedom” (not sure if the author is knowledgeable enough about Jay-Z to know why that too is ironic)…is not accurate. It sounds good and it is commonplace to over simplify someone’s personal experience in favor or in effort to emphasize the level of importance of a generally recognized hero, but isn’t an accurate. In fact it is another way to belittle the experiences and personal triumphs of a Jay-Z or anyone else who worked to improve their living conditions…If you are going to give Mr. Belafonte credit for another man’s freedom why not blame him too for all those many young men who are not free? Surely if he is as influential to be deemed as the architect of Jay-Zs freedom, then he should also be credited for tragic misguidance of others in Hip-Hop too no?

    Where was this blueprint when he was growing up without a Father, when he was living in the projects, when he was struggling to be the man he has become today? Jay-Z probably is too old to be taking messages like this too personal, but he is not wrong for addressing it honestly in his own forum…it is what makes him who he is and it is what his fans have come to love about him…if he thinks/feels it then it finds its way in his music. The same way he speaks to young men about not being stuck, about having self worth, and about being responsible for their own development, but you would have to actually pay attention to get that…If you reaction to that last line was a dismissive one of “why should I PAY ATTENTION to a Jay-Z”, then you just demonstrated the same sort of ambivalence you are criticizing Jay-Z for having…To end with calling him “Just another Nigger in Paris” lol…pure class.

    The best way to end would be from a quote from Jay-Z himself about how he is seen and where he sees his worth at that time in 2000-2001 from his verse on “Renegade”:

    “Say that I’m foolish I only talk about jewels (bling bling)
    Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?…
    How you rate music that thugs with nothing relate to it?
    I help them see they way through it, not you
    Can’t step in my pants, can’t walk in my shoes
    Bet everything you worth; you lose your tie and your shirt”…”

  7. Ryan O'Neal says:

    Interesting…it seems that the “Jigga Man” has become(or is) a “Jigga Boo”. Who could possibly speak ANYTHING negative to a pioneer like Mr. Belafonte (and others who paved the way for our voice)? I wont’ speak ill of Jay-z. I really don’t listen to his music so I don’t know him, but this mistake is something that he needs to step up and rectify in the form of a public apology. No pretenses, no media fluff for the elevation of record sales, and no false words. Just a simple apology.

  8. shani j says:

    I witnessed how Jamie Foxx was enamored by the words Mr. Belafonte spoke during his acceptance speech at the NAACP image awards. You could see the seed was planted and he realized that his fame and wealth could be used toward a higher purpose. You would hope that everyone under the sound of Harry Belafonte’s voice, whether in the immediate venue or at home viewing, would have been so inspired to do as much as they could to help others. I wish Jay Z and his wife could understand that influence means nothing when you use it on the wrong things.

  9. Lauren says:

    I agree! What a travesty. Jay Z (and his booty shaking wife) is a perfect example of how having wealth does not always equate having class. Shame on the both of them!

  10. Whit says:

    “…referring to an 86-year old icon like Harry Belafonte as a ‘boy’ is as disrespectful as comparing Mrs. Carter to Lil Kim’s raunchy older sister.”

    Jay-Z’s graceless reference to Belafonte as a ‘boy’ is not akin to his wife’s “virtue” being compared to some woman who you perceive to be a sexually promiscuous. Your needless misogyny is this particular statement hasn’t gone un-noticed. I would hope you could imagine a better and more relevant subject for your glib analogy.

  11. Alisha says:

    I can’t believe that not many people are discussing this topic! I agree with everything you said. I am not even shocked that Jay-z could be this disrespectful to Mr. Belafonte. However this particular situation has solidified my lack of respect for Jay-z. All he does is brag about his money and throw it up in everyone’s faces. He doesn’t stand for anything and obviously Mr. Belafonte made Jay feel some type of way which is why he waited a whole year to throw jabs at him. Instead of throwing jabs he needs to check himself and do his research on who Mr. Belafonte is. He isn’t impressed by your wealth.

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