POPULAR CULTURE

Jay-Z: When A Man Wills Himself To Grow

When a man wills himself to grow, nothing can stop him. Jay-Z embodies this statement too well. A modern man; flawed and self aware. Woke.

I have listened to Jay-Z since I was a teenager and the first allure then, as it is now, was his deftness with wordplay and his sublime lyricism. True, 2Pac’s style was more energetic and captivating to my young ears, but Jay-Z stood out from the crowd – from the host of MCs who at various points have laid claim to the hip-hop throne. Few could genuinely be placed there. Jay-Z is one of such. But that is not my focus here.

I want to take a look at Jay-Z, the man. The man he is today. The man that chose growth.

It is clear from interviews and videos that have since swirled over social media that Jay-Z has actively sought to elevate himself. To grow. Whatever you knew of the man, he has added to. A man of increment, self confessional of late and with good reason. He is not to be held in place. What I see now is a man who on getting to the top, wants to share, the spoils to a degree (he’s known to be charitable, cue water in Africa), and of himself, plenty.

The latest I watched of Jay-Z was on Netflix – Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, a well crafted show. Letterman doesn’t dig, he has no need to. He’s simply there, and his guest is happy to speak, at times his guest will ask the questions of him. Letterman is funny too; at one point he claims his young kid’s welfare would be for a stepdad to worry over, a nod to the certainty of mortality, his mortality, yet still, a quip that drew me to sharp laughter. What becomes apparent in no time is that you’re watching people sharing bits of their lives – and the banal doses of it, and hey it’s not too different from all other normal lives. These celebrities have downtime too – they aren’t always holding mics on stage, adulated, sometimes they go home and change a nappy or watch boring TV, or pick a fight with the spouse.

Yes Jay-Z has been confessional of late. On Letterman, he admits to having harboured fears over being a good father – something not all too taken seriously, these fears that men must have but never really talk about. In doing so, Jay-Z has done his bit; he lifted the shroud, and to his throng of followers, the message is: it’s ok to talk about these things.

More agonizing is his admission to cheating, perhaps with Becky of good hair fame. He never goes into the who, and of course not the where. That fight in the elevator may have had origins steeped in infidelity after all, as some may have long suspected. I won’t gloss over that, and as said earlier, the man is flawed, but he is talking, he sounds pained, he wants to atone, he’s in fear of the damage he may have caused – to Blue Ivy, for whom the tooth fairy may not pay.

This is a man who grew up to hip-hop; he is hip-hop, he is letting us in to what makes him vulnerable, he is letting us see his weaknesses, he is saying it’s ok to talk. There’s a flip side to this of course, one could cynically say it’s all in a day’s job, empire building, couple goals. But that’s a stretch, in my book, Jay-Z is growing and he has let us come along for the ride.

Real love. This is what real love looks like, the latest tour, the exceptionally well done On The Run II tour tells us. Never content with resting their laurels, as a team they have become a most powerful brand. Beyonce is happy to be tagged as The Carters, it takes nothing away from her supreme reign over pop. She’s great. He’s lucky. A man that lucky is wise to seek growth, as Jay-Z has.

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