I’ve always been a girl who loved words, so it was no surprise to me that I became a Jay Z fan. My brothers and cousins were OBSESSED with his music when I was little. Listening to it on my own, there was something about the way he told a story of being a drug dealer in Marcy Projects to becoming one of the wealthiest Hip Hop moguls EVER that intrigued me.
Again, I have a thing about words; it’s the way words are put together. I’m all about the voice, the tone, the impact, the depth, the emotion, the passion behind the words.
A few days ago, Jay-Z shut the music industry down with the release of his album, 4:44. Now, for most people, Jay’s greatness isn’t anything new. From top to bottom, 4:44 is a literary masterpiece, filled with gems and knowledge about Black supremacy, Black Wealth, sexual liberation (his mother Gloria Carter came out as a lesbian), Black Unity, and so many other things.
Perhaps the most enlightening track on the album (in my opinion) is the very raw, very personal title track. In it he spits mad bars about his relationship with his wife Beyonce. He admits to a shit load of emotional abuse and pain. I think it’s fitting, him releasing this track after Bey dropped Lemonade last year. Jay addresses almost every controversial issue in their marriage and overall relationship.
Needless to say, Black women were NOT here for Jay Z’s year’s too late apology. And Black men well, half of them missed the most important message Hov was dropping, and many felt like it gave them a pass to cheat. I recently saw a post on Tumblr about Jay Z and Beyonce’s relationship based on 4:44. Jay Z has presumably been the only man Beyonce has ever loved and been with intimately since she was about 18; she’ll be 36 in September, Jay Z will be 48 in December. In the song he asked her to “go steady” back in 2002 when she was about 21, which means he had to be at least 32 at the time.
They got married in 2008; he was 39 and she 27. Their daughter Blue was born in 2012; she was about to be 31 and he would turn 42 at the end of the year.
They’ve been married for 9 years, but together practically Beyonce’s entire adult life.
She has been hurt and mistreated by the very man who constantly rapped about having “the hottest chic in the game wearing my chain,” He has been hurting the very woman so many young girls idolize and aspire to be. He is one half of ‘relationship goals’. They are considered a power couple, a symbol of Black love.
Beyonce and Jay Z’s relationship is all of us; their relationship says something about the way we as Black people view, idealize, and understand love and relationships.
We may sit and scrutinize Jay Z and Beyonce for, whatever reason, but we have all been them at some point. If we haven’t been them, we have experienced them through the eyes of someone else.
4:44 and Lemonade go hand-in-hand with one another, exposing a HUGE problem in the Black community.
When I sat and listened to 4:44, I slowly realized that although we idealize and worship Black love, it’s problematic as fuck.
Again, at some point we have all had a Jay Z in our lives. He is no different than the same Black men we cry ‘ain’t shit’ on an everyday basis. Still, though, we criticize Jay Z; but how many of us have had a Jay Z who, in his own way, gave us a 4:44 and we forgave him? How many of us have had a father that was once a Jay Z and he changed by the grace of god and we love him and have somehow found a way to repair that relationship?
Okay, so maybe Jay Z wasn’t your father, but he could’ve been your granddad, your favorite Uncle, your cousin, your brother…
We as Black women want to be, and to an extent are forced to be, strong, powerful, independent women. We cry the mantra of ‘Black men ain’t shit’, and we write and we post and we say all of these things about how so and so is stupid and deserves better. We cry about how ‘couldn’t be me’ and what we would do if we were in that situation but yet…
We still hold down these very same men, the same ones we bash and claim ain’t shit. We hold them down with each #BlackLivesMatter post, with our protests, with our fight against police brutality.
Yes, Jay Z made that track for Beyonce, as a public apology of sorts, but it’s deeper than that.
4:44 is a reflection of just how warped, distorted, and messed up Black Love really is.
Even our fictional images of Black love are distorted; Cliff Huxtable is a man we all grew up idealizing, but in reality, the man who gave us Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) is inadvertently a sexual predator. However, we cling to the idealization and idolization of Cliff by protecting Bill. Because Bill is Cliff and Cliff is an example of Black Love. In fact, the Huxtable’s are the epitome of Black love. They were our Barack and Michelle before Barack and Michelle so if we convict Bill, we taint the idea of what Black Love truly is.
We see it with other fictional characters too, the way we idealize them, overlooking how problematic their love was; Martin and Gina, Whitley and DeWayne, Florida and James Evans, Ghost and Tasha, Cookie and Luscious.
We idealize and glorify problematic relationships within other celebrity couples as well; look at TI and Tiny. TI basically called his marriage to Tiny “a distraction”, after she held him down (even going to jail for him) taking in his 3 children from previous relationships, as well as giving birth to 4 of his children (they had a sillborn daughter in the early 2000’s). Our relationship and love for Black men is to painfully intertwined with our identity that we can sometimes be blinded by the problems and pain they cause us.
And yet, while some of us acknowledge the problems and the pain Black men cause us, we do NOT hold them accountable. We blame White supremacy, we blame society, hell, we blame each other, because do we or do we not raise Black men?
As I sit here and write this, I am reminded of the Jay Z’s in my own life, and oh how I love them, how I idealized them and worshipped them. It took Jay Z penning a powerful, emotionally raw, almost too little too late track for me to realize that the cycle of ‘Black love’ is powerful, painful, and deeply problematic.
One of the most powerful things I’ve heard said in response to Jay Z and Beyonce’s relationship is that he ‘groomed Beyonce’ to take what can easily be considered as mental and emotional abuse.
Abuse, that’s a powerful word and a serious accusation to bring up against one of the world’s biggest power couples, or any man in general. We tend to believe that abuse is only abuse if you’ve got a black eye, or you’re in an ER, or in a casket. We as Black people overlook abuse all of the time. But abuse doesn’t always leave a scar that can be seen with the physical eye. No, sometimes abuse comes in the form of habits, of things that we allow ourselves to put up with, things we do, the people we love. Abuse can be pattern forming and if you don’t look past the surface, it can be something we pass on to our children, and their children, creating a never ending cycle of hurt and pain.
We create generational curses by ignoring the non visible scars of abuse.
So, what can we learn from Jay Z’s public apology to Beyonce?
It’s simple; we as Black women must learn to love ourselves FIRST. I’m not saying that we don’t, but we have to reevaluate the way we perceive ourselves. For the most part, who we are is shaped by society and Black men. We unknowingly and sometimes knowingly participate in patriarchy and misogynior. We do NOT hold Black men accountable because we fail to see their privilege. We spend so much time talking about White Privilege that we forget that Black men have privilege too, male privilege.
It’s why we raise our daughters to be good little innocent virgins and to keep a low sexual body count, but scream ‘boys will be boys’ to our sons and will take care of any grandbaby they bring us. We teach our young Black daughters to be strong and fierce and loud and independent, but teach our sons that crying is a sign of weakness or that they’re gay. We refuse to discuss mental health and refuse to participate in family and individual therapy, but wonder why our sons and daughters hate us? We use sex as a weapon and a tool for love, but get mad and refuse to let our baby daddy’s see their children when they don’t want us. Instead of letting our children find out the kind of man their father is, we bash him in front of them, creating a strain in a relationship that is not ours to taint. We create a cycle of bitter, angry, children, under the guise of ‘I’m just protecting them’, when in reality, we are vicariously protecting ourselves from being hurt again.
In order to stop the next generation from repeating the vicious and painful cycle of Black Love, we must reevaluate what we know about love. We must be willing to be open to new ideas, new concepts. We must learn to be loyal to ourselves FIRST, not Black men. Malcolm X said that the Black woman is the most disrespected creature on the planet, and this is so true.
We spend so much time looking out and protecting other people, but who looks out for us Black women?
We have to destroy the seeds of bitter and angry that reside in our hearts. I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to create a culture and environment of love and positivity around your young ones. Stop selling them this shit about “what happens in my house, stays in my house”, be careful who you surround yourself and your babies with. I must add that while Black Love is problematic as fuck it still has the potential to be a beautiful thing. I also have to add that there are good Black men in the world; you just have to look harder for them. Also, you have to realize that you will NEVER find a perfect man; you find a man whom you can help be a better person and vice versa. You want a man that compliments your weaknesses as you compliment his.
We have gotten so far away from it but, looking to and being connected to a higher source of power is important. You must learn that your body is connected with your mind, and your mind is connected with your spirit and or emotions. Those three must be in perfect alignment, which can only come through self discovery and seeking a power outside of your own. If you can love your creator and the universe, self love will come easily and will allow you to have agape love, which will allow you to make connections with people on a deeper level than just physical.
Black Love is twisted and complex, and painful, but not unfixable.
Jay Z’s public apology to Beyonce started a conversation and can be used as the tools to fixing Black Love.
Let’s keep the conversation going y’all!