Ocean x Jay Z x Frank Ocean

Elephant tusk on the bow of a sailing lady
Docked on the Ivory Coast
Mercedes in a row winding down the road
I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo
Before the Basquiat show and if so
Well fuck it, fuck it
Because this water drown my family
This water mixed my blood
This water tells my story
This water knows it all
Go ahead and spill some champagne in the water
Go ahead and watch the sun blaze
On the waves of the ocean

Through this assignment I chose to reflect on the slavery and the Contemporary post-Civil Rights era through a well known song called Ocean by the famous rapper and singer Jay Z and Frank Ocean. The song Ocean depicts the struggle African Americans faced through the transatlantic slave trade and serves as a reminder to this horrible period of time. This song was apart of the Magna Carta Holy Grail album and is the fifth track on the album. The title of the album, ‘Magna Carta’ signifies the attempt in England by the citizens to stop a King with too much power. Jay Z named this album Magna Carta as a way to show the music business he is in charge of his own music, and the people behind there creation are the ones who should be receiving all the credit not the king, or in this case the music business. Through this album Jay Z included many tracks that take a stand on some of the most controversial topics here in America, including slavery. Through Jay Z’s lifetime he was not always fortunate enough to have an easy life. Jay Z was raised in the projects of Brooklyn, faced with drug dealing and gang violence. He was able to be ‘saved’ from this lifestyle through his passion and talent for music, specifically rapping. Since Jay Z did not always have the easiest upbringing he has always been able to look back to his roots and make sure to bring awareness to not only where  he came from but also his ancestors.

Before I begin discussing this moving song, I feel it is only necessary the transatlantic slave trade is explained. The transatlantic slave trade was responsible for migrating twelve to fifteen million African American husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and children to the Western hemisphere in a brutal and inhumane manner. These African Americans were taken unwillingly from there homeland and sold here in the West to do the backbreaking tasks Whites did not want to do. European countries played a major role in this forced migration, as Portugal, Dutch and England were responsible for creating and utilizing technology for sea trade and commerce. Spain also played a role as they were responsible for having a pre-existing slavery system, making them a country other countries could look to as an example to follow. Through there traveling on the Atlantic ocean, these African Americans were faced with infection, disease and were not treated as humans because to the whites it was all about the monetary values. Whites felt superior to African Americans and thought they should utilize their superiority by making blacks do all the grueling labor. The transatlantic slave trade was one of the beginning pillars to the start of slavery and racism here in the Western hemisphere. Through it, African descent people could be brought to America, sold as merchandise and be used to do the work that fundamentally was necessary for America growing as a country.

The song Ocean, by Jay Z and Frank Ocean signifies the water Jay Z and all African Americans ancestors came to America in. I also mentioned the relation to the transatlantic slave trade to this song, which primarily is what Jay Z wanted emphasized through this song. I believe this song is very relevant to me personally because I am an African American citizen here in America, and am made aware of the fact that my ancestors could have possibly been a slave. Although I am an East African and most ancestors were taken from West and Central Africa, these are still my brothers and sisters who had to endure a tough life of loss and pain. The transatlantic slave trade tainted this water for all people of color. It is something that will haunt all people of color through generations and to be reminded of this is essential. This ultimately signifies the relevance of this song to all colored people within this country.

Through the duration of this course we have taken a lot of time focusing on slavery as a system, the impacts it had on families and ultimately how slavery shaped African Americans lives. This artifact does a really good job of showing the impact slavery has had on us African Americans today. It gives us a reminder that yes we can “spill some champagne in the water” but just remember that this water is what brought us here in the first place. Understanding and knowing what the transatlantic slave trade is, is incredibly important in understanding this artifact. I personally was not too familiar with the transatlantic slave trade before taking this course so when I first heard this song a couple of years ago I wasn’t able to make the relation. But because we have discussed this topic numerous times through the course it’s really opened my eyes to seeing this song in a different light.

All in all this cultural artifact has reminded me how I should picture the water that brought my ancestors to this country. It’s made me realize how important it is to always remember the past, because it does effect me. Being aware is the key to a life without ignorance and becoming blind to the actions around me. Jay Z has always been able to bring awareness and bring topics that need to be discussed to light. His gift gives him an outlet and because he is such a well known figure he will be able to continue doing this. The water that surround us will forever be tainted, but as long as we are aware we can make our ancestors proud of the generations to come.

Work Cited

“The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Introduction.” Understanding Slavery Initiative. Understanding Slavery Initiative, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

“Oceans by Jay-Z Songfacts.” Songfacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

One thought on “TAINTED WATERS

  1. 1. “Tainted Waters” was a very creative title and represents the topic of the blog well.

    2. The visual representation is the cover the the album, Magna Carta which includes the song, “Ocean”, the cultural artifact. I thought the album cover was appropriately chosen to be incorporated in the blog.

    3. The author did a great job explaining why Magna Carta was chosen as the name of the album and the importance of the ocean because it was used as the transportation to bring African Americans to the United States.

    4. The author talks about the the transatlantic slave trade being an inspiration to the lyrics in Jay Z’s and Frank Ocean’s song. The song talks about the impact the slave trade has on African American lives such as exploitation of black people.

    5. The blog we very well written. It was personable and also informative. I am a huge fan of Frank Ocean and Jay Z. In a music industry where hip hop is often associated with lyrics talking about “drugs, sex, and violence” it was nice reading about a blog that highlights a song with meaning.


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