Jay-Z's '4:44' Was the Album Women Needed and Never Thought We'd Get from Hip-Hop

JayZ

Like many of you, I have been applying castor oil to my hair follicles after Jay-Z released his 13th studio album 4:44.  

I must admit, when I first saw 4:44 billboards quietly popping up all over New York City, I had low expectations. I assumed it would be more of the same (which is still better than 95% of your rap favs of today), mixed with some retort to his wife's Lemonade from the male perspective, to which I had little interest.

But my lawd, I never thought Jigga would come like this--finally.  

While sonically the album harkens back to classic Jay-Z, lyrically it is a brand new man--one who is more remorseful, accessible and conscious. I must say the album is a much needed reprieve from the drugged-induced mumble hip-hip era we are living in.  The timing is impeccable, and the genius that is Jay when he pushes himself to his rightful place of great lyricism. 

Listening from the feminine POV definitely brought on a surge of different emotions for me.

Like most woke women in love with hip-hop, I struggle with an acute case of musical Stockholm Syndrome--a need to protect an art form that both praises and disrespects me in the same breathe with it’s misogyny, chauvinism and objectification of my body. Knowing this, I love the medium still, like any conflicted enabler. Watching Tupac's life play out in the movie “All Eyez on Me” made the two-faced, love-hate of the women that have helped build hip-hop ever clear.

But I digress. 

Women remain the lesser-known heroes in the story of hip hop, both as fans, artists, professionals and lovers. More times than revealed, women remain the heroes in their real life, supporting the men they love who may fall short in whatever way. 

Perhaps the most-talked about track, 4:44, Jay opens up about his emotional unavailability and cheating (see also: raggedy) ways with the women in his life then states on another track:

We all screwed ‘cause we never had the tools.
— Jay-Z, Family Feud

I hear what you are saying here, Jigga, but nah. It is 2017. Let's address. 

Whether you can relate to the betrayal of infidelity or not, the overtone of delayed Black male maturity as it relates to the vitality of the black community struck me and cannot be overlooked if we expect to move ahead. I am glad someone of Jay's ilk FINALLY addressed this for the culture because we have failed to do so openly as a collective. It is always black women under stiff criticism from all angles and bares the responsibility of all that goes wrong but rarely are our men held to the same level of criticism and accountability. It was almost as if Jay wanted to apologize on behalf of black men everywhere, in every way they have missed the mark--be it emotionally, mentally, financially-- of what their partner, family and community needs of them. 

In my opinion, the album will go down as one of the most of important projects of Jay's career and is a clear call to action for brothers to step up and do better. And for the brothers that already do so, there is still a call to hold your peers to a higher, healthier standard of masculinity that we believe you can be. Because we need you--always have and always will. 

 

 

 

The Ride-or-Die Chick Finally Offed Herself and It’s About Damn Time

 Tameka "Tiny" Harris

Tameka "Tiny" Harris

So I got a chance to watch the final episode of VH1’s “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,” where viewers have watched Clifford “T.I.” and Tameka “Tiny” Harris end their six-year marriage.  If you follow me on social, you already know my thoughts on Clifford, the woman-hating mack from way back so I won’t get into that here.

What I will get into is the noticeable difference in Tiny, once regaled as Queen Ride-or-Die over the course of their 15-year relationship. Now seven kids, two T.I. jail stints, her flourishing career halted, and a notorious mugshot later, it seems as though Tiny slapped herself back to reality following years of blatant disrespect (Though I am not certain the split is permanent, but hey, not my portion). Watching the episode, I felt the unfortunate ending of a relationship but also the official ending of the ride-or-die chick era as it were.

So who IS the the ride-or-die chick exactly?

She is a celebrated fixture in hip-hop who sits on the passenger side next to the man she loves as he out runs the police in a chase. She has taken prison hits (think Keisha from Belly) and stashed bags (think every Jay-Z love song), but nevertheless she loves her man unyieldingly.

In present day, she raises your children (both biologic and “break babies”), forgives you every time you cheat, waits eons for you to marry or commit, turns a blind eye to your most destructive flaws, conceals your addictions and so on. She is a ride-or-die chick (RDC let’s say)--a badge that at one time stood as the ultimate honor for women and young girls in her relationship.

However, all things come to an end and in this case, praise Little Baby Jesus.

While relationships are undoubtedly a series of life's ups and downs, there is a line between loving your man through hard times and dying to self following repeated transgressions. The painful truth is RDCs are glamorized reincarnates of what has been modeled in our families and communities for generations--a martyr that stands by her man’s ongoing brokenness and consistently raggedy ways at the cost of her own silent mental, professional, and sometimes physical demise. She is nothing more than a sexy means of veiling the dysfunctional behavior that has been killing women's self esteem and ripping through families for centuries.

At one point many of us believed in the RDC fantasy growing up. I know I did, but thank goodness I have been DELIVERT.  I know I am not alone. There is a collective feeling that women, particularly black women, have no interest in riding along the painful, bumpy road to nowhere but heartbreak and disloyalty.

Ya’ll see even Beyonce went from :

 Bonnie & Clyde '03

Bonnie & Clyde '03

To: 

 Lemonade 2016

Lemonade 2016

I'm just saying. 

Now the RDC has stopped riding shotgun and instead grabs the wheel, speeding off into the night with just the kids in the back seat into the next phase in her life. Or at least that is my hope for her. In my head she finds a new boo, the one with his own business that has had a crush on her for years and treats her like fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Although, I know in real life it's a more complicated process, yet one that is very much attainable once the RDC mentality is finally put in its final resting place.

I, for one, will not mourn the loss.

 

Dear Woke White Women, I Love You

Adele. 2017 Grammys

To my conscious Caucasian sister,

I love you. I do. I know the last few weeks have been hard on you.  I know your faith, your sense of security in your country has been completely dismantled unexpectedly. I know the feeling of helplessness, fear, and angst you are experiencing right now-for yourself, your family, and your future. I know these feelings very well because I was born into them by way of all those before me who have witnessed the heights of bigotry that I can barely imagine.

I stand right beside you in daily disgust watching a divisive, perverse, underqualified man beat out an accomplished, brilliant woman as Leader of the Free World. I am here, willingly  holding your hand for the next four years, despite my distrust after feeling like I was alone in this civil rights fight until now.

                    

                   

I appreciate your courage in not only using your voice (and privilege) for calling out your own community, but doing it openly. I appreciate you having those uncomfortable realizations of where you have fallen short and been civically disengaged as I cried injustice following the wrongful deaths of Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, and many more before and after them.

I love you. I do. I love you enough to tell you how historically your predecessors' passive aggressiveness has been a silent carrier of prejudice, hatefulness, and separatism that has pained me and devastated lives and livelihoods in my community for centuries.

I love me enough to admit to you that I am not always perfect, either. I know there are times when I shun your genuine acts of solidarity, as I am calloused after years of being treated differently and less valuable than you. While I am strong, I am wounded. While I am weary, I am infallible. Know that each time you acknowledge my truth-instead of dismissing it or only aligning with me when it fits your agenda- it helps the healing process begin.

But promise me you will not stop there.

Sis, I am writing you this letter to let you know your voice is needed now more than ever--as it reaches places my voice simply cannot penetrate, like at your family dinner table or late-night pillow talk with your partner. It is your time now to take a lead in this fight, and leverage the power of your influence to end the the spirit of hate and division that is plaguing the nation and effecting us all. Now is the time for YOU to mobilize with everything you have, the same way my foremothers have done since their existence.  

I appreciate you; I truly do.

Now, go recruit more women just like you. We will need them, too. 

Signed, 

A Disenchanted but Optimistic Black Woman 

New Year, New You: 5 Negative Habits You Need to Break for A Better Life in 2017

It is so easy for us to lay out all of our goals for our career, life, health in the new year. You know the drill: You make an elaborate list of all the things you must accomplish before the year is out with full on fervor. Before we know it though, time rolls on, life move us along and we find ourselves in the same spot we were before --year after year.

Here is a reality check and the only resolution needed: The only thing limiting our success is US, and it is time to stop it NOW. That’s right-- it is not money, time, family or any other exterior issues holding us back. Our limiting thoughts and beliefs are the culprit for our ideas not getting off the ground or our life the way we want. It's finally time to rewrite the script.

Here are 5 things you need to STOP NOW to get (insert your first name), Inc. off the ground:

1. You are not clear. 

One of the reasons why we can’t get ahead is we are not focused. Many of us have so many ideas in there ai, it makes it difficult to focus on getting proficient in one area. In order to get to our destination, we have to put all of our energy to one thing-at least out of the gate. Set clear goals for yourself and your business and 1-2 action steps you can do each week/month to reach your goal, and expand from there.

2.  Falling down and never getting back up.

Guilty! We all experience setbacks and disappointments in life, but we can’t let become paralyzing. The key is learning from each challenging experience and taking it with us instead of letting it us hold us back. It's a lesson in every sh*tty situation; your job is to find it and use it to your benefit. 

3.  Comparing yourself to others.

This probably should have been number one. It is so easy to look on social media these days and compare your life, your success (or lack thereof) to others. What we don’t realize is comparing not only is a distraction, but diminishes our own journey, so it's essentially pointless.  CUT. IT. OUT.

4.  You haven’t broken up with the negative self-talk yet and fear.

This is a great follow up for #3. Negative self talk is one of the main reasons you are not winning. “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t have the resources.” "I am not qualified." All lies, lies, lies (and excuses). Focus on all the giftings you have to offer to the point where there is no room for toxic self talk.

5. You aren’t sharing.

If you hoarding your skills, or if you are afraid of telling people about your vision, you are shortchanging yourself. You are also shortchanging others of your talents which fulfill their need. Get in the habit of speaking your dreams out loud. It holds you (and the folks you share it with) accountable.