I never considered myself a Jay-Z fan.
I’ve been a fan of Nasir olu dara Jones since I was in middle school. There are a few songs by Jay I like, but it wasn’t enough for me to be called a fan. It just wasn’t. My ear was never circumcised to like him.
Again, fight me. #Ether
However, I like hip-hop enough to give Jay another shot. Like a ex-boyfriend that says let him “show you” how he’s changed. I downloaded Tidal on a whim, and on advice of a friend of mine that loves music.
Of course, Tidal is the brainchild of Jay-Z.
Cool. I can get with this.
Mogul. Black owned. Okay.
His new album was about to drop within days of me downloading it, so, I listened. I was not prepared for all the growth he had. I simply wasn’t ready, and I don’t think I coulda gotten ready.
This is the same dude that did Money, Cash, Hoes, man. I mean, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from him. As much as I love hip-hop and rap, I’m tired of my sex being referred to as garden tools or women beyond redemption. I can’t, bruh, I can’t.
I let the album just play during a lull at work. I damn near cried. All I could do was listen, and think, “He grew up. By God, he grew up.” He admitted there are bigger things in the world than how many women you can see naked, how much money you can spend, and how fresh the whip is. One of his lines off the track, The Story of OJ, is this:
“You know what’s better than making it rain at a strip club?”
I don’t even need to put a Jennifer stamp of approval on that, B.
I sat there and listened to his wife, our beloved, embattled, Beyonce, as she sang back up on Family Feud, and was amazed. They showed that this phantom-like being, the black family, does exist. That unity among a people can and will happen. Music is a motivator of that.
I heard him pour from places, I wished more black men would tap. I heard pain, regret and motivation to just be a better person, so he could be a better EVERYTHING to everyone else.
I talk to my husband a lot in what goes on the in world and pop culture. Him, being the solid dude that he is, indulges the writer that his wife is, and from those conversations, I get glimpses into what makes him tick. This conversation was no different.
I told him that the only difference between us and famous people is how many people see us when we mess up. I started to pull the pieces together, as writers often do.
I remembered the elevator with Solange. I remembered the standoffishness of him in pictures, even with Bee present.
I thought, and mulled over, and wondered exactly how long he had done whatever this was, with whomever this was, for however long it was.
And was it just this one dame or was it a team of them? But, that’s not mine to know.
The fact that he would be that transparent, and honest in Legacy and Marcy Me, let me exhale. This vulnerability and foresight that the world at large doesn’t believe most black men have at points, proved to be yet another propped up falsehood.
My favorite track is Smile. I legit kept listening to it, impressed and fascinated. Fascinated at that depth. Impressed at the openness he allowed.
I was blessed to have listened to it. Sometimes art is a the doorway to redemption.
Am I a fan of the man? Nah. That didn’t change.
But can I now really respect him as an artist? More than ever.
(I’m still a Nas girl through.)