Is There a Hidden Meaning to Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," or Is He Just Singing about Dandruff?

Week of May 19, 2004

May 19, 2004 at 4:00 am
Brandon D. Richardson
Director, Rich Kid Marketing and Promotions
"It's a very good song, big in clubs and big on radio, and there is a meaning: It's like when you're clean and you're kinda pimpish, you wipe yourself off. You're wipin' away the haters, the ones that's hatin' on your game or tryin' to step on your toes. That's what it's about. There's nothing more behind it -- no dandruff, no nothin'."

Barbie Besse-Morris
"There's probably a hidden meaning to that song, and I'm not sure I even want to go there. It could be a woman that he's trying to get off his back, and he's calling [her] 'dirt.' That's usually what men are talking about anyway when they do that kind of song."

Tom Agustino
Trainee, Buckingham Palace Guard Academy

"It's about being envied. You pull up in a nice car, they see you with a nice girl, and they start talkin' shit about you and that's what you need to brush off your shoulders. There's no reason to talk bad about anybody, no reason to care about what other people think. All that's important is what you think about yourself."

Jay Perry
Barber/Owner, Nappy Roots Unisex Salon
"He's sayin' if you're a pimp, go on, brush your shoulders off. You can be a pimp in your job. You can be a pimp when it comes to relationships -- ladies are pimps, too. If you're feelin' that way, go on and brush your shoulders off. You floss a lot, you got a nice ride, you spend money around town, you're a big-timer, so you brush your shoulders off, dig? He's not talkin' about dandruff, I'm pretty sure."

Hope Foster
Sandwich Maker, Subway in the Loop
"I don't like that song, don't like the beat or the lyrics, and I don't like Jay-Z. I like Nelly and Chingy."

Geoff Oliver
Massage Therapist
"Some have speculated that it's about being a rehabber, working in these old houses with all that falling plaster. But I think it is a dandruff song, a little tune that his mama taught him when he was young to remind him to brush the dandruff and lint off his shoulders when he went to school, and now he's made it in to a hip-hop song. Some people think of dandruff as 'dirt.'"