A 1930s photograph of a Harlem man with a startling resemblance to Jay-Z has reignited conspiracy theories about the rapper after it was dredged up by a New York Public Library digital curator.
The black-and-white photograph, titled “Harlem Loiterers," shows a Jay-Z look-alike wearing a pea coat and newsboy cap and sitting on the front railing of a building while making eye contact with the camera. The New York Public Library’s prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has confirmed the photograph was taken by an American photographer named Sid Grossman in 1939.
The photo first started gaining attention last Thursday after a Reddit user uploaded it onto that site, drawing dozens of comments and Jay-Z-themed puns -- “If you havin' loan problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but shanty towns ain't one;” “If the dust bowl comes, go and brush your shoulders off” -- as well as claims that the photo was clearly evidence of "supernatural" forces at work. Several “plausible” theories are already bouncing around the web.
Continue Reading Below
According to Inquisitr, the most probable among these theories it that the rapper and business mogul traveled back in time to 1939, perhaps to conduct some informal research for the songs he recently contributed to the soundtrack for the new movie “The Great Gatsby.” The website does note a "hole" in that theory, though, mainly that “Gatsby” takes place during the Roaring '20s, not the late '30s.
The publication claimed that a less plausible theory being tossed around is that Jay-Z is a vampire. “The blood-sucking beasts don’t age the way humans do and some people believe that the rapper could be hundreds or thousands of years old,” the article says. “That would explain the singer’s in-depth knowledge of New York City.”
The photograph also reignited the longtime debate over whether or not Jay-Z is a member of the occult society Illuminati. That particular conspiracy theory peaked right after the 2013 Grammys, when several of the award show’s biggest stars, including Jay-Z, Beyonce and Rihanna, were called out for supposedly wearing Illuminati-themed paraphernalia, and in Beyonce’s case, for throwing up the "Mark of the Beast," an alleged Illuminati hand gesture.
The website Media Takeout noted that Jay-Z’s ring looked suspiciously like an Illuminati ring, writing, "Jay Z must have wanted to get people talking. With ALL the rumors that he is a CARD CARRYING member of the ILLUMINATI, Jigga showed up to the Grammy's wearing a LARGE jewel encrusted ring - which looks like the ANCIENT rings worn by members of SECRET SOCIETIES. Either that . . . or Jigga doesn't care WHO KNOWS his affiliations."
Although Illuminati theorists believe that the ultra-secret occult society rules the world using sophisticated mind control techniques, and that Jay-Z may have benefited from being a member, the gossip site admits that even his induction into the secret society wouldn’t necessarily account for why he would have a 1939 doppelganger.
New York Times writer Andy Newman, who covered the story for the newspaper’s blog, City Room, attributed the viral photo to the human brain’s tendency to search out facial similarities. Newman also observed that this is not the first time the library uncovered a historical celebrity doppelganger. Two years ago, another unearthed photo of a prison inmate in 1857 caught attention for its similarity to Brad Pitt.
The library is urging the public to come forward with any information they might have about the “Harlem Loiterers” image. Says Sylviane A. Diouf, curator of the Schomburg Center’s Digital Collections, “I was immediately struck by the similarity to Jay-Z and actually laughed out loud ... I still hope somebody will tell us who that young man really was.”