The ability for the oppressed to freely express themselves, without a filter, is essentially the foundation of what hip-hop is based on. Rappers have never been afraid to say what's on their mind, especially when it comes to what's wrong with the politic system in America. From Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet to Joey Bada$$' upcoming LP, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, rappers have voiced their opinions on the cruelty and subjugation of the poor and the defenseless for decades.
One MC in particular who has used his power and voice to speak out and fight politically over the last few years is Jay Z. Ever since former President Barack Obama made his historic run to take office, Jay Z has used his immense influence and wealth to not only back Obama but also support important issues affecting minorities today.
Hov and Obama became friends—at least in the public's eye—in 2008. How can anyone forget when Obama was campaigning for the U.S. presidency in April 2008, and he gave the now iconic response to a question asking about the jabs then-fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was throwing his way. “When you’re running for president, you’ve got to expect it; you’ve just kinda got to let it…,” he said as he pretended to brush the dirt off his shoulders, mimicking Jay Z’s hit 2009 single "Dirt Off Your Shoulder."
But Jay Z's political ties aren't just about backing Obama. The rhymer has most recently supported New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s idea of shutting down the infamous New York City corrections facility Rikers Island and created a six-part documentary on TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
Hov is also planning to produce a film and documentary series based on the story of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old kid who was wrongfully killed several years ago by a then-28-year-old man named George Zimmerman, who was a member of his community’s neighborhood watch. These two movies will bring widespread awareness on the fallacies of the justice system and racism in America.
XXL takes look back at all of Jay Z's biggest political moves in his career. Check it out below. You may be surprised by Hov.
Joins Jeezy's "My President (Remix)"2008
Jay Z jumps on the remix to Jeezy's 2008 track “My President,” where he raps the famous lines, "Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk/Martin Luther King walked so Obama could run/Obama’s running so we all can fly."
Attends Former President Obama’s First Inauguration2009
The first inauguration of former President Barack Obama in 2009, was one of the most historic moments in the world. Jay Z attended along with his wife Beyoncé and Diddy. Hov and Diddy called into Hot 97 while attending the inauguration to give an on-ground report on how the day went.
Backs Obama’s Support of Gay Marriage2012
One of Jay Z's most political moves was suporting Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage. In a 2012 interview with CNN, Hov said, “What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. [It] is no different than discriminating against Blacks.”
Hosts an Obama Fundraiser at the 40/40 Club2012
Jay Z and Beyonce held a 2012 fundraiser for Obama at the rapper’s 40/40 Club in New York. The couple raised $4 million during the $40,000 per ticket fundraiser.
Performs and Introduces Obama at 2012 Ohio Rally2012
During Barack Obama's final campaign rally in Ohio in 2012, Jay Z took the stage and performed "Public Service Announcement," "On to the Next One," "Run this Town," "Encore" and "99 Problems" before introducing the presidential candidate.
Helps Distribute “I Can’t Breathe” Shirts to LeBron James and Deron Williams2014
During basketball warmups around the NBA in 2014, superstars players like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and other players wore shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe.”
The New York Times spoke with members of Justice League NYC, a division of Gathering for Justice, which is the social justice organization behind the T-shirts. They revealed that with the help of Jay Z, they were able to get the shirts to some NBA players around the league.
Presses New York Governor Cuomo About Criminal Justice System Reform2014
Jay Z and Russell Simmons met with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to discuss changes to the criminal justice system in New York in 2014.The meeting was sparked by the tragic death of Eric Garner and the subsequent non-indictment for the police officer who killed him.
Meets With Freddie Gray’s Family2015
In 2015, a benefit concert was held by Prince in honor of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who was killed by six police officers in Baltimore. Jay Z and wife Beyoncé attended along with Gray’s family members. The proceeds from the concert were delivered to the grieving family, but also to various local charities. Tidal pledged to match the amount donated.
Holds Ohio Concert for Hillary Clinton2016
Jay Z held a free concert in support of then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Cleveland on Nov. 4, 2016. The performance included special guests Chance The Rapper, J. Cole, Big Sean and, of course, Beyoncé.
Supports the Women’s March2017
At the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Jay Z expressed his support for the Women’s March.
“We have to organize,” he said. “I’ve been in these meetings, I’ve spoken with people, I’ve done many things behind the scenes, but most important: We are the power. I’m sure a lot of you guys participated in it, but that display of woman power the other day was so amazing and we saw the effect: That no matter what, no matter who’s in office, we are the people that’s in power.”