(NEW YORK) — Jay-z has rapped about “99 problems,” and now he’s identifying one of them: the 99 percent.
In an interview with the New York Times, the “Empire State of Mind” rapper and mogul dished out tough criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, questioning its message while defending free enterprise.
“What’s the thing on the wall, what are you fighting for?” he asks in the Times.
“I think all those things need to really declare themselves a bit more clearly. Because when you just say that ‘the 1 percent is that,’ that’s not true. Yeah, the 1 percent that’s robbing people, and deceiving people, these fixed mortgages and all these things, and then taking their home away from them, that’s criminal, that’s bad. Not being an entrepreneur. This is free enterprise. This is what America is built on.”
Occupy Wall Street drew the attention and support of many of Jay-Z’s fellow celebrities, including Kayne West and Russell Simmons.
Jay-Z recalled telling hip-hop business mogul Simmons, “I’m not going to a park and picnic, I have no idea what to do, I don’t know what the fight is about. What do we want, do you know?”
The harsh words may come as a shock to some, considering Rocawear, Jay-Z’s clothing line, began selling “Occupy All Streets” shirts in late 2011, which seemed to indicated tacit approval of the movement. The shirts sold out quickly but received a barrage of criticism when it was revealed the proceeds were not going to the Occupy movement.
“‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street,” Rocawear said in a statement. ”At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”
Jay-Z is no stranger to politics. Both he and his wife Beyonce have been vocal supporters of President Obama, and were even rumored to make an appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. last week, although the talk turned out to be unfounded.
In May, Jay-Z told CNN that President Obama is a better choice for the country than Mitt Romney “by leaps and bounds.”
The president even appeared in a pre-recorded video introducing the rapper at the “Made in America” festival in Philadelphia, saying Jay-Z represented what “Made in America” means.
Although President Obama has avoided providing any public support of Occupy Wall Street, he has said that he understands the sentiment expressed by the demonstrators.
In an interview with ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, Obama said that it was important to let the protesters know leaders were “on their side.”
“I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests,” Obama told Tapper in Jamestown, N.C.
“In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them,” he said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com
Koster Kennard, Deseret News
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Frank Pallotta, CNN