Imagine a relationship with someone who dogged you out. That kind of broken heart that takes years to recover from. Or maybe you never recover completely. You move on with your life and they do as well. But there’s always that lingering hurt that you take with you in every other relationship.
Now imagine you hear that person is completely changed. They’ve sought out help for all of their "-isms." They now use expressions like "having 'the tools' necessary to truly love someone." They’ve done everything from taking up yoga to finding therapy and twelve-step programs. A whole new person — start to finish.
Now imagine that person seeks you out. They want you to know they’ve changed. They want to share with you all of the tools they have for a successful relationship.
They want you to know they’re sorry. For everything.
Yes, I’m a drama queen. But that’s how I feel about Jay-Z’s transformation. I’m not talking about his real life relationship with Beyoncé. I wouldn’t dare comment on their marriage and what it took to come through on the other side.
I’m talking about my relationship to Jay-Z as one of my favorite rappers. One who often let me down when it came to how he talked about women.
Now, going back to my college years, I had to figure out how to stop grooving to songs that called me a b***h. For example, quite literally, "B*****s Ain’t S**t" off The Chronic. That beat goes so damn hard — it was impossible to sit down when that came on in the club.
By 2000, I was a hardcore Jay fan. I was also 27 years old and I was thinking about settling down. The dudes I hung with were all laughing at the idea. Pimping was the culture in hip-hop and outside of backpack rap there were no discussions about vulnerability or fidelity. In this world, Jay-Z contributed "Big Pimpin" off his fourth album, Vol.3…Life and Times of S. Carter.
Many chicks want to put Jigga fist in cuffs/Divorce him and split his bucks
Just because you got good head/I’m a break bread
So you can be living it up?
S**t I parts with nothing/Y’all be fronting
Me give me my heart to a woman?
Not for nothing/never happen
I’ll be forever macking
For a chick who was born and raised in the misogyny of hip-hop, I took this verse way too seriously. And I’m still not sure why.
I just remember going out with my co-workers (99 percent of them were near-thirty hip-hop heads like me), and when I saw the dudes spitting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs, I felt it just hit too close home.
Maybe it was because I was getting older and looking to get married and become a mother. Or maybe it was because I’d followed Jay from day one and he hadn’t seemed to grow at all when it came to relationships. I mean, even Tupac had a "Keep Your Head Up " and "Dear Mama" in the midst of his ratchet rhymes. Jay was doubling down on eff-you-b***h wordplay well into the 21st century.
It would take damn near twenty years (plus a wife and three children) before Jay-Z would become self-actualized.
Again, far be it from me to judge his journey. The man I see speaking on his recent footnotes is vulnerable, open and honest. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to see.
But for me, Jay-Z is the musical version of that long ago relationship that still stings. Super happy for all the progress.
But I’m not taking him back.
(Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage)