Jay-Z wants to “gentrify” the hood.
The hip-hop mogul recently performed a touching freestyle in tribute to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, but a couple of his rhymes sparked debate. Jay encouraged minorities to “gentrify [their] own hood,” referencing Nipsey Hussle’s efforts to build up his neighborhood of Crenshaw in Los Angeles.
People on Twitter were angered by the remark and bashed Jay-Z for using the questionable term.
Jay Z performed a new freestyle at the B-Sides show.
"Gentrify your own hood before these people do it.
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."
– Jay Z pic.twitter.com/d20cEEYSD2
— Nigel D. (@NigelDPresents) April 27, 2019
The term “gentrify” is loaded with negative connotation — often associated with non-POCs who move into ethnic communities. Gentrification implies a cultural change or drastic shift in a community that leads to higher costs of living.
But was Jay-Z really advocating for that ??
Ehhh, probably not. It sounds like Jay used a bit of wordplay to make his point about community development. If communities invest in themselves with local businesses and legacy institutions, they’re better protected against the threat of outside influences, aka gentrification.
However, many on Twitter took offense over the rapper’s usage of “gentrify.”
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. https://t.co/yHbKZE5uHe
— Ms Universally Specific (@Gota_de_L1uvia) April 27, 2019
Although I liked Jay's tribute to Nipsey, Nipsey was definitely not tryna gentrify his own hood….
— Chrys.🏁 (@ChrystalBrielle) April 27, 2019
please do *not* gentrify your own hood. pic.twitter.com/7XhGgJDFj7
— rod martinez (@rod_dmz) April 27, 2019
Black celebrities presenting themselves as the vanguard of success is a huge problem. They depict themselves as potential economic saviors, meanwhile blk ppl in positions to hire folks and make large scale decisions regarding big businesses are few as ever.
— Danie Darko (@daniecal) April 27, 2019
Others defended Jay-Z, but acknowledged his regrettable word choice.
I think this overall Jay Z debate comes from him using the word “gentrify”. I really don’t think he meant it in the negative way that we see it but he really could have used a better word.
— ❤️✨ (@luvlee93) April 27, 2019
Jay Z said gentrify the hood BEFORE THEM PEOPLE DO meaning be apart of the ownership because it’s going to get done regardless … So try 2 own a part of what’s getting taken … knowledge is key. But applying knowledge opens doors
— D Mccalla (@davidmccalla) April 28, 2019
I got what Jay Z was saying but he ain’t have to say “gentrify”. He could’ve said “reinvent” or “revitalize”. Gentrification involves people being misplaced. he was trynna say don’t let other communities take over our establishments. recreate them with better opportunities for us
— yolaaa (@ymlx__) April 28, 2019
But many pointed out blatant hypocrisy on Jay-Z’s part.
Jay Z told people who bought $650 tickets to see him perform to make solid financial investments and to gentrify their own hood. That’s the best.
— Mike Cannon (@IamMikeCannon) April 27, 2019
It’s weird that Jay Z paying tribute to Nispey and talking about gentrify your own hoods when Nipsey didn’t do that and Jay did with the Barclays center.
— Lil Anti (@Chatterstick) April 27, 2019
Barclays opened a year before I moved to NYC. I’ve witnessed the frighteningly rapid destruction of downtown Brooklyn since then. Jay Z played a significant role in displacing his own people then moved on as if it and they were nothing.
— Eboni (@ebonitpr) April 27, 2019
Either way, Jay-Z’s “gentrify your own hood” line remains totally confusing.
Me trying to figure out what Jay Z really meant by “gentrify your own hood” after reading all the twitter opinions… pic.twitter.com/FdId9S0Tpk
— Meg Gallagher (@MegRGall) April 28, 2019
People continue to debate the precise meaning of “gentrify.”
He was 100% right, And his plan would fix all those problems. pic.twitter.com/CzfpfJRwPH
— Lady Deja Diane of House Stark 🐺 (@Obey_The_Beauty) April 27, 2019
speaking of that Wikipedia definition. language can be used to reframe and it can be intentionally deceptive. gentrification does not mean “improve your community” it is anti-Black and folks are getting displaced.
— fleetwood Black (@bronzefenbrennr) April 27, 2019
people automatically assume gentrification has to be negative, and understandably so, but it’s only been negative because the ones doing it didn’t care about the community, they cared about money.
— vaun (@_Vaun) April 27, 2019
Given the full context of Jay-Z’s freestyle, it’s clear he wants to empower minority communities, not displace them.
Next time, let’s hope Jay-Z cracks open a thesaurus and picks a different word.
In the meantime, for more historical perspective on gentrification, check out P.E. Moskowitz’s How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood.