How I Imagine Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” Video Was Made

If you’ve seen Jay-Z’s new video for “The Story of O.J.,” you know it sets a new standard for elegant, impactful, mixed media expression. If you haven’t seen it, watch it right now:

Titmouse and The Mill are the animation studios behind the clip. Here’s how I like to imagine the meeting where Jay-Z tells them his vision for the video:

Jay-Z: “It’s a song about race, it’s got to be a video about race.”

Animators: *shuffling their papers to hide the “Under The Sea!” unicorn seahorse treatment they had prepared to pitch.* “So, something abstract then … ”

Jay-Z: “No, something literal! Think Disney’s racist representation of black people. And you know what? Maybe I’m an animated character in the video, too. Like Little Black Sambo. Except I’m Little Black Jay-Z-bo: Jaybo! But make him cool and grown up.

I googled “Little Black Sambo” and this is a screen grab of the image results.

Animators: *nervously* “You want us to make an animated video about racism and set it to music and it stars a … a racist stereotype is … you want us to draw those and do that. Like, draw one of you.”

Jay-Z: “Cheah. Also: an animated burlesque and Nina Simone’s there. I’ve got some other ideas, too. I made a list.”

Facsimile of Jay-Z’s note (that I imagined in my head).

Animators: “It just a tricky line to walk and, um, do well, and we, we just ahhhhhh it’s a sensitive subject and it’s just so hard to do well.”

Jay-Z: “I have all this money for you.” *Waves hand towards pair of gold wheelbarrows filled with bills, parked nearby.*

If this art made you smile and/or nod, you can buy a print of it today. ‘Jay-Z With A Wheelbarrow’

Animators: “Yes, yes, we like money, it’s just that you can’t buy the kind of knowing nuance, that sophisticated balance between preaching and enchanting your audience.”

Jay-Z: “But I’m J-Hova.”

Animators: *So much profuse sweating*

Jay-Z: “Do you know who my wife is?”

Animators: *Collectively crying into their hands. One has peed his pants.*


Imagine making a music video about race? There are at least eight giant shitholes one could fall into in the process, even if you’re Jay-Z. The eloquence of this song and film pairing is a testament to how right Aziz Ansari is about how smoooooth Jay-Z is. (And if that last part didn’t make  sense to you, you can hear Aziz Ansari describe just how ridic smooth Jay-Z is here, on Track 19, “Jay Z New Year’s Story,” at the 3:03 mark.)


J.C. Villamere is a two-time National Magazine Award-winning writer whose new book, Is Canada Even Real?, is a humourous bestseller about Canadian pop culture. Order your copy today!

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