Though I’ve listened to plenty of rap since buying my first boombox in ’97, I’ve rarely heard anything representing me. Sure, it’s largely Black music, but from a different narrative than my life altogether. Middle-class. Raised in a two-parent home. Private school education, married with kids—nothing you’d want to hear about in the club. And though I found some kinship in Childish Gambino’s “Not Going Back” and Drake’s “You & The 6”, the struggle of growing up Black while lacking enough Blackness for your peers only reflects part of my identity. There’s so much more to my life!
But life is full of surprises. You never know who’s going to create the work that speaks to your soul, and a former hustler from New York’s Marcy Projects would be the last person I’d expect to understand me, but with his thirteenth album 4:44, I can tell you for a fact that JAY Z gets it. With topics like legacy, family and the constant pursuit of excellence, it’s an album speaking to everything I’m trying to build with my efforts here at the blog!
Let’s dive a little deeper.
4:44 — JAY Z’s First True Foray into Grown People Music
“A man that don’t take of his family can’t be rich.”
— JAY Z, “Family Feud”, 4:44 (2017)
Before parenthood, I did a lot more for my sake. It feels like a distant memory now, but there was a time where my priorities were making money, hitting parties, and being the most popular kid in the room.
But kids. Change. Everything. Kids give you a reason to do things you wouldn’t typically want to do, and most people give up everything to do it, bitter when it’s decades later, and the kids don’t appreciate the sacrifices their parents made for them.
God’s been looking out, though, making sure I can build a life reflecting many of the principles outlined in 4:44—Black excellence. Black-owned business. Financial freedom and eschewing what’s popular for what lasts. I haven’t had as much time as the Jigga Man to mull over what I’m putting into the world, but I can understand that drive to leave a better world behind for one’s kids. Moreso than anything I do as a Black man, blogger or the many roles I fill outside my family, my singular focus is to build something for them that outlasts me.
Someday, We’re Gon’… Be Free.
You see, JAY Z’s 4:44 is what I call “grown people music”—songs for adults who’ve embraced their responsibilities, looking to be the best, so they’ll do the best for those who matter most.
And Shawn Carter’s not perfect—we see clear references to his infidelities, excesses and other mistakes on 4:44—but who of us is? It’s the knowledge that we still need to provide as parents—flaws and all—if we want to give our children better tomorrows than the lives we live today. I won’t always make the right choices and my kids won’t always like me, but as long as I’m committed to this goal no matter what… I think we’ll figure it out.
Pay it Forward.
“Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy.
Black excellence, baby—you gon’ let ’em see
Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy.
Black excellency, baby let ’em see.”
— JAY Z, “Legacy” 4:44 (2017)
Greatness doesn’t develop overnight. Much of the inequity Black America faces today comes from their opportunity for intergenerational growth being snatched away by several factors.
Me, I barely knew either of my biological grandfathers, and they dan sure didn’t leave my parents anything, but Mom and Dad scraped and scratched ’til they had something of note, and now it’s my turn to do the same. My parents gave me a leg up to shape my life by making sure I was Canadian-born, educated and marketable. They worked hard at jobs that let them pay the bills by sacrificing their dreams. I work hard to give my boys a leg up with the funding and support to be the best at whatever they want to be. And what they want to do for their kids? That’s entirely up to them.
But hopefully, like me, they’ll start with the tools to do something excellent.
Thanks for reading and until the next,