On the holiday playing "Strange Fruit"
If I'mma make it to a billi I can't take the same route
The line originates from the Billie Holiday song, “Strange Fruit.” This song provides a vivid description of lynching and how it was rampant in the south. Note Jay’s usage of “holiday” and “billi,” as those words play along with the reference to the song. Also note the homonym, route/root. In “Strange Fruit,” Holiday says these lines:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
The “holiday” in this line is most likely in reference to Independence day, the national holiday that also served as the release date for the album in which this song is featured on, Magna Carta… Holy Grail.
To take the same route would be the same as taking the same root, i.e. dying at the hands of discrimination. Also, it’s the continuation of the theme of Jay-Z expanding beyond what he has done in the past to accumulate wealth. In the beginning, he and Ty Ty sold drugs to make money. Then he used rap to gain wealth, then he expanded to be an author, and so on.
Taking another approach at this line, the “route” could be in reference to Triangular Trade, a trading system notorious for the bringing of many slaves to colonial North America. The ships docked at ports in Africa, such as the Ivory Coast, and then went along their route to the colonies. This ties back in with the overall interpretation of the song that was first noted in the beginning of the hook, that the ocean is symbolic in terms of enslavement, but is also looked at as a sign of freedom.
Another “same route” could be alcoholism (referring back to the theme of the song, water.) “Strange Fruit” singer Billie Holiday literally drank herself to death, as she was hospitalized and died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. This cirrhosis of the liver was caused by her severe drinking problem.
Regardless of the form of death, if Jay wants to make it to a billi (short for a billion dollars, note the wordplay used, as Billie Holiday sung “Strange Fruit,) he can’t die, as his current net worth as of 2013 is $500,000,000. He still has a long way to go in order to double his net worth. Note that Jay uses a reference to lynching as a form of death. This is symbolic in the aspect of racism; that Jay can’t succumb to the racial discrimination that is still sadly exhibited by many in today’s society.
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