They swear it’s real.
A photo of a man taken in 1939 by photographer Sid Grossman looks eerily like rap hero Jay-Z. A curator from the New York Public Library recently came across the image when looking through its stock at the Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture.
While Jigga man reps for Brooklyn, the photograph was taken in Harlem. Titled “Harlem Loiters,” the black and white snapshot depicts two men at their leisure sitting on and leaning against a Harlem stairwell. One man dons a panama hat, while the other (the Jay-Z lookalike) sports a newspaper boy cap. They look sharp to say the least, like vintage American hustlers.
In 1939, when the photo was taken, television had only been around for four years. Prohibition ended eight years prior and the New York World’s Fair was going down in Queens. Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Louis Armstrong’s “When the Saints Go Marching In” ruled the airwaves, while Gone With the Wind beat out The Wizard of Oz for the Best Picture Oscar. Hip-hop wouldn’t be invented for another four decades one NYC borough over. Jay-Z wouldn’t be born for another thirty years.
“We’re 100 percent certain it’s legitimate,” Adenike Olanrewaju, a New York Public Library spokeswoman, said on Friday. They promise it has not been photoshopped or altered.