Masculinity as a sociological concept is so fascinating to me, but when it’s intersected by race, I’m even more fascinated. And I’m black, so I’m specifically talking about black masculinity. I’m fascinated for two reasons: because I’m attracted to men (and they suck) and because I’m affected by patriarchy (and that sucks too).
But you know what challenges my feminist card every time? Hip-hop music. It can be such a foul and disgusting expression of art, but the booty has a mind of its own when I hear a good beat. I am sometimes ashamed of myself at the kind of music I listen to (when I grew up, I drew a hard line at Eminem, though. Had to clean out my closet… see what I did there?).
Hip-hop is a perfect case study (case studies) into the world of black masculinity. Each artist could teach us different lessons. Each era could teach us different lessons. Even female rappers can teach us something about black masculinity (because women can police masculinity just as much as other men).
I would love to take a black masculinity class by Michael Eric Dyson, that would be the dream (as long as there’s no homework and blog post length papers would be accepted). I’ve read several of his books, but I think my favorite to date is Jay-Z: Made in America.
He really spent a whole book doing race, class, and gender analysis based on Jay Z as a person and persona and included comparisons to other rappers. People think rap and hip-hop is just dumb (not gonna lie, some of it is. Trying to get over my mumble rap bias. Art is art and I need to stop being so condescending. Who am I to tell someone something isn’t art?), but like all forms of composition, it is open to cultural, political, and intellectual analysis.
I didn’t even like Jay Z. Mostly because I didn’t care for his rap style or voice and couldn’t make that much of a personal connection to the subjects he was rapping about. Also, because Lemonade was made for me and he hurt Queen Bey and I had to be mad at him because solidarity among women. Sorry, I ain’t sorry.
After reading this book, however, I found a new appreciation of Jay Z and what he means for Black culture and American culture. When I finished, I made sure to actually listen to 4:44 with new ears. I didn’t want to just hear the words he was saying, but I wanted to listed to see what he has evolved into. I’m still not sure if I can vibe with early Jay Z, though…
If Beyoncé can find it in her heart to forgive him, so can I (even though my Cancer sun wants to hold a grudge). From what I can tell (and from what Michael Eric Dyson has told me through this book), Jay seems to have grown and atoned, and I’m all about people doing that.