HOVA’s Confession

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What is true charity?

Although Outkast might beg to differ, hip-hop doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being “so fresh and so clean.” The genre has long been accused of promoting the moral ills of sexism, violence, and promiscuity. Those accusations are hard to deny, but I must confess that I still listen to it. So when a hip-hop song comes along that pulls the rug out from under those critics who write hip-hop off as lewd and non-redeeming it is a big victory for those of us who love finding wonder in unlikely places.

On the seventh track of his album Kingdom Come, which served as Jay-Z’s “un-retirement,” HOVA* boasts of the maturing he has done over the years. The track, titled “30 Something,” lets listeners know that Jay-Z isn’t a kid anymore, and his goals are bigger than sex, drugs and Escalades. So it shouldn’t be a shock when “Minority Report” goes right to the heart of the human condition in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

“Sure I ponied up a mil, but I didn’t give my time so in reality I didn’t give a dime, or a damn ”

I recently put this song on a mix for a friend. When I asked her how she liked the CD she said it was great, but she didn’t agree with what Jay-Z was saying on “Minority Report.” She had a problem with Jay’s* finger pointing in the song. And it’s true, he calls out FEMA and George Bush, and really the whole system that had made people poor long before Katrina hit. But then the Jigga Man* does something that makes his finger pointing work for me. He points at himself. “Sure I ponied up a mil, but I didn’t give my time so in reality I didn’t give a dime, or a damn. [...] Left them folks abandoned. Damn, that money that we gave was just a band-aid.”

Isn’t money enough? What do our intentions have to do with it? Jay seems to be on to the fact that our giving has just as much to do with how it affects us as it has to do with how it is able to affect others. That’s a pretty big insight from a man whose music wouldn’t be allowed in most churches. Ne-Yo continues this sentiment in the second verse as he sings “Turn on the TV, seein’ the pain, sayin’ such a shame, then tryin’ to go on with my life. Of that, I too, am guilty” and “So we send a lil’ money, tell ‘em it’s alright, to be able to sleep at night.”

The song finally ends the way it started, with clips from news and TV reports. The difference is when the final clips play I can’t sit and listen from my self-righteous seat of judgment. When the second round of clips play I am just as guilty as anyone else.

* For those not hip-hop inclined, this is just one of the many names that Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter) goes by.

Minority Report (Lyrics):

[Intro: News Excerpts]
The damage here along the gulf coast is catastrophic.
There’s a frantic effort under way tonight to find survivors. There are an uncounted number of the dead tonight…
People are being forced to live like animals…
We are desperate…
No one says the federal government is doing a good job…
And hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people…
No water, I fought my country for years…
We need help, we really need help…
In Baghdad, they drop, they air drop water, food to people… why cant they do that to their own people?
The same idiots that can’t get water into a major American city in less than three days are trying to win a war…

[Verse 1 - Jay-Z]
People was poor before the hurricane came
But the down pour poured is like when Mary J. sang
Every day it rains, so every day the pain
But ignored them, and showed em the risk was to blame
For life is a chain, cause and effected
Niggas off the chain because they affected
It’s a dirty game so whatever is effective
From weed to selling kane, gotta put that in effect
Wouldn’t you loot, if you didn’t have the loot?
Baby needed food and you stuck on the roof
Helicopter swooped down just to get a scoop
Through his telescopic lens but he didn’t scoop you
The next five days, no help ensued
They called you a refugee because you seek refuge
The commander-in-chief just flew by
Did he stop? No, he had a couple seats
Just proved jet blue he’s not
Jet flew by the spot
What if he ran out of jet fuel and just dropped
That woulda been something to watch
Helicopters doing fly-bys to take a couple of shots
Couple of portraits then ignored ‘em
He’d be just another bush surrounded by a couple orchids
Poor kids just ’cause they were poor kids
Left ‘em on they porches same old story in New Orleans
Silly rappers, because we got a couple Porches
MTV stopped by to film our fortresses
We forget the unfortunate
Sure I ponied up a mill, but I didn’t give my time
So in reality I didn’t give a dime, or a damn
I just put my monies in the hands of the same people that left my people stranded
Nothin’ but a bandit
Left them folks abandoned
Damn, that money that we gave was just a band-aid
Can’t say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report
Can’t say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report

[Verse 2 - Ne-Yo]
So many times I’m, covering my eyes
Peeking through my fingers
Tryin’ to hide my, frustration at the way that we treat
(Seems like we don’t even care)
Turn on the TV, seein’ the pain
Sayin’ such a shame
Then tryin’ to go on with my life
Of that, I too, am guilty
(Seems like we don’t even care)
So we send a lil’ money, tell ‘em it’s alright
To be able to sleep at night
You will pay that price
While some of these folks’ lost their whole life
(Seems like we don’t even care)
Now it wasn’t on the nightly news no more
Suddenly it didn’t matter to you no more
In the end almost nothing changed
What the hell, what was that for?
(Seems like we don’t even care)

[Outro: News Excerpts]
…Buses are on the way to take those people from New Orleans to Houston
…They lyin’
…People are dying at the convention center
…Their government has failed them
…George Bush doesn’t care about black people