“Only spot a few blacks the higher I go. What's up to Will? Shout out to O,That ain't enough, we gonna need a million more.”
I didn’t grow up in a house with oldies playing on Saturday mornings. We were a family of readers. So most of my childhood memories of music were in the back seat of my Mom's car. That's was until my Stepdad, Korky, came into the picture. Thinking back on it now, Korky would be the perfect casting for a Stepdad in a coming to age comedy. He drove fast, smoked weed, and listened to hip-hop music hella loud.
It was those car rides with Korky that I got my first introduction to rap. He was a huge Biggie Smalls fan, so, naturally, he turned out to be a fan of Jay-Z. I would never forget being in the car with him and listening to Change the Game for the first time. Banging our heads back and forth, we sat in the driveway as we listened to the entire song. I remember this feeling coming over me when Jay's voice came on the track. I didn't know who he was, but it was something about his lyrics that touched me. I found myself listening to The Dynasty album without my Stepdad around. I still can’t explain why, but Jay became a stable figure in my life from that point forward. I cherish each of his release days like a divine gift from the universe.
I would listen to his music over and over until I knew the album backwards and forward. His albums were the soundtracks of my informative years. Throughout college, I would bond with guys over my love and knowledge of Jigga. Certain songs trigger memories in my mind. Like Renege, memories of taking shots of Grey Goose and standing on chairs in the Harbors flash in my mind. (I could never get that Em verse right) Or the sounds of Blueprint 3 keeping me awake on my drive from Hampton to Detroit. Or blasting You Don’t Know before any job interview or big moments to give me courage. Besides the trigger memories, there are just moments in time I would never forget.
Like when Watch the Throne came out, my brother and I literally were standing on couches, jumping up and down. The first time we heard Illest Motherfucker Alive, we literally lost our minds. We couldn’t believe they really did the Pootie Tang thing. A moment of pride for me would always be rapping What We Do in Brooklyn Bowl and getting respect from actual Brooklyn dudes because I knew all the words. Talk about a moment! And let's not forget, New York State of Mind- who can hear that song and not think about Lil Mama strolling on that stage? I could go on. But you get it.
Around my junior year of high school, I began to call Jay my God Father. It started off just as something to say. Over the years, it became so much more. But let’s back up to the day Jay & Beyoncé came out as a couple, well, at least in my young eyes. I was downstairs in the basement preparing my clothes for school. The BET Awards was on, but I was at the ironing board out of line sight. Korky was smoking weed on the futon when he called out, "Damn, Jay bagged Beyoncé!"( Or something along those lines!) I rushed to the television, and sure enough, there were the two of them, in bright yellow. At the time, it just seemed cool to see them together. I had no idea the impact these two forces coming together would have on my life.
When I first heard Beyoncé (or Destiny Child), I was in the front seat of my Auntie Angie Infinity truck. We had just left Target, and Bills Bills Bills came on the radio. By the time the song finished the second verse, we were all singing along to the music. But to be completely transparent, at the time, I wasn’t a big fan of Beyoncé. In fact, it took me a while to come around to her. I blamed her for LaToya (my favorite) no longer being in the group. I believe the rumors that she was a stuck up, power-hungry bitch. But there was no denying Destiny Child greatness. I had the CDs and knew all the songs by heart. When the group broke up to focus on their own careers- aka- Beyoncé was ready to fuck shit up. Despite my mixed feelings towards Beyoncé, I found myself still buying her CDs.
In fact, her music has always been one of my go-to for my in-home concerts. Freshmen year of college, we pretended to be Dream Girls, putting on bedsheets as our dresses. Our RA recorded the whole thing and put it on YouTube. When B-Day came out, it was during my sophomore year of college. My roomie and I were obsessed with this CD! One night, we began to have a concert in our room. We were jumping on the bed and singing to the top of our lungs. We were so into our show that we didn’t notice our door had opened with our neighbor standing in the entrance. To get our attention, she literally screamed, "I'M TRYING TO STUDY!" Then slammed the door. Angie and I paused for all of two seconds before bursting into laughter until tears streamed down our faces. We apologized to Monai (a pharmacy major) and continued our concert. Lip singing. But even then, I didn't consider myself a fan. I just like her music.
I believe it was around 4 when my fandom began to shift. It wasn't Beyonce award show performances or iconic videos. It was the HBO documentary, Life Is But A Dream. I got to see the woman behind the music and see the real her. These new-age fans don't know that there was a time when Beyoncé was a complete mystery and a good girl. The idea of Beyoncé saying “nigga” was unheard of, but this documentary showed a different side of her. It revealed what I suspect my mind knew all along. I liked Beyoncé because I could relate to it her. To that drive of waiting to have it all. To reach both, you're professional and personal goals. The documentary revealed this artist and this woman who was in love with her life, career, and husband. I didn't see the superstar that was Beyoncé, and for some reason, that especially touched my heart.
I was no longer able to front or deny her greatness. I wasn't just a fan. I was a stan, and I have been all along. As a five-year-MBA major, we use to have companies come visit our Leadership Application Class (LAP) every Monday or Wednesday. It would typically be a financial firm, and their representative was a male. Young or old. But I would never forget the one time we had a black woman visit the classroom. She was from a Big Four accounting firm (my intended career path). I made a point to make sure that I would attend her Spotlight session - a more intimate conversation with the day's guest. When we got to a work-life balance question, the woman went in regarding all the sacrifices she made in her career. Taking pride in the fact that she chooses a business engagement over her daughter’s recital.
The more that the woman spoke, the more my stomach would twist in knots. Is this the path that I’m supposed to take? At the same time, I had recently read an article that said educated black women were the last to be married. If married at all. While Oprah’s “you can’t have it all” echoed in my mind as the woman talked. But I wanted to have it all. By the end of the Spotlight session, I was mentally in a full-blown panic attack. It seems like I was setting myself up for failure. So, I can't be a supportive Mom, wife, and businesswoman. It didn't seem fair. That was until I began to truly pay attention to Beyoncé. Beyoncé offered another alternative. Her life ( to me) represents that you can have it all. She’s not only the greatest artist of all time. But she's a Mother, Wife, Sister, and Friend. In her most recent Vogue article, she revealed that the title she was most proud of was the title "Mom to Blue, Sir, & Rumi," not the title of Queen B. As an alpha female, I could relate to that because dominating your chosen profession is the goal. But having a family and partner to celebrate it with is the real dream. Beyoncé is my blueprint.
We’ve all watched the Knowles-Carter family rise to uncharted heights. All while holding each other down and staying true to themselves. In over twenty years, we've only caught one scandal in live-action. Yet even that was turned into a masterpiece that birthed three of the most influential albums of our time. If you really think about it, we have watched Jay-Z go from “You know I thug 'em, fuck 'em, love 'em, leave 'em' cause I don't fuckin' need 'em” to “keep it 100% hit the lottery niggas”. I mean, talk about the fucking evolution, but it's bigger than rap. These two individuals are the best in their field, and they did it together. Fuck the rumors and the questionable age of when this all started- the two of them beats the odds. Both of them, in their own ways, showed me that I didn’t have to choose. That I could have it all.
When Lemonade premiered on HBO, I made it an event. I, along with the rest of the world, was glued to the television. When the film started, I immediately knew this was about to be something extraordinary. But as I start listening to her, really listening to her, butterflies began to fill my stomach. By the time it got to Don’t Hurt Yourself, I literally had to pause the film. I began to search the internet expecting the worst. I was sure this was her way of announcing the divorce. But as each of my go-to sources came up empty. I put my phone down and continued to watch. It wasn’t until I got to Sandcastles that I breathe a sigh of relief. But at that moment, I realized how much the two of them meant to me. That night was probably the closest I would ever get to experience the feeling of "my parents" getting a divorce. It was not a good feeling.
I know that it's dangerous to put people on the pedal stool in this day and age, especially celebrities. But I can’t shake how they make me feel. I don’t have a mentor to guide me, and my parents have never gone where I’m trying to go. But I do have Jay-Z and Bey. I use Jay lyrics to help fuel my business drive. While I use Beyoncé's work ethic to remind me talk is cheap and grind until I own it. There is no one around me to teach me greatness, so I use them as a guide, and they have not failed me yet. It's because of them that I believe there are no ceilings. Not Lil Wayne. Like, I never thought about becoming a billionaire until Jay became one, and then it instantly became a goal.
One thing I think about all the time is my definition of success. I can sum it up into one word- freedom. While we are no longer in physical chains- it feels as though this country has mentally enslaved many of us. I believe that Hippolyta from Lovecraft Country said it best: I feel like they just found a smart way to lynch me without me noticing a noose. I think the problem is, a lot of us have brought into America’s standards of success. We believe that we have to work "twice as hard just to get half of what they got," but we will never win that way. The Carters have collectively given America the middle finger and did things their way. They gave us a new possibility, just by being them. Collectively and separately, The Carters have been actively trying to change the narrative of black success, family, and love- how could you not be a fan?
They are living legends because they represent the True America Dream. A dream where black excellence sits at the top. How I view success has completely changed. It's no longer enough (or even appealing) to carter to mainstream America. I often joke and say that all I want is a Roc-a-fella chain. But I'm only half-joking. I really want that chain. Jay gives out the Roc-a-Fella chain when someone has made an impact on hip-hop music and culture. While I’m not a rapper, getting a chain would mean that I contribute to the culture and help push it forward. My sole mission is to contribute to elevating the race, making my city proud, and shifting the planet's vibration. I want to be at the forefront of creating New Earth by becoming the most excellent writer in the 'post-white gaze' age.
Since I was a little girl, I have always felt special and destined for greatness. I always thought it would be for acting, and that made the dream feel impossible. But for the first time in my life, all of my dreams feel possible. I can’t even begin to think about how it will all unfold. But I also know that’s not my job to figure out. I'm not driving myself crazy trying to be smarter than God, and I finally understand what Jay means by having "supreme confidence."
I know that what is meant for me will be. If it can happen for Jay and Bey. I know that it can happen for you and me! All we have to do is trust, surrender, and believe that we can have it all! Will you be like The Carter's and fuck up the world by pushing the culture forward?
What is one thing you would DO if no one had to know?