Jay-Z Shows No Change, Keeps ‘Bitch’
I can’t say that I’m surprised to learn that no, actually, Jay-Z did not decide to call a moratorium on his use of the B-word—not Beyoncé’, not Blue, the other one—in his music. Over the past week several credible news sources reported that Hov had published a poem denouncing the use of “bitch” in his music from here on out. It was not an unbelievable allegation as “Glory,” an ode to his baby girl just days after her birth, revealed a proud father in awe of his “greatest creation.”
Turns out, it wasn’t true. E! News finally caught up with a rep from Team Hov who confirmed the poem in question was not written by Jay–Z. “No word how the lyrics made it online, but it wasn’t from the rap mogul,” the source added.
?uestlove, a Jay collaborator and a close friend, also denied Jay’s vow to stop using “bitch.” He tweeted, “This just in: [Jay-Z] to me: ‘B*aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatch!!!!!!!! and tweet that.’”
I’ll admit, I was hoping the rumor was true. I was glad to think Jay had a personal change of heart. As the saying: When you know better, you do better. But I can’t say that I’m surprised to hear his team debunked the chatter. The lyrics didn’t quite sound Hov-ish; he’s a man who once referred to his then-pregnant wife as a “hot bitch,” and too, misogyny is such an intricate part of Jay-Z’s personal repertoire and hip-hop’s collective brand.
As Tricia Rose put it over on The Guardian, “Jay-Z and many other highly successful rappers (e.g, Snoop Dog, 50 Cent and Lil’ Wayne) have expanded the visibility and value of aggressively sexist lyrics. And, frankly, if you want to find openly celebrated sexism against black women, there is no richer contemporary source than commercial, mainstream hip-hop.
Rose adds, “This hasn’t happened because commercially powerful artists have randomly or dutifully dropped a sexist word here or there to punctuate an infectious beat. Whole identities in countless songs rely on excessively sexist behavior and name-calling to define the protagonist’s power and importance.”
That said, I am surprised how many people thought one man’s alleged change of heart, even a man as powerful as Jay-Z, would or could make a difference.
Let’s imagine Jay-Z really did call the b-word a wrap. At most, it would be a nice gesture. This isn’t like the time Jay traded his jerseys for button downs, and just like that, you never saw anyone respectable and under 35 rocking them again. “Bitch” wasn’t going to suddenly disappear from the musical landscape–I’m saying, Too Short still has his favorite word, right?—much less a cultural one. Women were being degraded long before Jay-Z spat his first verse, and as writer Kirsten West Savali put it in her Clutch piece “Would We Rather Jay-Z Still Say Bitch?”, “misogyny did not begin with Jay-Z, it created Jay-Z.”
Mr. “I got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one” (allegedly, “bitch” in that use was not a reference to a woman, as per Jay’s musical autobiography Decoded, but rather to an actual dog) just became one of its biggest missionaries, spreading misogyny throughout inner city hoods and Middle Earth suburbs like white holy rollers spread Christianity in 15th century Africa. So many men were infected before Jay, after him, and some because of him that Jay-Z’s alleged good will gesture might at best have been a vaccine, but it never would have been a cure.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk