It is a familiar trope in the manosphere that rappers are “red pill,” but this is rarely explored in any detail. Today, December 4th 2014, is Jay Z’s forty-fifth birthday, so by way of tribute I will examine the lyrics to several of his songs most pertinent to our concerns here at ROK – those concerning relations between the genders that often hit on truths rarely explored in mainstream music.
I know from having posted tracks here before that opinion is divided on rap music. I myself come at it as an outsider to the genre, as someone who is primarily a fan of alternative rock or electronica, with a particular leaning towards great lyricists who tell a story in their songs – everyone from Nick Cave to Jacques Brel to Morrissey to Depeche Mode to Sinatra.
But of course, rap music is by its very nature intimately concerned with lyrics, given that the artist’s verbal facility is front and centre of any recording. This has led to a number of great storytelling MCs, foremost of whom, in my estimation, are Eminem, Tupac, Nas, Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli and Pusha T. But none of these are able to communicate the whole span of human experience as effectively as Jay Z, whose songs are by turn comic, violent, sexy, sad and tragic.
Whether Jay Z is actually – as he has claimed many times – the “best rapper alive,” and whether he is the most “red pill” is of course open to debate. But I believe there is a good case to be made on both counts, and indeed, one quality feeds into the other – because Jay Z is one of the most skilled MCs ever to have picked up a mike, he is better equipped than most to articulate the intricacies of human relations. Those who doubt his ability, perhaps just having heard the singles or his guest spots on other artist’s songs, like Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” should seek out album tracks like “Where I’m From” from the 1997 album In My Lifetime, Vol. 1:
I’m from the place where the church is the flakiest,
And n*ggas is praying to God so long that they atheist,
Where you can’t put your vest away and say you’ll wear it tomorrow
Cause the day after we’ll be saying,
“Damn, I was just with him yesterday.”
Note the dexterity with which the lyric reveals the murderous reality of life on the streets around the Marcy housing project in Brooklyn. There are those (including Nas, on the diss-track “Ether”) who claim that Jay was bested by Eminem when they duetted on “Renegade” for the former’s Blueprint album. While Em’s verses are undeniably shiny and slippery as mercury, Jay reaches an emotional pitch inaccessible to Em in lines like this:
Do not step to me, I’m awkward, I box lefty
An orphan, my pops left me, and often my momma wasn’t home
Could not stress to me I wasn’t grown, especially on nights
I brought something home to quiet the stomach rumbling
My demeanor, thirty years my senior
My childhood didn’t mean much, only raising green up
Raising my fingers to critics
Raising my head to the sky –
“B.I.G. I did it, multi before I die!”
Stick 2 The Script
The central narrative to Jay Z’s work is the struggle – the tornado of energy and determination which took him from poverty on the streets of Brooklyn to becoming a music mogul worth over $500M. As you might expect, a man who has successfully accomplished such a monumental life change has nothing if not a piercing acumen for decoding intimate and social relations, as well as an iron will in avoiding falling into the traps that derail lesser (beta) men. In the hook of “Stick 2 The Script” from 2000’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia album, Jay counsels:
Money over bitches n*gga, stick to the script
We cop, we flip, we re-up; get back on our shift.
In other words, a man should not allow a woman to distract him from his primary purpose of attending to his business (in this case drug dealing) and making money. Jay elaborates further in the verse:
When I’m skating through the city and I stop and kick it
Be the most asked question – how I got them digits?
I say I stay on my grind, never stop for bitches
This, even though he has “fuck[ed] the most hoes out of New York State.” The message is clear – the successful man is free to enjoy the company of women, but at no point should he allow them to take over his life to the detriment of his ambition. Love them and leave them, in other words – or “pump and dump” in manosphere-speak.
This theme is expanded on in Jay’s 2001 hit “Big Pimpin” (a song he later disowned for its misogyny, perhaps because of his impending marriage to Beyonce, although he continues to play it in live concerts). The first few lines straightforwardly present the alpha mindset of the industrially-successful player:
You know I, thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em
Cause I don’t fucking need em,
Take em out the hood, keep em looking good
But I don’t fucking feed em
First time they fuss I’m breezing
I’m a pimp in every sense of the word, bitch
Better trust and believe it
In the cut where I keep em
Till I need a nut, til I need to beat the guts
Then it’s “beep beep” and I’m picking them up
Let em play with the dick in the truck
Many chicks wanna put Jigga’s fists in cuffs
Divorce him and split his bucks
Just because you got good head, I’mma break bread
So you can be living it up?!
Shit, I part with nothing, ya’ll be fronting
Me give my heart to a woman?
Not for nothing, never happen
I’ll be forever macking
Heart cold as assasin’s, I got no passion, I got no patience
And I hate waiting, ho get your ass in and let’s ride.
I quote at length because this passage mirrors many of the preoccupations of the manosphere. Jay the successful “pimp” or player maintains zero emotional investment in the women he meets, using them only for sex. He will tolerate no nonsense, dumping them unceremoniously at the first sign of “fuss.” He maintains fuck-buddy relations with them, calling them only when he needs “a nut.”
While, as a rich man, he doesn’t mind spending a little money to “keep them looking good,” he resists the “many chicks” who want to “put [his] fists in cuffs” – that is, marry him – then divorce him, taking half his cash. Why, he argues, should he part with the fortune he has built up just because a woman happens to be skilled at fellatio? Why indeed. Jay will not fall into the provider role.
By the way, that Jay Z ended up marrying Beyonce in real life is the subject for another article – and given the persistent rumors of infidelity, who really knows the truth about that relationship? Here I’m more concerned with the fictional persona that Jay presents in his lyrics. It is the downfall of many men that they end up buying the cow because they enjoy the milk, or supporting women financially simply because they were initially sexually attracted to them.
The suspicion that woman are frequently financially-motivated in a persistent theme in Jigga’s work, and must, we assume, be borne out in the real-life experience of a young man who achieved great fame and riches quickly. In 1998’s “Can I Get A…” he writes:
Can I hit it in the mornin’ without giving you half of my dough
And even worse if I was broke would you want me?
If I couldn’t get you finer things like all of them diamond rings
Bitches kill for – would you still roll?
The pecuniary motivation the young Jay identifies in the women who surround him pushes him further into his cold, self-created alpha role as one who acts solely for himself, lacking all “passion” and “patience.”
Is That Yo Bitch?
But his concerns extend beyond mere materialism, and into female hypergamy. Take “Is That Yo Bitch,” recorded with Missy Elliot, from his 1999 album Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. To a dark backing track, Jay casts himself as a protagonist having an affair with another man’s wife, in what must be one of his most thrilling recorded displays of verbal virtuosity. In essence, the song is a direct refutation of the blue pill constructs of monogamy and “provider game.”
Don’t get mad at me
I don’t love ’em I fuck ’em
I don’t chase ’em I duck ’em
I replace ’em with another one
Addressing the woman’s [beta] husband, the lyrics assert that, even though they may be married, his wife is not “his bitch” – that is, she is not allied to him in any meaningful sense beyond the merely legal, given that Jay is fucking her – the lyric “wedding bells won’t make it rosy, man” recalling Rollo’s observation that marriage does not exempt a man from the sexual marketplace.
Jay describes how he treats the woman coldly: “I never kiss her, I never hold her hand / I diss her, I’m a bolder man,” without any of the affection and financial support presumably forthcoming from the husband, and yet, turned on by his alpha, “pimp” demeanour, she rewards him sexually –
Why you home alone, why she out with me?
Room 112, hotel balcony
How she say “Jay you can call the house for me?”
There’s no respect at all
You betta check her dawg
She keep beggin’ me to hit it raw
So she can have my kids and say it was yours
How foul is she? And you wifed her
Shit, I put the rubber on tighter
Sent her home, when she entered home
You hugged her up
What the fuck is up?
She got you whipped, got your kids
Got your home, but that’s not your bitch
You share that girl, don’t let ‘em hear that, he’ll hurl
It’ll make ‘em sick that his favorite chick
Ain’t saving it, unfaithful bitch
This passage articulates the worst fear of men everywhere – that the woman they love will be impregnated by another guy and they will be forced to support the child. Worse still, in this instance the offense is deliberate, with the errant wife “beggin’ Jay to ‘hit it raw.’” To his dubious credit, Jay (or rather the narrator) puts “the rubber on tighter” before sending her home, where her husband greets her affectionately (“you hugged her up”).
Rightly, Jay sounds incredulous (“What the fuck is up?”) – both that the husband is unaware what is going on, and that the wife “ain’t saving it” – although like all alpha predators, this doesn’t stop him from taking advantage of the situation. And as he suggests, if the tables were turned, it’s likely the husband would do the same to him (“You would fuck mine”).
“Is That Yo Bitch” is typical of the “misogyny” identified in the rap genre by many feminist commentators. But is the scenario the song describes atypical? Sperm Wars, Robin Baker’s 1996 study in evolutionary biology, famously posited that 10% of children have a biological father who is other than the man married to their mother: that is, that woman, programmed to seek the sperm of the highest status males possible to ensure good genes for their offspring, are often not above cheating on their (beta) husbands and then lying about it. So “She keep beggin’ me to hit it raw / So she can have my kids and say it was yours” rings with a truth that many men – and women – would rather not hear.
One might argue that it is the narrator’s behavior that is reprehensible, but here blame is apportioned to the wife – after all, it was she that was breaking her commitment to her partner. As Jay says, “How the hell can you knock that? / I’m just playing the cards chosen.” As a man, Jay is merely following his biological programming in sleeping with a willing young woman with whom he could in theory procreate, while the woman is exercising her hypergamy in seeking out his alpha seed.
Meet The Parents
A further examination of hypergamy and its consequences in the impoverished African-American community in Brooklyn is undertaken in Meet the Parents from 2002’s Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse album. Arguably Jay Z’s greatest song, it showcases his masterful storytelling technique to the fullest, opening with lines that are particularly poignant given recent events in Ferguson and NYC:
At the end of every young black life is this line
“Damn, him already?”
The song starts with the funeral of a young man, son of Isis, who was raised by his mother after his father ran out on them:
Mama ain’t strong enough to raise no boy
What’s his father’s name?
Shorty never knew him, though he had his blood in him.
Hot temper, mama said she act just like her husband
Daddy never f*cked with him, so the streets raised him
Isis blaming herself, she wish she could have saved him
Damn near impossible, only men can raise men.
How did Isis come to be raising her son on her own? Because she chose an unsuitable, bad boy partner who got her pregnant with no intention of hanging around to pick up the bill afterwards. Jay describes her visceral attraction to this alpha here:
He wasn’t really her husband, though he called her wife
It was just this night when the moon was full
And the stars were just right, and her dress was real tight
And it sounded like “Lisa Lisa, I wonder if I’ll take you home?”
“Will you still love me after this night?”
Mike was the hardhead from around the way
That she wanted all her life, shit, she wanted all the hype
Used to hold on tight when he wheelied on the bike
He was a willie all her life, he wasn’t really the one to like
It was a dude named Sha who would really treat her right
He wanted to run to the country to escape the city life
But Isis liked this Broadway life
But she loved the Gucci sneakers, the red green and white
Hangin’ out the window when she first seen him fight
She was so turned on that she had to shower twice.
The one to “really like” was Sha, a nice guy who wanted to take Isis out of the ghetto for a good life in the country. But Isis loves not only the bling that Mike and the big city represents – the Gucci sneakers and Broadway – but also his tough-guy machismo. Is there a greater encapsulation of the power of alpha over women than Jay’s extraordinary poetic image of Isis having to “shower twice,” so sexually aroused is she watching Mike fight? In these few lines Jay artfully contrasts provider game with masculine bad boy don’t-give-a-shit energy and finds the former sadly lacking.
Of course, Mike runs out on Isis after the baby is born – as a streetwise tough he is well aware of the nature of women and is naturally uncertain that he is the child’s true father:
If that was my son he would look much different
See I’m light-skinned and that baby there’s dark
So it’s mama’s baby – papa’s maybe
Estranged for fourteen years, the song reaches its Shakespearean conclusion when the son – now a hoodlum himself, having lacked a strong father figure – runs into Mike on the street and an altercation ensues. They both pull their guns but the son pauses, recognizing something in the older man’s face:
He clearly had the drop but the boy just paused (hold up)
There was something in this man’s face he knew he’d seen before
It’s like looking in the mirror, seein’ himself more mature
Then, tragically, the Mike fires:
Six shots into his kin, out of the gun
N*gga be a father, you’re killing your son
Six shots into his kin out of the gun
N*ggas be a father, you’re killing your sons
Meet the parents
In making “sons” plural in the penultimate line, Jay pulls back from the narrative to address absconding fathers generally. But women are indicted equally – had Isis chosen the more suitable Sha as a partner, rather than following her instinctual animal attraction for Mike, then perhaps her son would have been raised properly and would still be alive. And it is precisely his awareness of the realities of female hypergamy that prompted Mike to walk out on his son in the first place.
I think we can safely assume that Jay Z does not spend his days scrolling through manosphere blogs—and of course, most of the tracks referenced here pre-date it—but this makes his work all the more compelling, in that his deep understanding of female behavior and its consequences is authentic and was hard-won on his journey from the streets to the ROK boardroom. His work proffers a tough, cynical, and unvarnished understanding of relationships between men and women to a huge audience – the type of insight that is sorely lacking in most mainstream culture outside of rap music.
Were Jay Z to be starting out today, in the current cultural climate with its SJWs and Twitter witchhunts, I wonder whether he would be allowed a voice at all? Could a song like “Big Pimpin” be a hit single in 2014? I doubt it. As we know, the push now is to eradicate anything that doesn’t cohere with the solipsistic views of the social media masses, talentless but angry, and hungry to suffocate anything that offends even slightly.
But to have denied Jay Z a career would have been to have silenced one of the most talented artists of our age, the creator of iconic tracks such as “Empire State of Mind,” “Hard Knock Life” and “99 Problems.” Thankfully though, Hova came up in a more tolerant, less censorious age, where a plurality of opinions and their expression was still tolerated. In a world where bland rap stars like Drake now rule the roost, Jay has retained his edge, with powerful tracks on 2013’s Magna Carter, Holy Grail. Happy Birthday, Jay – can’t wait for the next album.
To find out how to attract beautiful women like a rap star, click here
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