During his concert Friday that doubled as the reopening of New York’s iconic Webster Hall, Jay-Z managed to turn some heads concerning lyrics of a freestyle he dropped that night.
Jay performed in his show “B-Sides 2” at Webster Hall April 26 and hosted a slew of former foes as he spat lyrics to fan favorite tracks. While attendees applauded his performance of “Success” with Nas as well as sets by Cam’ron and Jim Jones, a verse about the late Nipsey Hussle has resulted in a debate on Twitter.
“Gentrify your own ‘hood before these people do it,” Jay rapped. “Claim eminent domain and have your people move in. That’s a small glimpse into what Nipsey was doing. For anybody still confused as to what he was doing. The neighborhood designed to keep us trapped. They red-lined it so property declines if you live by blacks. They depress the asset then take the property back. It’s a ruthless but a genius plan, in fact. So now we fighting over scraps.”
The lyrics mention Hussle’s move to better his South Los Angeles community, where he opened Marathon Clothing, which largely employed felons since they have a hard time securing work. It’s the same store he was shot and killed outside of late last month.
Jay’s mention of gentrification, which Merriam-Webster defines as “the process of repairing and rebuilding homes and businesses in a deteriorating area (such as an urban neighborhood) accompanied by an influx of middle-class or affluent people and that often results in the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents,” has spawned a debate about whether or not the MC’s proposed plan is a positive move.
“In Jay-Z’s verse of homage to Nipsey, he states ‘gentrify your own hood.’ This is being widely applauded, but we must be mindful that gentrification is not solely about race and culture, it’s one of socioeconomics and class. Blacks can indeed push out other native Blacks.”
“Words mean things. Don’t gentrify your hood. That would be the process of pricing out your neighbors. dO work to make the situation better for those that are CURRENTLY there. Get a park built, get street lights fixed, support local businesses, run community programs, etc.”
Despite that, others felt the point of his verse still remained.
“transformative community development powered by non-exploitative dynamics and gentrification aren’t the same- not even close.”
“regardless of jay-z’s use or misuse of the word gentrification, y’all know the exact message he was trying to get across and are on here being willfully obtuse.”
Some of social media users’ problems with Jay’s use of “gentrify” came from his minority stake in owning Barclays Center. Built in 2012, it is a mixed-use arena that hosts events and also offers affordable housing units, more than 2,000 of which are supposed to be constructed by 2025, according to the New York Post.
Still, Jay has put his money where his mouth is and put forth efforts to assist the community. Through the Shawn Carter Foundation, the rapper has used more than $4 million to support initiatives. Among them are the annual historically Black colleges and universities bus tour, which recently announced plans to take high-achieving high school students on the road to visit HBCUs along the East Coast ahead of the next school year.