Illusions of Power
Kill Jay Z (2:59)
In November of 2016, Kanye West went on a tirade during his San Francisco gig for the Saint Pablo tour. He spoke about Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé and Jay Z. Ye claims Jay hadn’t event called him after his wife Kim Kardashian was robbed at gun point in Paris during Fashion Week 2016. The song Kill Jay Z is his response to Kanye about the rant and their friendship. Throughout the past few years, they have been on rocky ground with each other. Since the release of Jay’s album, tabloids have reported that the two has since talked. I think the true definition of brotherhood has been seen in these two since Watch The Throne (2011). Families love, fight and feud. Well we’ll get to the family feud in a second, but the point is these two have used their platforms to express how they’ve been feeling inside. Jay came out and let Ye know, if everyone else is crazy then maybe you’re insane. Jay didn’t call out Ye in a beef like Cube and NWA, Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj or even Nas and Jay. I think this was a brother setting him straight. Not only was it therapeutic but it’s in a language that only they can decode. More importantly, I think Jay was talking about the illusions of power and how it’s construction is a demise for destruction. Many may argue the genius of Kanye has been clouded by superiority rants or roaring idiosyncrasies. Ye is a guy who was popularized off of his winning smile and maniac craft for the art of hip hop. Lest we not forget, this is also a guy who had to publicly bury his mother when he was at the ripe age of thirty. No one knows the pain of having to bury a mother unless you have been through it. Not Jay Z nor J Cole, who also put out a diss track, can relate to the excruciating depth of what that feels like. Ye was not able to properly grieve, which has contributed to his recklessness. Some may also argue most of the people in his camp has a “yes sir, no sir” mentality and will not give wise counsel despite Ye’s acceptance or not. This is not stated to use his mother’s death as a crutch, more so to explain the beginning stages of where his pain derived from before spiraling into extreme irrationality. Because Kanye is a power figure his spiral out of control has been depicted to the masses through memes, gifs and YouTube clips. Ye’s illusion of power is that he is sick in control. One can only hope that he gets the help he deserves before we are reading an autopsy about one of the greatest fallen yet again.
Individual vs. Society
The Story of O.J. (3:52)
Most of us remember the story of O.J. Simpson. If not, I’d highly suggest watching The People v. O.J. Simpson, an American t.v. series by FX. Here are the cliff notes. Orenthal James “O. J.” Simpson, nicknamed The Juice was a 1st draft pick running back from USC. He played for the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. In 1995, O.J. was tried for the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman who were stabbed to the death on June 12, 1994. He was acquitted Oct. 3, 1995 of their deaths in a trial that stunned the nation. Fast forward to the recent five-part ESPN documentary O.J.: Made In America, friends of the football star remember him saying “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” This is what Jay is referencing in this song, Story of O.J. This comment refers to the singling out of one person (the individual) from its society (the alliance). The black, african american, negro, colored or whatever you want to call us culture is based in union and relationship. Our roots are based in supporting our own. Today, we are still the most powerful and influential consumers on this side of Earth. Is our influence and power being recycled back to our own communities? Negative, but that’s another topic for another blog. The black community makes celebrities! Without our support and demand for diversity, we wouldn’t see as much melanin on our t.v. screens, the field or courts as we do. The moment O.J. was born he was sentenced to be a statistic, living a life of crime and violence. He was raised by a single mother in a housing projects, a gang leader of the Persian Warriors and spent time at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center juvenile hall. Despite all odds, his talent heightened his notoriety during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. A time when America was erupting with protests, riots and the nation was practically falling apart in racial divides. For O.J. to come from a time such as that and respond, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” shows how fame can cloud ignorance. Some may argue that The Juice doesn’t have the same issues as the average black man; that he couldn’t possibly relate. Another may argue that money buys you protection; that celebrities are untouchable. Well, I got news for all of the lost Stacy Dash, Raven Symone, OJ Simpson’s of the world… you’re black! You bite off our backs and shoot to fame, but you denounce the very people who financed your flight to stardom. Your skin bleeds in the shadows just like ours do when we are murdered under streetlights. Your money cannot separate you from the pinches of the batons that stick our ribs and try to silence our voices. You discredit our ancestors. You censure the forebearers of our liberties. Detached individuals will never win separated from the alliance. I hold these truths to be evident self-will never win without the stronghold of the society. Ashe!
Beauty of Simplicity
Living in the shadow
Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?
In the shadows, people see you as happy and free
Because that’s what you want them to see
Living two lives, happy, but not free
You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love
The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free
But you live with the fear of just being me
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be
No harm for them, no harm for me
But life is short, and it’s time to be free
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed
This is a coming out and calling out track about the beauty of simplicity. There is beauty in the simple; there’s beauty in a simple smile. It’s a declaration of life and freedom for Gloria Carter, Jay’s mom. She comes out and finishes the track with a poem about being free. I don’t see this track as a narrative for a lesbian’s story, although every voice is as important as the next. I hear the beckoning call to be yourself. There is nothing more deafening and suicidal than being what people think you should be. We suffer from living in our masked societies. I’ll show you the person you want me to be to get ahead, to get that partner, to gain access. It’s all about perception. Is it right? Who am I to judge? We cage ourselves to protect the ones we love; denying the black bird to soar. I hide my pain and present to you the puppet pawn perception of me. This is the league we live in. From the time you’re just a pup in the sandbox seeking friends to play with, to entertaining crowds of millions on the stage of one. We rationalize our decisions creating generations of systemic suppressed happiness. Life is too short to subdue the love of a smile. The greatest commandment Jesus taught was love. I must love you regardless if we are apart of the same political party, if I believe in same-sex marriage or not, if you are pro-life or pro-choice. This was a therapeutic session between Jay and his mom, not for the public but for self. Sometimes we have to release the belly of our shadow thoughts for self. Things we wouldn’t dare reveal about ourselves in retaliation of condemnation, but who can truly judge us but God? Our command was to love!
Will to Survive
Caught Their Eyes (3:27)
We all have them on us. Those shady eyes follow me where I go. We all have them poking our ribs. Those out-stretched greasy palms ready for a come up. We all have them listening in on us. Those fishy eavesdropping ears ready to turn our words against us. Free enterprise is the key! Why did almost every major group in the 90s get hit with a slave contract? TLC, Tony Braxton, NWA, Salt-N-Pepa, and the list goes on. When someone recognizes a cash cow, they are ready to cash in. This song discusses the will to survive beyond the haters, backstabbers and lying bastards. They are all around us. As humans, we are innately concerned about self 24 hours of the day. It’s just how we’re built. Corporations have been built on this very principle. Prince… excuse me the artist formerly known as Prince tried to warn us. We are the holders of our future. We must control our own narratives. This comes by holding the rights to our own music, our own stories and mastering it all. At Prince or Jay’s level the hounds come out by the dozens. So how do we survive? The only way to protect ourself is by educating ourselves and the masses. The most disturbing part of this truth is that even after death we still aren’t protected. We continue to be hunted for body parts, our wealth and our knowledge. Sarah Baartman and Henrietta Lacks taught us this. Then we are sold for a quick buck making the rich richer and the millionaires apart of the billionaires club, locking up their stake in the 1%. Legends like Pac, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Biggie are more valuable dead than they ever were alive. Some of their art even auctioned off like fresh ass waiting to be sold on the block during The Weeping Time in Savannah. We cannot lose when we are our own content creators. Even when our voice is silenced, the truth in our message will continue to be our lineage. How else do we survive? To live beyond existing, we must expand our platforms, invest in land, become forward thinkers and give back to our communities. Then and only then can we rest in power, peace and prosperity leaving Earth better than when we were born.
Heartbreak of Betrayal
The toughest thing to do in life is to come face to face with someone you’ve failed. What do you say? How do you begin that conversation? The toughest thing next to that is expressing your regret for the waisted time and pain you caused. The title track 4:44 steps flat-footed into a mansion full of secrets and spews out sorry after sorry for the misfortune. The power of this song lies in Jay discussing the aftermath of the heartbreak he caused. Jay’s stake to claim is taking ownership for his shit and the sincerity of wanting to be a better man. For every man who was too scared to admit his faults or too insecure to write his wrong, Jay stepped forward to air his dirty language and put all rumors to rest. He admits to stepping out on his wife, Beyoncé, but what I truly hear is a man admitting his biggest fears. He doesn’t want to let down his rib or his kids. He admits he wasn’t equipped to love his woman. His best wasn’t ready to withstand the giant of the woman he married. He failed her.
There was a man who once told me he was afraid to like me because he was afraid he would fall in love with me. I envy my heart because it leaped that day. He told me everything my itching ear wanted to hear. He apologized for all the pain, all of it. The sincerity of that moment wrote every night my mind circled around thoughts of him, every time my dreams laid with him. That day the streak of fear that rolled down his left cheek left me with one question… why? Why? Why? Why her and not me? What can I not give you? And honestly, the thought plagued my mind from time to time. But the answer isn’t in the act but his actions. He made his choice just like Jay. However, under holy matrimony Jay made his vow and he broke it. This track shifts into what he does now that the damage is done. Relationships are tough. As humans we will always fail people, because we aren’t designed to be perfect. The question is what do you do once the damage is done. You will ultimately love in one blissful decision and turn your back on another. In 4:44, Jay weighs the consequences of his action. He asks himself what would he do if Blue (referring to his first-born) ever found out. He retracts when he became exclusive with his wife. He retracts when they use to talk all day and all night to the moment that they’re sleeping cold shoulder to cold shoulder. He remembers the moment when the miracle of love left her eyes. What do you do when you find your soul mate and they are not as equipped to love as you, because they’ve never been shown it? What do you do when the dark moments of love take over and you can’t find the sweet tranquility of the puppy love moments? When the mask is taken off and you realize you are not suited for the endurance run of love, what do you do? All you can do is… run your race. Just run your race.
Love, Sacrifice and New Money
Family Feud (4:12)
The one thing I absolutely love about Jay and Bey’s relationship is that they have this healthy competition amongst themselves, yet an undying support for one another. Barack and Michelle has it too. I mean who doesn’t remember the classic fist bump on the campaign trail. This #blacklove is the antithesis of society’s perception of chocolate and caramel images of love. It’s a portrayal little black and brown kids can identify with and aim for. It resembles Dre and Rainbow, Clair and Cliff, Florida and James, Phil and Viv, Martin and Gina. Despite their economic background, the love was genuine. Not perfect, but true. Something we can all believe in. With Jay’s conversational vocals over Bey’s Baptist sultry sound, Family Feud takes you straight to church. So what is it really talking about? Verse by verse, Jay gives us the power keys to take the family higher. No one can win when the family feuds, everyone lose. Jay drop philosophical knowledge like “100% black-owned Champaign,” “I’m clear why I’m here, how bout you” and “a man who doesn’t take care of his family can’t be rich.” We can only move higher through love and sacrifice. Love for self, family and community. Sacrifice of self, pride and ego. This is how you find out what’s better than 1 billionaire, two.
Strong families are the driving force behind the biggest conglomerate businesses in America. Why are the Walton’s, America’s richest family? Because they keep all of their money in-house. Each branch of the tree serves it’s purpose to keep the family business afloat and alive for generations to come, and they aren’t going anywhere. Think about it, with a net worth of $130 billion (according to Forbes in 2016) you can probably name the closest Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart like you can your nearest grocery store. So why is it we can google the richest families in America, but not one black family show up? Why is it when you google the richest black families in America links are only provided for single black billionaires? What’s even more disheartening is that the first family of Ebony and Jet, the Johnson’s, aren’t even mentioned anymore. Why is this? I could say its due to our lack of intent in keeping history alive, so it’s gotten lost in the fold. I could say the “I got mine, you get yours” attitude is what has been and will continue to be the death of generational wealth in our communities. I could say the talented tenth concept separates the haves and the have-nots, but this isn’t entirely the issue. Black elites unlike their white counterparts keep their families and money anonymous. Upper class black folk live between two worlds. Life is about black and white. They’re never light enough to crossover and they’re never down enough to keep their BC from being revoked aka the black card. We can’t pick up Forbes and read a feature article about America’s wealthiest black family. We can’t pick up Ebony and read about the most prosperous and affluent African-American families since Madam CJ Walker. It’s not possible because: 1) majority of the subscribers wouldn’t believe generations of wealthy black families are even thriving in the US currently or premodern; 2) to the black community they’re considered sellouts with their degrees, social groups and vests full of accolades. Most will never crossover from 99 to the 1%. Just like the hottest cocktail party, it’s highly selective and by invite only. Even on the rise to financial enterprise, most are simply not those kind of people. The common folk aren’t families associated with Sigma Pi Phi or old guard clubs like Boule’ and the Links; that’s simply a different world. Yet, there is always hope with sacrifice and faith. Nothing is impossible with God. What Jay is trying to tell us is that nobody wins when the family feuds. On a miniature scale, issues about territory, rejection and contempt between blocks is the furthest thing on the minds of members apart the billionaires club.
Good Music and Bull Shit
In Jay’s own way, he comes out with the BAM record with its dirty Caribbean base and upbeat rocksteady pulse. He reminds the skeptics exactly who Hov is. The heart of a giant, and lyrical genius Jay plays around with lines about the birth of a nation and Bobby Shmurda-ing anyone you ever heard of. Jay’s ego in this song is big as hell but has every right to be. He started off in an industry that was supposed to be a fad. The longevity of his career was unknown back in ’96 when he debuted Reasonable Doubt. With a net worth of $180 Million, I’d say Jay isn’t planning on quitting anytime soon. So what is he really talking about in Bam? Just that! He’s talking about the state of good music. The great thing about good music is that its timeless. The content is relatable, delivery is distinct and wordplay is judicious. When you hear good music, it’s like a BAM, a big noise maker. Like when you mix gun powder and cocaine, which is also a reference to Jay’s former life as a drug pusher on the east coast. Jay reminds that the novice in the rap game do not match up to the OG’s in the game. As classic as he is, Jay does not name drop any specific artists, but he does call them to up their game and to recognize his royalty. The line “Just don’t be too nice on niggas set you price on niggas” was masterful. This track also pays homage to Jay’s childhood memories of music. According to his recently released footnotes for BAM, his mom used to play reggae and dance hall inspired music when he was growing up. To have another iconic giant like Damian Marley on this track was genius! Marley brings that gutta tenement music circle effect to the track. Back to the days when circles of people use to gather around to dance and play music. Back in the day when there was good music and not bull shit.
Dangers of Ignorance
One of the most memorable moments of TV award history will also go down as one of the most devastatingly bizarre. On February 26, 2017, the Academy Awards mistakenly gave out the Best Picture award to La La Land (featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling), but Moonlight (featuring Mahershala Ali and Shariff Earp) was indeed the winner. During every award show, there are usually 2 envelopes with the winners name on it. One of the presenters for Best Picture received the envelope that displayed Emma Stone’s name for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which was an award given right before Best Picture. Yup, someone gave the presenter the wrong envelope. While the other presenter for this award received the correct envelope. The error was not caught until after La La Land’s producer had begun his thank you speech, while another producer interrupted and called Moonlight to the stage as the rightful winners. Shows how such a mix up can happen, but did it have to happen on live TV?
This is what Jay Z is referring to in the song Moonlight, “We’re stuck in La La Land, even when we win we gone loose.” This song is broken down into us and them. What Jay is eluding to are the dangers of ignorance. He’s calling out those fronting in the industry. People who are personifying gangsta or something other than who they are, but have no idea about the world in which they claim they’re apart of. For example, if you’re from Chicago you can’t claim Altgeld Gardens if all you have know your entire life is the Gold Coast. Jay is also referring to the works of a higher power of people. Many celebrities have been called crazy or mentally ill for speaking about such a group who control the strings of the industry. They decide what the public will like, the next big thing. Outcasts like Lauryn Hill and Martin Lawrence have been ousted by such groups. Regardless if you believe in such a thing of not, Jay is saying be aware of those who will try to control you or manipulate you. The dangers of ignorance are powerful… Stay Woke!
Marcy Me (2:55)
When I was growing up, my momma frequently told me “Never forget where you come from,” which is probably why I grew up with the utmost pride for my city. There is no city better than the one I’m from. With its brutal winters, mild summers and humid falls. The weather is a lot like the attitudes of the people: sharp, bright and icy when tested. Don’t think so, fight me I dare you (said with a smile). Rooted from the windy streets of the south-side, with a pulse from the young lion of the west, the devotion to the existence of my artery is infinite. This is another declaration track paying homage to the man Hov has become. Marcy Me takes us on Jay’s journey through his housing complex in Brooklyn through the years. He retract the sights and sounds of growing up on the east coast. This is a love track dedicated to his home neighborhood. What I love about this song is that no matter how much money Jay has made, he is still committed to remembering his humble beginnings. It keeps him grounded so he never forgets the favor on his life. It’s a pledge of patriotism to the streets that embraced him and the people who raised him. I hear hope and achievement in this track. I hear a young boy who made it and if he can make it anyone can. It’s a cry of optimism for the next generation. There isn’t a neighborhood that is too corrupt that you can’t make it out of. In life, we are all born with different running shoes. We cannot choose the running shoes we are born with, but we still must run our race. Once again, we must simply run our race!
Gave birth to my verbal imagination
Assume a virtue if you have not
Or better yet here’s a verse from Hamlet
“Lord, we know who we are
Yet we know not what we may be”
So maybe I’m the one or maybe I’m crazy
I’m from Marcy Houses, where the boys die by the thousand
Back when Pam was on Martin
Yeah, that’s where it all started
When Denzel was blottin’ carpet, I’ll pack a… nine millimeter
When Slick Rick made “Mona Lisa”
When Lisa Bonet was Beyoncé of her day, I had divas, y’all
Think I just popped up in this bitch like a fetus? Nah
Pregnant pause, give you some second thoughts
There’s room on the bandwagon, don’t abort
Legacy is about the immortality of black excellence. In 4:44 Jay took us through the thoughts that consumes his mind and he ends with the ultimately level of freedom in this lifetime. His wish is for his fortune to be spread amongst his family for years to come. Call him the young black hope of the Carter clan. He beckons to his family to set up generational wealth, not to move backwards and continue toward black excellency. Jay then reveals why he ran from religion.
You see, my father, son of a preacher man
Whose daughter couldn’t escape the reach of the preacher’s hand
That charge of energy set all the Carters back
It took all these years to get to zero in fact
I hated religion ’cause here was this Christian
He was preachin’ Sundays, versus how he was livin’ Monday
Someday I forgive him
‘Cause strangely our division led to multiple religions
I studied Muslim, Buddhist, and Christians
And I was runnin’ from him, He was givin’ me wisdom
See how the universe works?
It takes my hurt and help me find more of myself
It’s a gift and a curse
That’s called the red queens race
I applaud Jay for being honest about his experiences with religion. Many have had negative encounters with those who have used religion as a weapon to lie, murder, rape and do damage. Through his pain, Jay let us know he’s learned more about himself and how to survive despite the bad. Although he’s studied various beliefs, Jay does not explicitly state what he believes in. On a topic such as legacy, in his own way I would’ve loved for him to explain where his morals lie or if he just isn’t too sure. Hov’s legacy on earth has already been etched in the history books. His reputation, statue and historic achievements will be remembered for all time. As he is thinking about his transcendence beyond the globe, I pray that someone shows him the intended love of Christ and a spiritual connection with a God beyond this land. Everything we do on this earth is temporary but building our faith in a promise beyond the scope of the tangible living is immortality.