Remember a few years ago when Jay Z and civil rights champion Harry Belafonte were beefing about philanthropy and celebrity activism? This was a yearlong spat in which Belafonte suggested that Bruce Springsteen is blacker than Jay and Beyonce, a diss that Jay answered on "Nickles And Dimes" from Magna Carta Holy Grail: "I’m just trying to find common ground/before Mr. Belafonte come and chop a nigga down."
Jay Z addressed Belfonte's critique more extensively in a July 2013 interview with Rap Radar founder Elliott Wilson, and again in an August 2013 interview with HBO's Bill Maher. That was the last word, at least in public.
In a recent interview with The Laura Flanders Show, famous black scholar Cornel West briefly revisited that clash between a hip-hop mogul and a civil rights pioneer. West revealed that he, Belafonte, Jay Z, and Lupe Fiasco all eventually gathered together to resolve the generational tension between Belafonte and Jay. When host Laura Flanders asked whether he and Belafonte "had words" with Jay Z, Dr. West answered, "Oh, we did, we did—we had some wonderful words. Lupe Fiasco was there as well."
It's a strange cast of characters, for sure. You'll recall that as of 2013, Lupe had radicalized his songwriting and public persona, getting himself booted from his own concert set for President Obama's second inauguration by Secret Service and event staffers. Meanwhile, Jay Z had developed close political ties to Obama, a frequent target of criticism from Belafonte, Dr. West, and Lupe Fiasco.
"Jay Z is a lyrical genius," Dr. West said. "We've had geniuses before in black culture. The question is, what are you going to do with it? Who are you going to serve?"