Why Jay-Z’s “Glory” Dedication to Blue Ivy Made this Black Man Cry

January 12, 2012
By

By Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr.

I was prepared to be scared for HOW hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and pop Diva Beyoncé would introduce their daughter, Blue Ivy, to the world. I feared she would be introduced like a long-awaited “product,” or simply the heir-apparent to the “King of Hip-Hop” or the “Queen of Pop.” But my fear was subsided when listening to Jay Z’s new release, “Glory,” a song that beams of great pride—the kind absent of braggadocio and most informed by his genuine bliss and love. Just the tone of his voice marks a feeling of being present; in ways I am sure the plane-hopping, traveling mogul and mate Beyoncé often cannot experience. This song, “Glory,” is more than a rap song, but an homage—the deepest expression of thanksgiving for a child who has transformed Bey and Hova’s world.

While I am excited for Black America’s most-watched couple—next to President and First Lady Obama or Jada and Will— the birth of Blue is not what made me sentimental, or even teary. As I listened to this song, produced by Pharrell, but assumedly written by Hova himself, I envisaged a potential turn in Hip-Hop. This turn, I imagined, was the one similar to the shifts many black men make when they become fathers of daughters—aware of the oppressive forces that their girls face. This awareness begins with just a recognition of the gaze—how our daughters become subjects of men’s fantasies. After this, our consciousness is raised even more once our daughters become more aware of their own bodies and begin to accentuate areas that we fear will call forth more gazes and more problems, for us as fathers. While often this leads to an over-policing of our daughters’ expression of gender and sexuality, it also conjures a care for their welfare, a demand for their respect, and recognition that the world they enter is nothing fair. Most importantly, in these moments we realize that this unfair world is one where many of us—fathers, brothers, uncles, and lovers—participate and even celebrate.

What I hear haunting the tune of “Glory” is the beginning of Jay Z’s recognition that the wreaked “havoc on the world”—through sexism and destructive gender-speak—may need to come crashing to a halt. Knowing that he has such rhetorical power and popularity within the masses, this song may call forth a trend to move from exploitation of women and women’s sexuality to a more mediated location, where women’s sexual autonomy is privileged and their presence is not simply peripheral. Here, like Blue in “Glory,” women are understood as “children of destiny”—not just as a by-product of some groundbreaking girl group, but a creation with a purpose.

Maybe Hova’s homage marks the advent of music that “paints the sky blue” and removes the “black and blue eyes” that are products of a masculinity that forgets the beauty of God’s creation.  Just maybe “Glory” will  call attention to not only the beauty of father-daughter love, but also the recognition that beyond the womb, young women are still to be celebrated, adored, and valued. As Hova continues on the track, he raps, “false alarms and false starts, and “Last time the miscarriage was so tragic, we was afraid you disappeared but nah baby, you magic.” Here, he reveals that Beyoncé had experienced a miscarriage and that Blue Ivy’s arrival was a miracle of sorts—a divine creation. The significance of this miscarriage—in the context of Hip-Hop—reminds us of the fragility of women’s lives and how every woman’s survival is a miracle. Indeed, we live in a world that has miscarried and mistreated women—allowing them to be abused, misrepresented, and killed in body and spirit, often at the hands of men. In this way, Hova’s sharing of the secret, unveils a conversation not simply about the risks of pregnancy for Beyoncé and many women who have poor healthcare, but also the loss of women’s lives as a concern for us all. Here, Jay-Z as father MC, blasts to the world through song that Ivy was a WANTED baby, whose presence has meaning that is connected to both his and Beyoncé’s lives. The tragic circumstance of loss is a joint experience; which propels Blue Ivy’s birth as necessary to be shared with the world. And it is also this energy—shared between these seemingly star-crossed lovers—that drives this musical joint forward.

At the end of the track, we hear what can be assumed to be Blue Ivy’s voice. Jay-Z grants his daughter’s voice as the climax of the track—noting her importance in his world, while also allowing her to speak her importance. This voice says I am more than just a product of my parents: I am my own presence, I am my own glory. It is here where tears come crashing down. Tears arise not simply because it reminds me of the many times I have sat in delivery rooms and heard the sound of baby crackling or cries, not simply because it conjures a yearning to create my own Blue, but because of the centrality of this young baby girl’s voice—as the sounding board for a glorious tune, adorned with radical love and appreciation.

I am not naïve enough to believe that the wake of baby Ivy will bring forth such change.  Neither do I deny that we have heard in many hip-hop artists remnants of the same sentiment expressed in Jay-Z’s “Glory.” But, just the imagining of such a shift where fatherhood—or even brotherhood—draws men away from profiting and preying on women’s bodies is a radical thought. And if only one man, on the verge of defiling a woman or a young girl is moved to and by  “Glory” in this invitation through a hip-hop song, our tears of hope are not in vain.

______________________________________

Jeffrey Q. McCune, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is author of the book manuscript, Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and Politics of Passing (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming). He is a contributor to New Black Man, as well as a public speaker on masculinity, popular culture, and black sexual politics.

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20 Responses to Why Jay-Z’s “Glory” Dedication to Blue Ivy Made this Black Man Cry

  1. DeaLana Woods on January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I Love this article. And I’m practicing not using the word love easily since it’s connotation is God Himself. However I don’t think I’m over stepping by using it here. Why love, the truth that there are still men like the author with a heart for women in general and not just ones who benefit themselves and a hope for the revolutionizing of hip hp back to it’s foundation as well as the possibility of Jay Z and Beyonce using their influence for a greater good! Haven’t heard the song yet but can’t wait:) I pray God continue to bless them and you all:)

  2. DeaLana Woods on January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I Love this article. And I’m practicing not using the word love easily since it’s connotation is God Himself. However I don’t think I’m over stepping by using it here. Why love, the truth that there are still men like the author with a heart for women in general and not just ones who benefit themselves and a hope for the revolutionizing of hip hp back to it’s foundation as well as the possibility of Jay Z and Beyonce using their influence for a greater good! Haven’t heard the song yet but can’t wait:) I pray God continue to bless them and you all:)

  3. DeaLana Woods on January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I Love this article. And I’m practicing not using the word love easily since it’s connotation is God Himself. However I don’t think I’m over stepping by using it here. Why love, the truth that there are still men like the author with a heart for women in general and not just ones who benefit themselves and a hope for the revolutionizing of hip hp back to it’s foundation as well as the possibility of Jay Z and Beyonce using their influence for a greater good! Haven’t heard the song yet but can’t wait:) I pray God continue to bless them and you all:)

  4. DeaLana Woods on January 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I Love this article. And I’m practicing not using the word love easily since it’s connotation is God Himself. However I don’t think I’m over stepping by using it here. Why love, the truth that there are still men like the author with a heart for women in general and not just ones who benefit themselves and a hope for the revolutionizing of hip hp back to it’s foundation as well as the possibility of Jay Z and Beyonce using their influence for a greater good! Haven’t heard the song yet but can’t wait:) I pray God continue to bless them and you all:)

  5. Koritha Mitchell on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for this article. Your optimism is remarkable. Though I don’t take it to be naïve, I find myself resistant. I would like to believe there’s a shift, but doing so requires ignoring some key temporal implications. There is a real sense that a man has to get to a certain point before he can become invested in making the world safer for women. So, one traffics in violent, anti-woman discourses to make a fortune, then that trafficking suddenly becomes irrelevant because having a daughter makes you see the world differently? That just feels a little too convenient. Not only does this leave the damage already done unaddressed; it also underscores that we shouldn’t expect anyone to turn this corner until they’ve arrived at certain points. The message is that you can’t afford to care about the world that’s being created for women until you’ve gotten rich enough and settled enough to want to have children. (And, according to this logic, there’s no guarantee that the shift would occur if you have a boy.) As poet and cultural critic Honorée Fanonne Jeffers pointed out recently, it’s not as if his misogyny is old news. Very little separates *Watch the Throne* and this release. But, the bottom line for me is this: I think we, as an entire nation and culture, lie to ourselves when we say that parenthood changes people. We want it to, but the fact that we’re forever CLAIMING that it does—and that it naturally does—is exactly what lets me know that it doesn’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to assert it so aggressively. For example, parenthood very often frames action movies that are all about violence and an apparently fearless hard-core killer. The reason the killer is so fearless and relentless is that he’s a father. (I’m thinking of all those movies where it ends with a reunion with some little girl. Jason Statham movies, Fast and Furious movies, etc. etc. etc. It’s endless.) That magic doesn’t work for me in those movies, and I don’t believe in that magic for Jay-Z. I love the beauty of your sentiment, and I think you’re right that IT MATTERS to have loving images of black fatherhood, but I think the message with this example is that you can only afford to be anything close to anti-sexist once you’ve reached a certain status.

    • Fred on January 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Amen sister! Amen. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  6. Koritha Mitchell on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for this article. Your optimism is remarkable. Though I don’t take it to be naïve, I find myself resistant. I would like to believe there’s a shift, but doing so requires ignoring some key temporal implications. There is a real sense that a man has to get to a certain point before he can become invested in making the world safer for women. So, one traffics in violent, anti-woman discourses to make a fortune, then that trafficking suddenly becomes irrelevant because having a daughter makes you see the world differently? That just feels a little too convenient. Not only does this leave the damage already done unaddressed; it also underscores that we shouldn’t expect anyone to turn this corner until they’ve arrived at certain points. The message is that you can’t afford to care about the world that’s being created for women until you’ve gotten rich enough and settled enough to want to have children. (And, according to this logic, there’s no guarantee that the shift would occur if you have a boy.) As poet and cultural critic Honorée Fanonne Jeffers pointed out recently, it’s not as if his misogyny is old news. Very little separates *Watch the Throne* and this release. But, the bottom line for me is this: I think we, as an entire nation and culture, lie to ourselves when we say that parenthood changes people. We want it to, but the fact that we’re forever CLAIMING that it does—and that it naturally does—is exactly what lets me know that it doesn’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to assert it so aggressively. For example, parenthood very often frames action movies that are all about violence and an apparently fearless hard-core killer. The reason the killer is so fearless and relentless is that he’s a father. (I’m thinking of all those movies where it ends with a reunion with some little girl. Jason Statham movies, Fast and Furious movies, etc. etc. etc. It’s endless.) That magic doesn’t work for me in those movies, and I don’t believe in that magic for Jay-Z. I love the beauty of your sentiment, and I think you’re right that IT MATTERS to have loving images of black fatherhood, but I think the message with this example is that you can only afford to be anything close to anti-sexist once you’ve reached a certain status.

    • Fred on January 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Amen sister! Amen. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  7. Koritha Mitchell on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for this article. Your optimism is remarkable. Though I don’t take it to be naïve, I find myself resistant. I would like to believe there’s a shift, but doing so requires ignoring some key temporal implications. There is a real sense that a man has to get to a certain point before he can become invested in making the world safer for women. So, one traffics in violent, anti-woman discourses to make a fortune, then that trafficking suddenly becomes irrelevant because having a daughter makes you see the world differently? That just feels a little too convenient. Not only does this leave the damage already done unaddressed; it also underscores that we shouldn’t expect anyone to turn this corner until they’ve arrived at certain points. The message is that you can’t afford to care about the world that’s being created for women until you’ve gotten rich enough and settled enough to want to have children. (And, according to this logic, there’s no guarantee that the shift would occur if you have a boy.) As poet and cultural critic Honorée Fanonne Jeffers pointed out recently, it’s not as if his misogyny is old news. Very little separates *Watch the Throne* and this release. But, the bottom line for me is this: I think we, as an entire nation and culture, lie to ourselves when we say that parenthood changes people. We want it to, but the fact that we’re forever CLAIMING that it does—and that it naturally does—is exactly what lets me know that it doesn’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to assert it so aggressively. For example, parenthood very often frames action movies that are all about violence and an apparently fearless hard-core killer. The reason the killer is so fearless and relentless is that he’s a father. (I’m thinking of all those movies where it ends with a reunion with some little girl. Jason Statham movies, Fast and Furious movies, etc. etc. etc. It’s endless.) That magic doesn’t work for me in those movies, and I don’t believe in that magic for Jay-Z. I love the beauty of your sentiment, and I think you’re right that IT MATTERS to have loving images of black fatherhood, but I think the message with this example is that you can only afford to be anything close to anti-sexist once you’ve reached a certain status.

    • Fred on January 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Amen sister! Amen. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  8. Koritha Mitchell on January 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Thank you for this article. Your optimism is remarkable. Though I don’t take it to be naïve, I find myself resistant. I would like to believe there’s a shift, but doing so requires ignoring some key temporal implications. There is a real sense that a man has to get to a certain point before he can become invested in making the world safer for women. So, one traffics in violent, anti-woman discourses to make a fortune, then that trafficking suddenly becomes irrelevant because having a daughter makes you see the world differently? That just feels a little too convenient. Not only does this leave the damage already done unaddressed; it also underscores that we shouldn’t expect anyone to turn this corner until they’ve arrived at certain points. The message is that you can’t afford to care about the world that’s being created for women until you’ve gotten rich enough and settled enough to want to have children. (And, according to this logic, there’s no guarantee that the shift would occur if you have a boy.) As poet and cultural critic Honorée Fanonne Jeffers pointed out recently, it’s not as if his misogyny is old news. Very little separates *Watch the Throne* and this release. But, the bottom line for me is this: I think we, as an entire nation and culture, lie to ourselves when we say that parenthood changes people. We want it to, but the fact that we’re forever CLAIMING that it does—and that it naturally does—is exactly what lets me know that it doesn’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have to assert it so aggressively. For example, parenthood very often frames action movies that are all about violence and an apparently fearless hard-core killer. The reason the killer is so fearless and relentless is that he’s a father. (I’m thinking of all those movies where it ends with a reunion with some little girl. Jason Statham movies, Fast and Furious movies, etc. etc. etc. It’s endless.) That magic doesn’t work for me in those movies, and I don’t believe in that magic for Jay-Z. I love the beauty of your sentiment, and I think you’re right that IT MATTERS to have loving images of black fatherhood, but I think the message with this example is that you can only afford to be anything close to anti-sexist once you’ve reached a certain status.

    • Fred on January 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Amen sister! Amen. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  9. lovelywoman on January 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

    This article is waaay off! JZ’s only concern will be that of his daughter. He will still care-less about females in general. That’s been the mode of operation for fathers of “daughters” i.e. love their own & violate others. It’s that simple. Trying to turn this parenthood experience of JZ and Beyonce into something else is just plain exaggeration and contortions for attention/publicity. They are both “ghetto” mentality driven, but once again money erases all boundaries and crappy people can dine and party with the president or even become president themselves once they have money. Just a sick country or world! Obama is a revered drug user, so there you have it.

  10. lovelywoman on January 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

    This article is waaay off! JZ’s only concern will be that of his daughter. He will still care-less about females in general. That’s been the mode of operation for fathers of “daughters” i.e. love their own & violate others. It’s that simple. Trying to turn this parenthood experience of JZ and Beyonce into something else is just plain exaggeration and contortions for attention/publicity. They are both “ghetto” mentality driven, but once again money erases all boundaries and crappy people can dine and party with the president or even become president themselves once they have money. Just a sick country or world! Obama is a revered drug user, so there you have it.

  11. lovelywoman on January 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

    This article is waaay off! JZ’s only concern will be that of his daughter. He will still care-less about females in general. That’s been the mode of operation for fathers of “daughters” i.e. love their own & violate others. It’s that simple. Trying to turn this parenthood experience of JZ and Beyonce into something else is just plain exaggeration and contortions for attention/publicity. They are both “ghetto” mentality driven, but once again money erases all boundaries and crappy people can dine and party with the president or even become president themselves once they have money. Just a sick country or world! Obama is a revered drug user, so there you have it.

  12. lovelywoman on January 15, 2012 at 5:54 am

    This article is waaay off! JZ’s only concern will be that of his daughter. He will still care-less about females in general. That’s been the mode of operation for fathers of “daughters” i.e. love their own & violate others. It’s that simple. Trying to turn this parenthood experience of JZ and Beyonce into something else is just plain exaggeration and contortions for attention/publicity. They are both “ghetto” mentality driven, but once again money erases all boundaries and crappy people can dine and party with the president or even become president themselves once they have money. Just a sick country or world! Obama is a revered drug user, so there you have it.

  13. jeffrey mccune on January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Greetings,

    I appreciate your comments on my article and find the observations fascinating. While I do not believe writers should defend essay, I do need to provide clarity. This article was written to both enliven a different possibility for the song. I recognize what each of you so rightly point toward–the privilege of men is to continue to be men in the most problematic sense of this identity, even when they shift for their daughters momentarily. However, my question is what of the men who actually are transformed? I am not interested in Jay-Z as much as I am interested in how this one moment of vulnerability for Jay-Z could shift some hearts, minds, spirits of men of all races through its ACCIDENTAL recognition of female value and necessary agency. All meaning for a song or performance is not driven by ONLY the writer/performer’s intention. Indeed, I think much of hip-hop will not be changed by this new advent of Blue, but new conversations can be had. This is just one conversation–which seeks not to paint Jay-Z as having grown(i don’t know him personally), but in his music he may be developing some new understandings and realizations in others.

  14. jeffrey mccune on January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Greetings,

    I appreciate your comments on my article and find the observations fascinating. While I do not believe writers should defend essay, I do need to provide clarity. This article was written to both enliven a different possibility for the song. I recognize what each of you so rightly point toward–the privilege of men is to continue to be men in the most problematic sense of this identity, even when they shift for their daughters momentarily. However, my question is what of the men who actually are transformed? I am not interested in Jay-Z as much as I am interested in how this one moment of vulnerability for Jay-Z could shift some hearts, minds, spirits of men of all races through its ACCIDENTAL recognition of female value and necessary agency. All meaning for a song or performance is not driven by ONLY the writer/performer’s intention. Indeed, I think much of hip-hop will not be changed by this new advent of Blue, but new conversations can be had. This is just one conversation–which seeks not to paint Jay-Z as having grown(i don’t know him personally), but in his music he may be developing some new understandings and realizations in others.

  15. jeffrey mccune on January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Greetings,

    I appreciate your comments on my article and find the observations fascinating. While I do not believe writers should defend essay, I do need to provide clarity. This article was written to both enliven a different possibility for the song. I recognize what each of you so rightly point toward–the privilege of men is to continue to be men in the most problematic sense of this identity, even when they shift for their daughters momentarily. However, my question is what of the men who actually are transformed? I am not interested in Jay-Z as much as I am interested in how this one moment of vulnerability for Jay-Z could shift some hearts, minds, spirits of men of all races through its ACCIDENTAL recognition of female value and necessary agency. All meaning for a song or performance is not driven by ONLY the writer/performer’s intention. Indeed, I think much of hip-hop will not be changed by this new advent of Blue, but new conversations can be had. This is just one conversation–which seeks not to paint Jay-Z as having grown(i don’t know him personally), but in his music he may be developing some new understandings and realizations in others.

  16. jeffrey mccune on January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Greetings,

    I appreciate your comments on my article and find the observations fascinating. While I do not believe writers should defend essay, I do need to provide clarity. This article was written to both enliven a different possibility for the song. I recognize what each of you so rightly point toward–the privilege of men is to continue to be men in the most problematic sense of this identity, even when they shift for their daughters momentarily. However, my question is what of the men who actually are transformed? I am not interested in Jay-Z as much as I am interested in how this one moment of vulnerability for Jay-Z could shift some hearts, minds, spirits of men of all races through its ACCIDENTAL recognition of female value and necessary agency. All meaning for a song or performance is not driven by ONLY the writer/performer’s intention. Indeed, I think much of hip-hop will not be changed by this new advent of Blue, but new conversations can be had. This is just one conversation–which seeks not to paint Jay-Z as having grown(i don’t know him personally), but in his music he may be developing some new understandings and realizations in others.

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