Video Review: Jay-Z “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”

In Brooklyn, New York, two twelve-year old boys walk by a homeless man repeating “hard knock life” over and over as they ride their bikes. The boy with sunglasses straightens the homeless man’s cart. The homeless man puts his hand on the boy’s back. They enter the party store and buy some snacks. Jay-Z pays for his drink and fist pumps the clerk.

Twentysomething man stand near a maroon graffitied wall. An eight-year-old stands by the marquee of his elementary school. A mother holds her baby while she sits at a bench. Several children play on the jungle gym.

Jay-Z walks past the homeless man’s belongings. A young woman stops to kiss him on the cheek. He stands at the maroon graffitied wall and in front of a luxury car. An eight-year-old girl walks by him.

Two 7-year-old boys sit on the hood of the luxury car. A group of twentysomething men play basketball.

Two little girls join Jay-Z as he sits on the stoop of his home. The eight-year-old girl stands in front of the luxury car. A seven-year-old boy plays basketball with his father in the gym.

Rating: 4/5

At the party store, two boys buy snacks. It’s their dinner. Their school provided them breakfast. However, they are on their own for their other meals. They try to eat as much as they can during breakfast. Some nights, they don’t have food at all.

A young woman gives Jay-Z a kiss. She’s on her way to work as a receptionist at telemarketing office. She tries not to pay attention to the script the people read, describing themselves as lawyers and that people them money. The check pays her bills, though. It’s the only place that would hire her. She wants to get out, though.

The children at the elementary school read from outdated textbooks and supplies are rationed. They are always out of pencils and have to make do with what they have. Repairs are needed but the funding isn’t there. The board of trustees stole it.

Jay-Z grew up in the same neighborhood. He was once the teenaged boy in the park, fighting his way out by any means possible. He had to eat and take care of his family.

Director: N/A Year: 1998

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Pam Avoledo Administrator
Pam Avoledo spends her time binge-watching classic teen dramas and stands firm in her pro-Leyton stance. She also received her journalism degree in 2006 from Oakland University and has been published in the White Wall Review.

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