I have a dear friend whose initials are J.Z. and I love affectionately calling her “Jay Z.” No, this blog is not about her. It’s also not about an insect that lives in a hive and makes honey. It’s about rapper Jay Z and his pop singer wife, Beyonce. Together, they make up one of the most influential and successful partnerships on the planet. And I’m not just talking music.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I’m not a huge fan of either but I do love some of Beyonce’s hits and I love the Jay Z and Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind” collaboration. But, last night I sat with Kristen and watched a docu-interview on Jay Z and found it quite interesting.
Shawn Carter, Jay Z’s given name, grew up in the Brooklyn projects and has gone on to become not only a music mogul but a sports and fashion one too. He is one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs in America and discovered the likes of Rihanna and others. Tragically, his dad left the family when young Shawn was only 11. He learned to survive and dream on the streets and is self-made. For that reason he continues to take risks. He has both business and street smarts, smarts you can’t teach or learn at Harvard. He doesn’t sit back and rest on his laurels though and admits being successful isn’t the end all many believe it to be. “I’m not sure what you learn from success. I haven’t figured that out yet,” he stated on the OWN program. “You learn much more from failure.” He also said he believes rap music has helped improve race relations, as “it’s hard for a parent to teach racism when their young son likes Snoop Dog.”
Perhaps true, but it got me thinking. Why, being that nearly 75 percent of African-American babies are born out of wedlock and are raised by single moms, aren’t rap and hip-hop artists not respectful of women in their music, rather then what they so often are: very degrading and very disrespectful. I don’t get it.
Which brings us to Jay Z’s beautiful and talented wife, Beyonce, otherwise known as “Queen B.” The product of a nuclear and close-knit Houston family, Beyonce Knowles burst upon the music scene as part of Destiny’s Child. She has since, as a solo artist, taken over both the pop and R&B charts. She is stunning to look at and amazingly talented.
So why, I asked Kristen just a few days ago, is she so skanky? I was not prepared for the earful I got in reply!
“She is not skanky, she is sexy,” Kristen instructed me. “She’s a sexy almost every 20-year-old is dying to be. Plus, she’s really truly talented, got married before she got pregnant, and she and Jay Z are never out clubbing and in the tabloids.” Valid points taken.
I still wonder though, why does Beyonce choose to depict herself so raunchy in so many of her videos? This is a woman who doesn’t need to stoop to the levels that many wanna-bees do and she would still sell millions and be respected. Beyonce’s audience ranges from elementary-aged kids to full-blown adults. What message, then, is she sending to her younger audience when she flaunts her “assets” in video after video? The results of grinding and groping your way through inner city or suburban America can be way more damaging then when done in a controlled MTV video. Whether she likes it or not, Beyonce is a role model to many, least of whom is her young daughter. Again, I just don’t get it.
This somewhat seamlessly leads to my last “I don’t get it” point. Why hasn’t the alarming out-of-wedlock African-American birth rate not been addressed more passionately by our current African-American president? Why isn’t the issue one of our First Lady’s major platforms? In the entire recorded history of the planet, there has never been a greater voluntary abandonment of men from their children than there is today in black America. If they want to tell me what to believe and what issues to support, why aren’t they screaming to their own people to stop the madness?! Once again, I just don’t get it.
This brings me back to Jay Z, who after watching the interview with him inspired me to write this blog. He may have some questionable baggage in his past, but who of us doesn’t? I may not agree with many of his lyrics or like many of his songs, but I respect his talents and his passion. I only wish he’d use those talents and that passion to make a real difference in the lives of his fans. I have a dream.