Song Analysis: “History” by Jay-Z

“History” by Jay-Z, an African American Artist was released the day that the first African American President was elected in the United States. He later performed the song for Barack Obama and countless others at the pre-inauguration ball. The song can be found below.

The first thing I noticed when I listened to this song was how different it was rhythmically from every other Jay Z song that I had heard before. The song had a simple back beat that did not overpower the lyrics. This song really put a focus on the lyrics and the words and the message. These lyrics represent something that I don’t think I’ve ever heard come from a rap artist before. They discuss the progression away from racism in America. I drew this based on the lyric “Now that all the smoke is gone and the battle is finally won, victory is finally ours”. From this i gathered that the battle was racism and by electing a African American president the battle had ended signifying a step in the right direction away from racism.

Even though winning the battle is important for Jay Z and the rest of the black community I think another important aspect of this song is the journey it takes you through to get to the victory. Jay Z takes us all on a journey through success, struggles, and working to gain new levels which eventually ended in the victory of the battle and working to eliminate racism. He plays upon the allure of reaching success and the amazing opportunities that come along with it. However he also tells us that success is never enough in this day in age because we always want more success.

He uses imagery throughout the entire song in a positive manner which is unlike anything we have seen before. The imagery we have discussed so far throughout the rest of the class has all been negative and in reference to women or sex or drugs. So it was nice change of pace to see such a positive song written for such a good reason. Hats off to Jay Z for making a deep and meaningful song and reaching his victory the same time America reached hers.


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