As part of the rollout for his new album, 4:44, JAY-Z released a powerful short film on Monday focused on the black experience in America. Called “Footnotes for ‘The Story of O.J.,’” the mini-documentary features interviews with prominent black celebrities like Chris Rock, Will Smith, Michael B. Jordan, Kendrick Lamar, and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, and builds off the themes of its namesake song, “The Story of O.J.”
“We tend to, as black people — because we never had anything, which is understandable — we get to a place, and we just think we separate ourselves from the culture,” JAY-Z says in the film, which is called a 4:44 Short and touted as “Episode One.” “Like O.J. would get to a space where he’s like, ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.’ Like Tiger Woods would get to a space and think, ‘I’m above the culture.’ And that same person when he’s playing golf and playing great, you’re protected. When you’re not, they’re gonna put pictures of you drunk driving and, like, embarrass you. That world will eat you up and spit you out.”
After the release of 4:44, JAY-Z explained that “The Story of O.J.” is “really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger.”
The video plays off that notion, with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah specifically addressing what success means for black celebrities. “Success is still in many ways a synonym for white. And so once you attach successful to the black man, there’s a little key that has been given to you that may give you access to the white world,” Noah said. “The key can be taken away: Cosby, Tiger, etc. The key can be taken away. But at least you have a key for the time being.”
Watch a clip from the film featuring CNN contributor Van Jones above. 4:44 is available now on TIDAL.