Misogyny is casual and common in American society. But black women face the double blow of both inter and intra-racial sexism and racism. Indeed, many of the highest profile black male entertainers have built careers on the public shaming of black women. And Jay-Z is one of them.
While fans and critics continue to debate just how much of Beyonce’s latest album Lemonade is based on Jay’s infidelities, the fact remains that he is the architect of ‘Big Pimpin’ and has often referred to women as disposable possessions in his lyrics.
After viewing Lemonade, which takes a deep dive into the pain black women experience for being, in the words of Malcolm X, “the most disrespected person in America”, Chicago-based poet Kwabena Foli wrote a Facebook post, now shared more than 3,700 times, coming to terms with how damaging the ‘pimpin’ mentality has been to black women.
He starts by laying out his love for Jay-Z.
Those that know me KNOW I’m a Jay-Z head.
I wrote my final research report on Jay-Z and blk masculinity for my master’s degree. This man literally gave me the exact cool and mentality that I have based my own life decisions on growing up – how I would act, talk, rap, conduct business – all of it. In fact, Jay-Z was the first artist that introduced poetry to me.
He goes on to explain how Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’ philosophy is embedded in many black men’s dealings with black women.
Jay-Z made pimp culture cool (not to mention the older men in my life who modeled it before me). Pimp culture can be summed up pretty much in this – i believe women need me and exist for me. Like, a woman’s value is only as much as you can use her for. It’s such an embedded thing in my manhood especially as the very culture runs like this (rape culture I’m referring to as well). “Big Pimpin’” was my anthem. “I’m a pimp by blood / not relation / ya’ll be chasin’ / I replace them” was one of my favorite verses of his (though he was quoting BIG I liked it in his swag). Another thing about pimp culture is image. Image is important above all. Image to whom? To all the other men – the other pimps, hustlers, etc. It’s a respect thing, and nothing is more respected than power. The more power you have, the more respect you get, the better your image is – and blk women are just pawns in that whole game; insignificant, only as good as I can use them to be the king. Even in “conscious” scenes like activism and the arts does this play out so viscerally.“Got the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain” is another one of my favs of his because it was still pimp culture – just more seasoned. I’ve personally always wondered if marrying Beyonce was a love thang or a power move. Either way, Jay-Z was still The Pimp. The Hustler to me.
However, seeing the effects of Jay Z’s pimping — whether real or fictionalized — play out in Lemonade made clear to Foli how misguided pimp culture really is.
the way he appeared to breathe all that in as he laid at her feet had my mind blown. This is the creator of Big Pimpin! This is the guy with the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain! Now the dude I’m looking at is vulnerable – yet not embarrassed by it. He looks straight into the camera at one point like, “Yea. I got it all wrong. She doesn’t need or exist for me. I need and exist for her.”
Send all the shade to Jay Z as you’d like, but as a blk man he just portrayed a side of masculinity that fellas everywhere will be talking about and hopefully, will emulate. Definitely not the complete picture of what many are looking for, but definitely an amazing step in the right direction. Seeing the king of pimp culture humbled like that out of love for a blk woman was just…inspirational.
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Ladies, what are your thoughts?