Why a “Bitch” Really is One of Jay-Z’s 99 Problems
How the rap legend has fallen short of his true potential
When the rumor circled in January that Jay-Z would stop using the word “bitch” after the birth of his daughter, I had mixed feelings about it. It was, of course, thrilling to hear that the “best rapper alive” had reconsidered telling his baby girl–however indirectly–that “bitch” is a nickname she should get used to hearing, even from the man who loves her most. On the other hand, it was tough to ignore that angry, trumpeting elephant in the room: Don’t you have a wife, Hov? Wasn’t she reason enough to retire one of the most overused tools of stock sexism in the rap game? In any case, if Jay-Z had finally “gotten” it, however delayed the epiphany, then our world–our women–still stood to benefit.
But shortly after, Jay-Z debunked the rumor that he’d be giving up the term. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that even a month before Blue Ivy’s birth, Jay was gleefully rapping on tour about “that hot bitch in my home,” or as we like to call her, “Beyonce.” But for one, fleeting moment, I’d felt the resuscitation of a dream I’d denied and suppressed and insisted stay quiet: witnessing a top-tier rapper trying to make a real difference with his power.
Jay-Z, unfortunately, has never really been that rapper. Although he touts himself as a trendsetter (and he is), he has never truly channeled his wealth or street cred into what could be a dramatic social impact on the community. Even his Shawn Carter Foundation, which helps children attain scholarships for higher education, was the recipient of literally .0001% of his income in 2010–and was funded better by fans at his recent Carnegie Hall concert than his own donation provided. Perhaps his biggest supporters would argue that rapping “consciously” or spending more philanthropically aren’t his responsibilities–and they’re right. Jay-Z is a self-made man who earned his incredible wealth and popularity through hard work, and no one–including me–has the right to tell him what to do with those assets. But here’s the nagging question: What if he felt being a role model was his responsibility? And another: How might that have changed rap? And more hauntingly: How might that have changed us?
In recent decades, rap music and black urban culture have arguably influenced each other to the point of being inextricably entwined. And if rap has exceeded guiding trends in black language or black fashion, but even gone so far as to influence black values from time to time, then the genre is in a position of power worth noting. Obviously, I’m not the first person to point this out. Rap has long been criticized for feeding black youth the same principles of misogyny, decadence, violence, substance abuse, hyper-masculinity, sexual objectification and egocentrism for years…and with good reason. For all its progressions and innovations, most of mainstream rap hasn’t evolved past those subject matters.
And while Jay-Z’s rap content doesn’t encapsulate all of them, it perpetuates most of them while failing to challenge the others. Which is why when I heard about his clarity of conscience upon parenthood, I thought–for a moment–that the ultimate trendsetter might set a new kind of trend. That as a black man, I could even expect a little more from my music someday, because of him. That his millions of fans might expect the same, sooner rather than later. That one of the biggest representatives of black America had joined the chorus of those of us saying, “We’re better than this.” And that he demanded anyone listening, black or not, acknowledge it.
But Jay-Z’s a busy man, I guess. What with two bitches to provide for, now.
Photo courtesy of The New York Observer.
More Faster Politically Correct Pop:
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook