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Jay-Z: A Master Of Occult Wisdom?

Fresh off the release of his new album <em>The Blueprint 3</em>, Jay-Z performed in London.
Samir Hussein
/
Getty Images
Fresh off the release of his new album The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z performed in London.

At this point, the only pop-cultural event that could possibly upstage Jay-Z's new album, The Blueprint III, is Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol.

But if Brown thinks he has the market cornered on Freemasonry and the occult, he had better watch his back. Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America, says that Jay-Z has a keen grasp of certain esoterica, especially in the music video for his new single, "Run This Town."

In an interview with Guy Raz, Horowitz pointed to Jay-Z's use of the phrase "Peace God" as an allusion to the Five Percenters. Also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths, they teach that the original black man is God — and that all men are potentially God. "Peace God" is a typical Five Percenter greeting.

"A phrase like 'Peace God' does not find its way into someone's vernacular by accident," Horowitz says. "He's making a very definite statement."

Of course, Five Percent Nation teachings have had a deep impact on hip-hop for many years. Though not a Five Percenter himself, Jay-Z was born and bred in New York, the birthplace of the movement. So it's common to find such references in rap.

But Jay-Z's connection to the occult may extend a bit further. In the making-of video for "Run This Town," he's pictured wearing a sweatshirt with the phrase "do what thou wilt" printed across the chest.

"Yes, that has very deep roots in modern occult culture," Horowitz says. "The full expression is 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.' That was one of the key maxims of the British occultist Aleister Crowley. So when Jay-Z appears in a hoodie with that phrase on it in public, that's exactly what he's referencing."

Jay-Z's Rocawear clothing line also often draws upon Masonic symbols: pentagrams, obelisks, pyramids, the all-seeing eye. Of course, that pales in comparison with the near-obsession with the occult of someone like, say, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page.

"I would say that a figure like Jay-Z is probably borrowing some of this material," Horowitz says. "But Jimmy Page was imbibing it even more deeply."

Horowitz says he takes a positive view of Freemasonry and occultists — many of the country's Founding Fathers were masons, he says. He does stop short of calling Jay-Z an actual member of a secret society.

"I think he's a very shrewd man," Horowitz says. "I think he's a keen observer of everything going on around him. He's a master at using subversive imagery. You don't find your way to Five Percenter material unless you are very aware of what's going on around you."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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