Less than a week before Election Day, Jay Z will give a concert in Cleveland, Ohio—home of this year’s Republican National Convention—to mobilize young black voters to support There are a few ironies in this whole situation. For one, Hillary Clinton and her husband helped lead the charge to put millions of black men and women in jail for living out the nonviolent drugs offenses Jay Z made millions rapping about.
Then there’s the fact that Jay Z is campaigning for Hillary when, in a certain light, he more closely resembles Donald Trump than any other presidential candidate in his lifetime. No, Jay Z was never caught crowing about grabbing anyone by the pussy, though “I rape and pillage a village, women and children” from the Kanye West song “Monster” isn’t exactly a rallying cry for women’s rights. And he seems to have a healthy respect for the Hispanic community. But in his heart of hearts, Jay Z is a capitalist.
Jay Z made his name rapping about the pursuit of money and what that journey does to black people in America. His apparent goal, ever since his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, has been to be rich enough to sit courtside at NBA games and sip mai tais. In fact, if there’s one persistent criticism of Jay Z’s career, it’s that he has mostly veered away from political discussion, and he’s not known for using his tremendous wealth and status to make political statements. He’s thrown in his support for Barack Obama and criticized Rudy Giuliani in song, but that’s about the extent of it.
Over the last few years, though, Jay has actually, if reluctantly, stepped up and spoken out. He’s been rumored to have spent money to help the Black Lives Movement. He appeared at a rally for Trayvon Martin. And recently, he narrated a video for the New York Times explaining how the war on drugs has ruined black communities. It’s the bravest, most progressive move he’s made thus far. And now he’s backing Hillary Clinton in Cleveland.
It’s good to remain somewhat skeptical of the man whose mantra—“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”—might as well be Trump’s campaign slogan. And just like there’s speculation that this whole presidential campaign is simply a way for Trump to launch his own TV network, there’s always a question as to what Jay Z’s next money grab might be.
Or maybe Jay Z has actually turned over a new leaf. His wife has certainly become one of music’s foremost protest artists. Maybe her husband is finally following her lead.