Jay Z released his album 4:44 in June and shared his side of the story from Beyoncé’s recent album Lemonade. Just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last two years, Beyoncé released the critically acclaimed album Lemonade, where she bared her soul and gave the world an insight on the normally private couple’s personal life. Sharing that there may have been infidelity, marital issues and trust issues between the two during their relationship, which shocked the world. Both chose not speak on the album or their relationship however Jay Z released his recent album, and on the LP’s title track, he opened up on their relationship’s imperfections. His ability to be vulnerable gave us insight and proved that this power couple is more like us than we had ever imagined. Hearing their relationship issues made them relatable. But one thing that sticks out is how much power men hold within the relationship when they cause issues.
During Jay Z’s early career the majority of his songs relating to relationships was mostly “me give my heart to a woman? Not for nothing, never happen, I’ll be forever mackin.” Until he met Beyoncé in the early 2001, and slowly we saw a transformation of a softer Jay with his music, lyrics and image throughout their relationship. Although they have always been private about their relationship, we were able to see glimpse of their relationship through their music. In Pharrell’s “Frontin,” Jay Z declared “stuntin like you ain’t my only girl but you are. I’m ready to stop when you are.” And Beyoncé’s first solo single that certified her as a super star was “Crazy in Love” where she sung how sprung she was. But nothing made their relationship’s woes more clearer then when Lemonade dropped with the HBO visual special. This was after the leaked video of Solange beating up Jay Z in the elevator after the MET gala and we all wanted to know what made Bey’s baby sister go off.
On the track “4:44,” Jay takes his time to explain not only his side of his story but basically gets down on bended knees for stepping out of their relationship multiple times and asking for forgiveness. “Look I apologized, often womanize. Took for my child to be born, see through a woman’s eyes. Took me too long for this song, I don’t deserve you.” Jay admits that it wasn’t until the birth of their first daughter, Blue to realize how much hurt he has caused to Beyoncé and how he really truly doesn’t deserve her after all they’ve been through. Later on he goes, “I’ve seen the innocence leave your eyes. I still mourn this death and I apologize for all the stillborns cause I wasn’t present.” Basically, him stepping out and cheating not only caused Beyoncé heartache but miscarriages and a stillborn. “And I apologize cause at your best you are love. And because I fall short of what I say I’m all about…thinkin’ of all the times you wasted it, on all the basic shit. I apologize.” After listening to the track “4:44,” imagining from inside of their relationship, I couldn’t help but wonder how Jay, who is 15 years older than Beyoncé, not only couldn’t realize how lucky he was to have an amazing woman like the Queen of the Beyhive but also, it took years into their relationship for him to own up to his mistakes and appreciate his union with Ms. Knowles.
Out of context, Bey and Jay probably push through the fire due to the fact that there was a lot at stake in their union outside of romance. Beyoncé soften his image and made him more accessible. Whereas Jay gave her star power (in the early 2000’s Jay was the bigger star, I know crazy to believe.) and some street cred.
Too often I have heard when a man makes a mistake within a relationship that he’s “growing up,” “he’s a good guy (despite his mishaps),” “he has potential.” Why is that? Men have an agency within hetro-relationships that allows them to make as many mistakes within the relationship, because men can grow within the courtship. However, women are supposed to have it all together when they enter the relationship and if they fall short, like Jay, the relationship comes to an end without hesitation. It is okay for men to not understand how relationships work, while the woman waits for their full potential. I came across a tweet that stated, “Does a man ever wait for a woman to get her shit together?” And very rarely does that happen. Why is that? Why have we been conditioned into believing that men are projects, they are able to be fixed and women cannot have that space within the commitment?
When I look at pop culture that depicts this issue, I automatically think of the August Wilson play and film Fences and the HBO series Insecure. In Fences, Denzel Washington’s character Troy steps out of his marriage with Viola Davis’ character, Rose, and impregnates his mistress. Without hesitation, although Troy place so much emotional turmoil on Rose (due to his yo-yo of emotions), it was expected of her to take care of the baby. She was expected to take care of another woman’s baby in order to keep the family together even though you could tell she was reaching her breaking point.
The opposite happened in the drama series Insecure. The main character, Issa had been dating her boyfriend, Lawrence for five years, however, he had been unemployed for two of those years, and began to slack on his end of the stick in the relationship. After many slip ups from Lawrence (forgetting Issa’s birthday, not applying to jobs when he needed to help out financially), Issa steps out of the relationship. After Lawrence finds out, he leaves Issa immediately. Even though Issa tried to be loyal during Lawrence’s hardship, her infidelity overruled her support in order to end the courtship.
Everyday Feminism created a list of “50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femme” 12 of the 50 were based on the emotional burden women face within a relationship with a man, including “when we end a relationship, we’re often demonized and blamed for not doing enough to maintain it, even if we devoted extensive time and energy to discussing problems and trying to make the relationship work,” “Our significant others expect us to initiate important conversations like defining the terms of the relationship, taking stock of how the relationship is going, and addressing conflicts,” and lastly, “we’re expected to grit our teeth and put up with disrespectful behavior from men because ‘boys will be boys.’”
On Lemonade, several of the lyrics expressed how much Beyonce is carrying the emotional burden within the relationship. “Love Drought,” Bey wonders “all this loving I’ve been given goes unnoticed. It’s just floating in the air, lookie there. Are you aware you’re my lifeline, are you trying to kill me?” Later on, she questions if it were her actions for the reasons why Jay seek love elsewhere, “tell me what did I do wrong? Feel like that question has been posed. “However she still wants Jay to reveal his truth in order to forgive him and continue to build their strong love. In the track, “Love on Top,” (off the album, 4) a song celebrating love, the lyrics show the cracks that haunted their relationship and they continue to try and make it work. “ Nothing’s perfect” Beyonce sings at the top of her lungs. “But it’s worth it, after fighting through my tears, and finally you put me first.”
The emotional burden is even more fierce when it comes to black women. As they are always walking between either being too soft or being the angry black woman. On Twitter, it’s a common conversation how black men are sick of black women and how they’re much happier with a white woman due to their fragile egos. Iyanla Vazant spoke with three black men to explain why they have decided to date outside of their race. One man stated it was difficult to date black women because of their “strong personality” and inability to “stay in a woman’s place.”Founder of For Harriet, Kimberly N. Foster, touched on this issue and pointed out that “traits that in anyone else would be seen as positive, gets turned into negatives when they exist in black women.” Foster continues, “We are too independent, too strong, too educated, too focused, too confident.” Foster further explains that when black men dismiss an entire race, especially their own race of women, it’s because they have determined them as the Sapphire stereotype that needs to be called out. And the reason behind the fact black women may be seen in this matter because black women have to constantly defend themselves from negative descriptions and stereotypes we constantly have to face, from the media, at the workplace, in public, relationships and even from our own people.
Black women are constantly carrying an incredible amount of weight when it comes to emotional responsibility and it’s no wonder that within a relationship, she would rather wait to see the potential than to fight and leave. In a study from the popular dating site, OkCupid, showed that Black women are the least desirable in America’s dating pool.
Jay Z and Beyoncé sharing an imperfection of their personal life, is incredibly brave as well as makes consumers feel more connected more than ever. Both albums are respectably one of their best albums to date. However, how do we, as women get to a place where we are no longer carrying the emotional labor of the relationship and it’s more 50/50? How will men start allowing us to make the same mistakes and be forgiven as we have forgiven them for theirs? Must we place the blame on society and how they view relationship dynamics or should we start reconstructing from our personal relationships?