Jay-Z, Pharrell Challenge Systemic Racism on New Song ‘Entrepreneur’
Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams reunite on “Entrepreneur,” which the pair released Thursday at midnight. The song is accompanied by a new music video that spotlights black men and women, including Tyler, the Creator and Issa Rae, who have started their own businesses.
“Entrepreneur” is “all about how tough it is to be an entrepreneur in our country to begin with,” Pharrell told Time. “Especially as someone of color, there [are] a lot of systemic disadvantages and purposeful blockages. How can you get a fire started, or even the hope of an ember to start a fire, when you’re starting at disadvantages with regards to health care, education, and representation?”
Pharrell directly addresses racial inequality in his whispered verses: “The system imprison young black boys/Distract with white noise.” Jay-Z discusses the lack of equal representation for minorities in media — “Lies told to you through YouTubes and Hulus/Shows with no hues that look like you do” — and advocates for supporting black-owned businesses: “Black Twitter, what’s that? When Jack gets paid, do you?/For every one Gucci, support two FUBU’s.”
“Entrepreneur” is the latest in a long line of collaborations between Pharrell and Jay-Z, who have worked together on more than a dozen tracks together over the years. In the past, their team-ups often followed a pattern: The Neptunes (Pharrell and Chad Hugo) came up with skeletal, thwacking, club-friendly beats, Pharrell added charming falsetto hooks, and Jay-Z did the rest.
This formula resulted in several massive hits during the first half of the 2000s: “Frontin” (which peaked at Number Five), “Excuse Me Miss” (Number Eight), “Change Clothes” (Number 10), and “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me)” (Number 11). Both “Frontin” and “Excuse Me Miss” also earned Grammy nominations.
In recent months, Pharrell has released relatively little music — his only appearance of the year before “Entrepreneur” was on Run the Jewels’ “Just.” In 2019, he contributed to songs by Beck, Tyler, the Creator, Daniel Caesar, and Gesaffelstein. Pharrell’s last solo album, Girl, came out in 2014.