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Jay-Z’s not changing his tune or his lyrics… yet.

By January 31, 2012 4 Comments

Does Jay-Z have the power to change language in the larger hip-hop scene?

The birth of Jay-Z’s daughter has not inspired him to alter the degrading language frequently used in his music. Yet.

I must admit, I don’t keep up with celebrity gossip. In fact, I was shocked to hear that Beyoncé had given birth, as it was only recently I heard she was pregnant. Then my co-worker played for me Jay-Z’s new song, “Glory,” inspired by the birth of his and Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.

I couldn’t help but think about all of the Jay-Z songs with typically degrading language and the offensive use of the word “bitch.” I immediately said to my co-worker, “I wonder if he’s going to reconsider the type of language he uses now that he has a daughter.” A few days later, I came across the article on Bust Magazine reporting that he had been inspired to drop the word “bitch” from his vocabulary.

Unfortunately, it turns out the poem that claimed, “Before I got in the game, made a change, and got rich/I didn’t think hard about using the word bitch/I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it/Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give it,” was wrongly attributed to the rapper. The Guardian reports that the poem was actually written by a blogger named Renee Gardner.

While those of us who were elated to read about the initial news of Jay-Z dropping the word from his music are let down by the news being false, I think it’s important to consider the larger conversation here.

How did it make us feel to imagine a world where a leading man in the rap scene takes such a stand against a word that has constantly been used to undermine and degrade women everywhere? Personally, I felt proud and happy about what I thought was Jay-Z’s decision, but still remained skeptical.

Dear Jay-Z, respect women in your life by respecting all women, even in your lyrics.

Before I knew the truth of the wrongly attributed poem, I asked myself, why did it take Jay-Z having a daughter to realize these things? Why doesn’t having a loving, supportive mother inspire him in that direction? Why doesn’t his love and respect for Beyoncé inspire thinking about respect for women in general? What about all of the other women in his life he considers important to him?

This definitely has a place in a larger conversation about language in our culture, and the way it can be used to demean and marginalize people. I think Jay-Z needs to be confronted about the false attribution of this poem to him. He must be questioned about whether or not he is willing to take such a stand.

While Jay-Z is only one man, he is a respected man in a position of power and leadership in his circle, and his actions can inspire others to follow. And having more men on our side in the pursuit of a safer world for women and girls is key to our success.

Stacey Jean Speer is currently earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women and Gender Studies at San Francisco State University and planning to graduate in May 2012. She enjoys utilizing the tools she gains as a student of Women and Gender Studies to critique pop culture and media from a feminist perspective.