JAY-Z Addresses Failed Drug War on New DJ Khaled Collab: 'My Goal Is to Make Real Ones Feel Seen'

JAY-Z drew from his history with selling drugs both illegally and legally for DJ Khaled's "God Did," which has been analyzed by MSNBC journalist Ari Melber and praised by LeBron James

JAY-Z is tackling tough topics in his new DJ Khaled collaboration.

The titular track off DJ Khaled's new album God Did, released Friday, features Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, John Legend, Fridayy and a much-discussed verse from JAY-Z, which pulls from his own experience selling substances both illegally and legally throughout his life to address the United States' "draconian" drug laws.

Referencing his infamous past as a Brooklyn drug dealer, the 52-year-old rap icon begins his verse asking God to forgive him for using a stovetop to make drugs long before he became famous. JAY-Z also references how far he's come since then, shouting out himself as well as Kanye West and Rihanna as three musician billionaires he's played a role in making. (He also says LeBron James, who's linked to JAY's Roc Nation, is "technically" a fourth.)

"I left the dope game with my record clean / I turned the cocaína into champagne," continues Hov, referencing his nonexistent drug-related criminal record and how he eventually launched champagne brand Ace of Spades and later sold half of it to fashion house LMVH.

Jay Z attends 40/40 Club Celebrates 18-Year Anniversary With Star-Studded Event at 40 / 40 Club on August 28, 2021 in New York City.
JAY-Z. Shareif Ziyadat/Getty

JAY-Z then discusses marijuana legalization and how he now sells the substance through his Monogram company, which has been featured in Forbes. "Judge it how you judge it, say we goin' corporate," he spits in retaliation to any critics.

Further illustrating how far he's come in life, the rap legend nods at his transition from selling drugs illegally to working with Roc Nation signee Rihanna, 34, along with her manager Jay Brown (nicknamed Breezy) on brands including Fenty Beauty. "Breezy what the business is / We pushin' Fenty like fentanyl, the s--- is all legitimate."

"God Did" also finds him speaking about helping his childhood friend Emory Jones turn his life around after being incarcerated for 10 years due to drug dealing by giving him a job at JAY-Z's Rocawear company.

Later in the verse, Hov again nods to Monogram's success and describes his own shock at seeing friends go from life on the streets to smoking weed legally. "Odds wasn't great, we'd even be alive / Gotta be crazy to all y'all n----s, we surprised / S--- is too much how we grew up / S--- don't even feel real to us."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 27: Dj Khaled attends Dj Khaled "God Did" Album Release Party on August 27, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)
Shareif Ziyadat/Getty

Toward the end of his bars on the DJ Khaled collaboration, JAY-Z references the United States drug laws and the officials who create them before noting that he's got lawyers to help him and his friends in need. "For those who make the laws, I'ma always have smoke for them / I got lawyers like shooters / Workin' pro bono for him as a favor."

Following the song's release, MSNBC journalist Ari Melber used JAY-Z's verse to discuss unfair drug law enforcement in the United States during a reported segment on Tuesday. He brought up the "cocaína into champagne" lyric and explained its relevance to the rapper's life and noted its reference to Jesus turning water to wine.

"There's nothing automatically legitimate about wine or champagne," explained Melber, 42. "It was criminally punished during Prohibition, a policy that ultimately fueled gangs and violence, and was the only constitutional amendment ever to be reversed because both parties determined that Prohibition was a messy failure."

The journalist also brought up the "Fenty/fentanyl" bars and noted how politicians do not treat fentanyl-related deaths criminally "the same way they attack the drugs that Jay and others once sold," especially since there is so much money made from the drug in the pharmaceutical industry.

He then spoke about Jones' drug-related criminal sentence and how it rings true to "hundreds of thousands of" citizens' experiences in the United States. "The data shows the drug war is discriminatory [and] that entire categories of drugs can be arbitrarily banned or allowed, often depending on who is really using them," said Melber.

"That ranges from Prohibition, which I mentioned, to the opioid abuse, which does not involve the same sentences dealt to Black and brown Americans, or marijuana, long classified at the most severe federal level, Schedule 1," continued the MSNBC reporter.

Melber added, "But now, I bet you've heard about this, marijuana has been shifted by politicians and voters to legal in 19 states and counting. But the warehousing of so many people for drugs that are now, right now, illegal all over the nation, well, as a policy matter, it's absurd — even before you get to race. It's also been documented as racist."

After the report aired, James shared the clip in a tweet. "Listen! Then listen again to make sure you got the point. HOV DID!!!! And so did the reporter! [G.O.A.T.] TALK," wrote the 37-year-old basketball player.

Marking a rare appearance on Twitter, JAY-Z logged onto the social media platform and wrote, "My only goal is to make the real "ones" feel seen , forgive me that's my passion talking ….. haa ."

Melber later chimed in with tweets thanking James for sharing the story and reciting Hov's lyric about the Lakers star's billionaire status: "Bron's a Roc boy, so four, technically."

In a follow-up tweet, Melber said of JAY-Z's "God Did" verse, "We've interviewed many lawmakers who don't *come close* to this level of nuance about drug policy…"

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