The back-and-forth between activist and music legend Harry Belafonte and Jay-Z has come to a head—with Belafonte offering an olive branch.
In a 2012 interview, Belafonte listed Jay-Z and Beyonce as two examples of modern, high-profile artists that have “turned their back on social responsibility.”
Jay-Z responded to the criticism on “Nickles and Dimes,” a track from his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail: “I’m just trying to find common ground / ‘fore Mr. Belafonte come and chop a nigga down / Mr. Day O, major fail / Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now / Hublot homie, two door homie / You don’t know all the shit I do for the homies.”
Hov also addressed the matter in a recent interview, stating that he was “offended” by Belafonte’s comments.
Now, in an interview with MSNBC, Belafonte explained that his statements about Jay-Z and Beyonce were not in fact a specific attack on either. “I would be hard pressed to tell Mr. Jay-Z what to do with this time and his fortune. All I can be critical is of what he is not doing,” said Belafonte. “This conflict that is emerging was not from me as a direct attack on Jay-Z or Beyonce. I was at a press conference in Switzerland. Questions were raised by the international press. They asked about the artists and the social engagement of the past based on a film we were watching…and how artists responded earlier in my life and how they responded today.”
Belafonte continued, speaking on the power of Black America’s voice, in the context of the entertainment industry. “And I made the observation that the highly powerful voice that our community has—Black America has—there is so much celebrity power that it was sad to see that the collective of the celebrity power had not been applied to bring consciousness to the inequities that we face,” he explained.
Currently, Belafonte is camped out with Dream Defenders, a social activist organization, in the Florida Capitol. The group is camped out in protest of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law in light of the George Zimmerman trial verdict, of not guilty, absolving Zimmerman of any crime in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. “Artists that heard that responded in a very strong way. You’ll find that Jamie Foxx, you’ll find Chuck D [of Public Enemy]…you’ll find that any number of highly profiled people have taken that critique and called for [a meeting]. We’ve sat. We’ve talked. And I will tell you now that these people that I’ve just mentioned are officially behind Dream Defenders. They are prepared to come down. They are prepared to perform.”
“I would hope that Jay Z would not take personally what was said because it was not said about him personally,” said Belafonte, before concluding by inviting Jay-Z and Beyonce to join him in a private sit-down. “Having said that, I would like to say to Jay Z, to Beyonce: My heart is wide open and filled with nothing but hope and the promise that we can sit and have a one-on-one. And lets understand each other rather than try to answer these questions and these nuances in a public place.
Watch the interview below:
Harry Belafonte, dubbed the “King of Calypso,” popularized the Caribbean musical style with international audiences in the 1950s. Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s, and was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s confidants, even bailing King out of Birmingham City Jail.