I father, I Brooklyn Dodger them
I jack, I rob, I sin
Aww man, I'm Jackie Robinson
'Cept when I run base, I dodge the pen
Jackie Robinson, as mentioned above, broke the color barrier in baseball. He is regarded as being one of the greatest to ever play the game. His high speed made him a great candidate to steal bases and get extra bases on his hits. Hence, “running base.”
Jay-Z uses word play about stealing and sinning to come up with how he “is” Jackie Robinson. Except when he runs base (sells drugs like freebase cocaine vs. Jackie running around the bases), he dodges jail time.
When Jay-Z raps along to the bass of the beat, he freestyles rather than writing raps beforehand (dodging the pen and/or Microsoft Word)
Another meaning is that while Jay-Z dodges the pen (short for penitentiary or prison, Jackie Robinson isn’t. However, the pen Robinson isn’t dodging likely is the one that was used to sign lucrative baseball contracts.
Another use for “dodge the pen” could be Jay-Z referencing the bullpen in baseball stadiums. The bullpen or “the pen” is where relief pitchers warmup before they come into the game. In order for a baseball player to get on base, they might need to get a hit off of a relief pitcher from the pen if the at-bat is later in the game (7th, 8th, 9th inning). However, relief pitching was less prominent in Jackie’s day than it is today.
Also note the use of the word “dodge,” when Jackie played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The name of the Dodgers (now in Los Angeles) was derived from Brooklyn’s trollies which ran along the streets, and the city’s citizens had to “dodge” out of the way (Source).
For those keeping count: triple entendre
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