Jay-Z, the hip-hop star and entertainment mogul, has filed papers to trademark the Jaybo character from his music video to “The Story of O. J.”
The trademark will reportedly allow JAY-Z’s firm, S. Carter Enterprises, to use the animated chap across a range of merch, from T-shirts, hats, mugs, bumper stickers, candles and even cocktail shakers.
One trademark request also seeks the exclusive rights to spin Jaybo into films and TV series, according to New York Daily News.
“The Story of O. J.,” from his acclaimed 13th studio album, “4:44,” tells the story of four black women and their struggles, and features a sample from the “Four Women” by Nina Simone. The song is in the hunt for three Grammy Awards, including record of the year. Its animated music video, which debuted July 5 on Tidal, the music platform owned by Jay Z, was directed by Mark Romanek and Jay-Z and was cut in the style of an old racist cartoon. The trademark papers were reportedly issued the following day.
Clearly this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jaybo, but there’s a much deeper context here
“The Story of O J.” is seen as an important study into the history of race relations in America and Jaybo isn’t exactly a good guy.
JAY-Z’s move to trademark Jaybo gives the entrepreneur “a rare opportunity to reappropriate and profit off a historically racist character,” notes New York Daily News, which points out Jaybo is a take on “Sambo,” which originates from the 19th century children’s book “The Story of Little Black Sambo,” which has been called out as racist.
Jay-Z last year became the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His vast empire of business interests spans labels, a media label and sports agency, music publishing, management, restaurants, nightclubs and, of course, the Tidal streaming platform.