In rap-nerd world, much has been made of how Lil’ Wayne dissed Jay-Z on "It’s Good," a leaked track from his just-released Carter IV album.
In the song, which has since been scrubbed from the Internets, the New Orleans MC says, "I got your baby money/Kidnap your b@#ch, get that how much you love your lady money."
According to Vibe, the line is a response to "H.A.M.," a Watch the Throne track that finds Jay-Z disparaging the riches of Wayne’s mentor, Baby:
"Really you got baby money…You ain’t got my lady’s money."
What intrigues me about both of these lyrics isn’t that two rich, adult, African-American males who came from poverty are beefing over who has more gold bars while black unemployment is at a staggering 16 percent. Rather, I’m interested in how they’re built on the back of a woman, in this case, Beyonce.
Now, in my fantasy scenario, Jay-Z’s barb is actually a critique of the structural sexism that devalues women’s labor. I’d like to think that he knows we make 77 cents for every freaking dollar men do and that the father-to-be is proud that his wife has the business acumen and talent to excel in a rigged game. (I know this fantasy is as viable, as, say, Tyler the Creator’s lack of homophobia or White Girl Mob member V-Nasty’s license to use "ni@#a," but bear with me.)
I can’t even conjure up an alternate reality for Lil’ Wayne’s ill-conceived kidnapping threat. What’s worse, the lyricist–who, at his best, is one of the most clever to ever touch the mic–put this mess on the same platter as "How to Love," an autotune ear worm that positions Lil’ Wayne as a spirit-wise nurturer of women shattered by predatory men.
While "It’s Good" isn’t compatible with my politicized fantasy life, "How to Love" can, in fact, be twisted into something it isn’t. Given the well-crafted video–which examines how one woman’s choice to leave an abusive relationship alters the tragic course of her daughter’s life–and Lil’ Wayne’s recent attire–he reportedly wore women’s jeggings on the Video Music Awards stage–I choose to believe that the artist is sending solidarity smoke signals to women of color everywhere. In this parallel universe, "How to Love" isn’t a cynical attempt at crossover dollars. It’s not a toothless soft-rock throwback designed to harvest the radio play more traditional hip-hop tracks like "John" can’t muster. "How to Love" isn’t even evidence that Lil’ Wayne is starting to sound like his self-satisfied protegee, Drake. No, in my fantasy world, "How to Love" is a blueprint for women’s empowerment through self-love.
In a recent blog post, Pittsburgh MC, video artist and activist Jasiri X wondered if those cuddly Watoto from the Nile had actually gotten through to the superstar with their "Letter to Lil Wayne."
It’s an interesting concept. But something tells me–OK, this xxlmag.com article tells me that this isn’t the case. Still, I do appreciate Jasiri X’s optimism. It’s inspiring, seriously.
In that spirit, I’m going to make a pledge. From now on, I’m going to refrain from using (abusing?) this space for sarcastic critiques of hip-hop foolishness. After all, I love this music, this culture, and the contradictory genius of its artists. I’m going to hold out hope that one day folks like Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne will use their ample powers to do better. That doesn’t mean I want them to crank out flat, faux positive maxims, either. Just music and conduct befitting of the artists that they are, rather than silly "beef" over who has more privilege.