Bay-beeeeeeee, I wanna run up and down the aisles wearing a pink-flowered church dress with a matching hat, frantically clapping my tambourine, and wailing “Hallelujah” after listening to Jay Zs’ 4: 44. Do you hear me? Can I get an Amen?
Finally! Finally, an album about a Black man doing grown man ish: building good credit, supporting Black businesses, confessing his sins, apologizing for his mistakes, lifting his wife, publicly showing love for a woman.
Look, I know some folks probably have videos (damn smart phones) of me dancing to some ignorant song that degrades women and elevates materialism. I’m guilty of being out with my friends, hearing a dope beat, forgetting that I’m righteous and middle-aged, and dropping it like it’s hot (well — maybe more like “lukewarm” on account of my bad knees).
But most of the time when I am listening to music in my car, particularly when I’ve had my sons with me, I am aware of the words, the lack of positive messages, the misogynistic, materialistic lyrics and I’ve been honestly saddened by them.
I was the girl who had her high school boyfriend sing, “Is This the End” by New Edition to her on Valentine’s Day in front of my entire Chemistry class; slow dragged to the Force MDs; listened to Keith Sweat beg for years. “In my day” (damn I sound old) the music made and sung by men honored and cherished women. I’ve oftentimes felt sorry for young girls as the music they now hear daily only informs them of how they are going to get screwed.
I, too, have felt sorry for the young men, whose manhood is now identified by how many girls they can smash, how poorly they can get away with treating them, how much time they have served, crimes they have committed, good liquor they drink or blunts they smoke, and the Gucci belts and designer tennis shoes they own. Men have been brainwashed lyric-by-lyric that women should be happy to have them, regardless of what they bring to the table—no accountability. They serve up “that’s just who I am” bullshit, with the flair of a waiter at a 5-star restaurant.
While my middle-aged butt can listen to this music for entertainment purposes; I have had to realize that children are guided by what they hear. Music portrays our culture; but it also shapes it. Currently, we are grossly out of shape.
Hip Hop came from a place of our Brothas and Sistas needing to tell stories and paint pictures of their urban realities. The stories were honest, raw, and the authenticity ignited conversation, invited reflection and encouraged growth—both personal and for our community. There was pain; but there was also love. There was struggle; but also a call for real progress and growth.
4:44 brings all of that back. Jay-Z told a story, his story raw and honest. He spoke to his community. So, I am here, present, accounted for, and all in for Jay Z’s masterpiece.