In a lengthy new T Magazine profile of rap kingpin Jay-Z, novelist Zadie Smith got the Jigga Man to open up about, amongst other things, his feelings on last year's Occupy Wall Street takeover of Zuccotti Park. Smith reports Jay got "agitated" when she brought up OWS before launching into a mini-rant about what he perceived to be the movement's lack of focus:
What's the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for?" He says he told Russell Simmons, the rap mogul, the same: "I'm not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don't know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?"
"I think all those things need to really declare themselves a bit more clearly. Because when you just say that ‘the 1 percent is that,' that's not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that's robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that's criminal, that's bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on."
Interestingly, though Jay is ambivalent about whether he actually supports OWS, his clothing company, Rocawear, seemed to have no moral dilemma when it quickly pumped out a now infamous run of "Occupy All Streets" during the early days of the encampment at Zuccotti. Jay himself even marketed the shirts by wearing them at shows and giving them away to his rapper friends. Notably, none of the money Jay made from the Occupy All Streets t-shirts were donated to the OWS coffers.
Some might see Jay's rejection of OWS juxtaposed with his embrace of OWS merchandising and write it off as nothing but rank opportunism, a millionaire abusing a populist action for profit. They might be right, but that's not how Jay sees it, of course. Remember: "This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on."