BY ANDREW R. CHOW AUGUST 20, 2020
Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z will release a new song on Friday, “Entrepreneur,” in conjunction with Williams’ new TIME cover package, “The New American Revolution.”
This issue of TIME features conversations with Angela Davis, Tyler the Creator, Naomi Osaka, Geoffrey Canada and more about the systemic inequalities that Black people have faced throughout United States’ history, and how a more equitable future might be achieved across policy, medicine, culture, sports and education. The song touches on some of the same themes: “In this position with no choice / The system imprison young Black boys / Distract with white noise,” Williams whispers.
“The intention for a song was all about how tough it is to be an entrepreneur in our country to begin with,” Williams tells TIME. “Especially as someone of color, there’s 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?”
Amidst all these issues, Williams sees economic empowerment as a key that will help improve communities across the board. “When you have successful beehive-type communities where you can circulate money within your community, it makes a huge difference,” he says. “They keep saying the American Dream is about the house and picket fence, the wife and two kids. Come on—let’s be honest. It’s always boiled down to money and an opportunity.”
Jay Z, in his verse, stresses the importance of supporting Black businesses and starting one’s own ventures. “Black Twitter, what’s that? When Jack gets paid, do you?,” he raps, referencing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, before adding, “For every one Gucci, support two FUBU’s.”
While the song confronts systemic injustice, it takes a triumphant tone, with Williams’ breezy falsetto floating over a warm beat produced by Williams and his production partner Chad Hugo, who make up the Neptunes. “The song is trying to communicate that when we stick together, treat each other better and welcome each other, there’s more money and more opportunity for everyone,” Williams says.