Most people who know me have always known me to be a Jay-Z fan. The reality is I was 6 when Reasonable Doubt dropped, and I was too busy loving Tupac, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Nas to really ever consider Jay. When the Nas & Jay-Z beef took a strong hold on Hip Hop culture, I was undeniably on the side of Nas. He made music that inspired me, songs that made me want to write stories in lyrical form. Nas influenced the poet in me. I didn't become a Jay-Z fan until my mom bought me The Black Album for Christmas in 2003. I was in the 8th grade and was having the first inklings of what I wanted life to look like for myself. The first single "Change Clothes" was a jam to two step too, not my favorite Hov song, but it made me interested enough to bump the album. The first song that took me from a passive fan to an active stan was 99 problems.
8th grade was filled with beef, rumors, and sexual pressure and temptation. In my mind I had 99 problems but a "nigga" would never be one. I had the same boyfriend all the way through middle school and later into high school, so it resonated with me on the most basic bitch levels possible. Delving deeper into the album Lucifer became a favorite, much to my Christian grandma's chagrin, I couldn't get enough of his effortless flow. My love for the 9th Wonder produced "Threats" pushed me over the edge, I had to have anything and everything Jay ever spit on.
What appealed to me about Hov, in his music was his undeniable desire to succeed. The story of Rockafella was secondary because like I said I was only 6 when Reasonable Doubt dropped. Jay-Z could rap with the confidence of a cocky businessman because he was a confident, cocky businessman. He laid the bricks to his own path while still maintaining his street aura.
The hood I grew up in was most likely 100x nicer than Sean Carter's. My hood had a lake in it. My hood was clean, but growing up it still had the same problems any hood had. Drugs, poverty, and desperation. My family had some money, we were better off than most families, and in my mind we were the ceiling. I met a girl who would later become my best friend in middle school and her family had long money, money I had never seen up close. I never envied her. Their wealth motivated me. Whenever people would tell her she was rich, she'd say "We're not rich, we're comfortable." A phrase probably passed down to her from her parents, and I wanted to know what that type of comfort felt like. I had everything I could want materially, but she had everything she could need financially. I wanted that for myself. At 13 memorizing Jay lines, I knew I could have it, cause he came from a bottom I didn't know and reached a top I had only recently become familiar with.
There were days I wouldn't have gotten out of bed without Jay. "Some How Some Way" got me through losing my childhood home. "Song Cry" got me through my first heartbreak. "Heart of the City" was my anthem to my haters. "Say Hello" later became the song that cures my doubts as a young mom carrying too much on her shoulders to be responsible for the feelings of everyone around me.
I love Jay because he brought out the best in me. He showed me that rising to the top is a matter of business and strategy, not of luck or circumstance. As a young Black woman there's parts of Jay's music that will never resonate in the way of someone who has lived a hardened street life. But the desire to win, to defy the odds, is universal.
I enjoy the seasoned Jay. I enjoy the family Jay who takes his daughter to lunch, and kisses the ankles of his wife. We joke that Jay went from "Forever Macking" to "My Wife's Beyoncé, I brag different" but I believe this was the goal. Jay has shared so much of his world with us through his music, his desire for a better relationship with his father and his aspirations to be a father his own children could be proud of. Jay had the dream we all have, to provide comfortably for our families. I see Jay in me and in my struggle, and that's the real reason I love Jay.