jay-z spiritual song meaning lyrics review

Jay-Z’s “Spiritual” is a Powerful Statement (Lyrics Review)

Musicians can use their talents to influence the society positively and that’s exactly what Jay-Z does in his newly released track “Spiritual.” The single was released on July 7, 2016 and is already a hot topic in the industry. The song is fueled by the recent acts of police brutality targeted at the African American community specifically in the United States.

“Spiritual” comes out in a time where good, innocent lives such as Michael Brown, Philando Castile and most recently Alton Sterling have fallen victim to police brutality against the minorities. A simple Google search gives us the following staggering statistics:

So far in 2015, as many as 100 unarmed people have been killed by police. There have been around 400 fatal police shootings; one in six of those killings, 16 percent, were of unarmed people, 49 had no weapon at all and 13 had toy guns, according to the Washington Post.

Jay-Z's message releasing
Jay-Z’s message releasing “Spiritual” single.

Listen to “Spiritual” by Jay-Z

Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Spiritual”

A weird cry of a voice gives an introduction to “Spiritual.”

And it says, now the works of the flesh are manifest
Meaning, the things that are in the sinful nature
They always come to the surface
And when they come, when they come to the surface
They come to the surface as demons

Jay-Z gives a reference to the Bible (“it”) with these lines. The book says the humans made of flesh are of sinful in their nature. It’s in the human’s core to be evil, and it always comes out. And when they do come out, we can see the real demons possessing the humans.

Refrain of “Spiritual” gives us more in-depth insights into the meaning of the song.

(All this work can pay off)
I just want all this work to pay off
(Just don’t calculate us)
Don’t calculate us
(Get to know you later)

The struggle for equality has not been a decade old war. It has been there for centuries and Black lives have been lost in great numbers to gain the level of freedom they are enjoying today. But has eqaulity been achieved? No. And since such equality shall be achieved, the number of Black lives taken away will calculate (add) up.

John Legend speaks about Ferguson killing in “Glory”

“Spiritual” continues…

Spiritual, yes it is spiritual
No I’m not poison, no I’m not poison
(Just don’t calculate us)
Alcohol in my room
Spiritual, yes it is spiritual
No I’m not poison, no I’m not poison
(Just don’t calculate us)
Spiritual, yes it is spiritual
No I’m not poison, no I’m not poison
(Just don’t calculate us)
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Jay-Z screams out that he’s not poison. A poison is a chemical that has the potential to harm or kill another living thing. The singer says that the all-whites police sees the Blacks as poison that corrupts the society. Jay-Z brings some play on words saying he has got spirits (alcohol) in his room, and it also means that, alcohol is about the worst Black people do.

Protesters against racial police brutality spiritual
Protesters against racial police brutality

Yeah, I am not poison, no I am not poison
Just a boy from the hood that
Got my hands in the air
In despair don’t shoot
I just wanna do good, ah
I am not poison, no I am not poison
Just a boy from the hood that
Got my hands in the air
In despair don’t shoot
I just wanna do good, uh

The hook of “Spiritual” by Jay-Z is just too good.

The singer speaks for the entire African American community when he says that he is just a boy from the hood and just wants to live his life in peace and do some good. But instead they are pushed to positions where they get shot for putting their hands up in surrendering to the police. This is a reference to the Michael Brown shooting, where the victim was supposedly lifting his hands up in surrender when he was shot down.

After warming up the microphone, Jay-Z takes us to the first verse in “Spiritual.”

Pray your father’s father wasn’t touching his little daughter
Creating trans-generational trauma, that shit’ll haunt ya

The singer is speaking about an aunt who got sexually assaulted when she was a little kid. I do not know if this has been ripped out of Jay-Z’s personal life or not, but he says such an incident can ripple through generations to come. The trauma will be overwhelming.

Pray your little cousin ain’t fall from the place that you fall asleep

This in fact relates to real life experiences of Jay-Z, where one of his cousins fell out of a broken window in their apartment.

Of course it’s harmful (no high)
N**ga ain’t dozed, I ain’t washed in a week
I ain’t changed clothes ’til the Black Album

The Black man is not dozed or drugged. He is pretty much aware of what is going on around him-the targeted racial brutality and it makes him stay awake at night.

“Change Clothes” is the first track out of Jay-Z’s 2003 album ‘The Black Album‘ and Jay-Z infers that he has not moved away from his ghetto roots since then. He is still very much in touch with his race and culture.

Y’all rap about it, I’m wrestlin’ in these streets
‘Til I tapped out ’em, them n**gas is WWE
Y’all can have that, I’m smack dab
In a hurricane of emotions

Jay-Z brings in yet another victim of police brutality-Eric Garner. He was choked to death by the police who had held him by his throat and despite his cries for air, held his throat tight and killed him. Eric Garner basically wrestled for air and his life in the streets.

And Jay-Z also gives a warning to his competitors that he will make them tap out of the business like done in WWE.

Can’t even raise my little daughter, my little Carter
We call her Blue cause it’s sad that
How can I be a dad that, I never had that
Shattered in a million pieces, where the glass at

Jay-Z gives an emotional tribute to his daughter, Blue Ivy. The African Americans are scared of even their little kids because police brutality knows no age. Michael Brown, for an example, was just 18 years old when he was murdered.

Blue is the colour of sadness and depression and I highly doubt that’s why they named her. But it just matches with “Spiritual” song theme.

Jay-Z had a rough upbringing without his father and he is scared that he will not be a good father to his daughter because he doesn’t know what to be expected of a father.

I need a drink, shrink or something
I need an angelic voice to sing something
Bless my soul, extend your arms, I’m cold
Hold me for a half hour until I am whole, yeah

With all these demons traumatizing him, Jay-Z either has to turn to alcohol or seek mental counseling. Or he could also see solace in his wife’s angelic voice. He asks to give the African Americans a chance. A chance to fit in, a chance to be accepted and a welcoming hand for once. It only takes a little for him to become whole again.

Verse 2 of “Spiritual” comes around…

Sick of hiding in holes and behind hyperbole
This is the real me unfold
Gangster is love, I’m thuggin’, I’m huggin’
This is tougher than any gun that I raised

Jay-Z has had it with a life of hiding and being scared of. “Hyperbole” means exaggerated statements that can’t be taken literally. Jay-Z means that other artists are spitting lyrics that are just there to entertain the listeners. There’s no real value in them. And he has unfold the real Carter in this “Spiritual” track.

He says the brotherhoods o Black men have been built on love, they look like they are thuggin’ but in fact it only take a little to make them whole again, as said above. Jay-Z’s words are tougher than the weapons that have killed innocent lives.

Any crack that I blazed, that was nothin’
Peeling back the layers, uncovering
Scars that never healed, I never kept it this real

The Black man have suffered for centuries and when you peel the history you can only see scars the Whites have caused on them and the scars have not healed at all.

I acted out, my life a stage, ten thousand people watchin’
Where’s the little boy I knew?
I must have forgot him
Stuntin’, of course we never grew
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song for you
Stuntin’, of course we never grew
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song…you

Jay-Z was a real class performer ever since he got into music. He was in the public eye from day one. He had to act the part infront of millions of people watching. One move in the wrong direction and he would have been labeled a criminal or even worse shot dead.

The little Shawn Carter has been long forgotten. All the insecurities and fears he endured have been crushed down by the stardom. But once again, the young Shawn Carter and Jay-Z are alone again because the world is against them no matter how much of a good show he puts on. So he sings this brutally honest song to his young self seeking some solace.

The hook of “Spiritual” repeats once more and this powerful message to the world comes to an end.

It’s good to see that mainstream artists such as Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend and Hopsin take it their mission to do their part in ending inequality for African Americans around the world.

The world has come a long way, but there’s still a longer way to go.

Let us know what you think about “Spiritual” by Jay-Z.

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