Jay-Z Speaks About Harry Belafonte Gatekeeper Award

LEGENDS & ICONS - Article By Kevin Douglas

jay z harry belafonte

“We are all gatekeepers and you have showed us that we must all keep our gate open for the next generation” was the quote Jay-Z made, while discussing Harry Belafonte and the gatekeeper award.

This is a long way from what transpired between the two back in 2012 and 2013. Back then Harry Belafonte, the famed actor/singer turned civil rights activist, was quoted by a foreign reporter in a Q&A about modern celebrity and social responsibility. Belafonte answered the question which ruffled some feathers.

Q: Are you happy with the image of members of minorities in Hollywood today?

A: Not at all. They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are. We are still looking. … And 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 Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.

Jay Z responded churlishly to Belafonte’s shade, first in lyrics on his latest album, and then more expansively in an interview with Elliot Wilson last week:

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. … 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.

Years later, the rap billionaire, admitted regret over his comments. 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.”

Now we come full circle with Jay-z acceptance of being a gatekeeper for the community and following generations via Harry Belafonte. Check out the segment below.