Jay-Z‘s six-part documentary series Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story premiered last night and exploded on social media. Jay, who also producer the Kalief Browder doc, once upon a time received criticism for not being politically active. Most famously, the legendary Harry Belafonte slammed him and Beyoncé in 2013, saying, “I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is Black.”
Jay responded with, “I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama‘s is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, the hope that he provides for a nation, and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You’re the first Black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything he should be left alone.”
He continued, “I felt Belafonte … just went about it wrong. Like the way he did it in the media, and then he bigged up Bruce Springsteen or somebody. And it was like, ‘whoa,’ you just sent the wrong message all the way around. … Bruce Springsteen is a great guy. You’re this civil rights activist and you just bigged up the white guy against me in the white media. And I’m not saying that in a racial way. I’m just saying what it is. The fact of what it was. And that was just the wrong way to go about it.”
Jay now regrets that response.
In an interview with The New York Times in which he discussed the Trayvon Martin documentary, Jay explained, “I wish I hadn’t said [what I said then] because again, he’s someone who’s done so much work and I feel like what I felt about what he said should have been taken care of in-house, because we could’ve straightened each other out with a phone call without being on the record, or being on a record.”
However, Jay stands by his belief that society shouldn’t push celebrities to be activists and said, “I think the way that people view celebrity is unfair. Everyone should be filling in and doing their part because it isn’t about money. It’s not. That doesn’t solve it. I think that everyone should check our compassion and our empathy. That’s the thing that’s going to happen, that we all check in, and we get in touch with our compassion and empathy ’cause that is the solution.”
Part two of the Trayvon Martin documentary airs tonight on the Paramount Network and BET. Check your local listings.