Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Jay-Z: Relationship and Marriage Role Model? Eh, I Don’t Think So

Yeah, man. They bought it hook, line, and sinker. It cracks me up too.

Aside from the obvious, the 2008 public ascension of the Obama family had numerous peripheral effects on our culture, including (but not limited to)….

1. We all joked about this at the time, but you can make the argument now that Barack Obama did actually bring light-skinned men “back in style.” Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but at this moment the most popular young rapper, most popular young black entertainer, and most popular young black athlete all easily pass the paper bag test. Hmm.

2. We assumed that seeing the Obama family in the White House would have a panoramic effect on dating and relationships in the black community. It did, but just not in the way we expected it to, as “Wait a second, if Michelle found Barack, how come the rest of you educated black chicks can’t find any men?” became the dominant conversation of the past three years.

While he didn’t exactly sign any bills or pass any laws to make sure that light-skinned black men would no longer be oppressed, Obama’s status as a symbol, a cultural icon is so powerful that he’s able to affect change by just existing.

Jay-Z, the most famous new father on Earth, obviously doesn’t have the same cultural cache as the president, but he’s extremely influential nonetheless. So influential, in fact, that there’s been a burgeoning conversation that Jay’s apparent love for Beyonce and his new daughter might possibly have some peripheral effect on black males everywhere, who’d hopefully stop (collectively) dicking around and finally realize how cool it is to be a loving husband and doting father.

This conversation crescendoed yesterday with the release of “Glory” — a song devoted to his infant daughter and featuring his infant daughter. Saccharin? Sure, but if Google and the blogosphere are any indications, it definitely helped to cement Jay-Z’s new status as a certified positive relationship and marriage role model…a sentiment that’s about as far from the f*cking truth as you can get.

Again, Jay-Z does appear to be in a very happy and healthy relationship, and that’s commendable and enviable. But calling the Jigga Man a relationship role model is like lauding the Nazis for turning Germany’s economy around; you can’t completely eschew the means just so you can lavish praise on the end. In Jay-Z’s case, his super duper awesome marriage is a direct result of the decades of dirt he did to get where he is now.

But, forget about that for a sec. Let’s say that Jay-Z is actually a relationship and marriage role model. Since he’s a role model, a young man would be wise to attempt to follow in his footsteps. In order to do this, the young man would have to do each of the following things:

Spend his late teens and early 20’s amassing a small fortune while being a malignant cancer to his community.

Use the money accumulated by being a cancer to fund a new business venture.

Amass an even larger fortune by unapologetically outlining, in detail, everything he did while he was being a malignant cancer to his community. Do this for 15 years.

Sleep with perhaps hundreds of different women, and amass more of a fortune by unapologetically outlining, in detail, every possible way to diss, demean, degrade, and just generally sh*t on the women he was able to sleep with. Do this for 15 years, too.

Use status and fortune obtained by A) being a cancer, B) outlining exactly how he was a cancer, C) sh*tting on women, and D) outlining exactly how he sh*t on women to bag one of the most sought after women on the planet. Marry said woman.

Ironically, most of the statements I’ve heard about Jay-Z being a relationship role model have come from women.

Why is this ironic? Well, they’re right. Jay-Z already is a role model…for all the men who want to be able to do as much dirt as they can in their 20’s and 30’s and still be able to pull a young hot chick when they’re a decade away from AARP and finally ready to settle down.

These women fail to realize that they’re indirectly praising and promoting the type of behavior they abhor. While it’s true that Jay-Z probably does genuinely love and adore his wife, men like that can only consider “loving” after they’ve made monsters out of dozens of women. Basically, his life is the blueprint for how to be a successful diva dude.

I imagine the tone of this post makes it seem like I’m anti-Jay-Z, and that’s totally not true. I think he’s many positive things. The greatest rapper of all-time. A savvy businessman. An instinctual opportunist. A cultural icon. A real life Horatio Alger tale. A (seemingly) great husband and father.

But, as Panama’s piece last week about Common reminds us, we have to be careful with assigning certain titles to people who don’t deserve or even want them. And, regarding Jay-Z’s new status as the marriage and relationship role model for young black men, be careful what you wish for because it just might happen.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Liz

    I think you’re wrong to assume people have to follow a role models entire life cycle. But for men who didn’t have it all figured out from jump are at least shown they can turn things around. Before the kid, Jay was an example in that way. Shoot for the stars and sh*t.

  • Iamnotakata

    Umm ill…he so is not…just like T.I.( in and out of the penitentiary) Harris is father of the year for getting on his daughter for having a boyfriend at 10. GTFOH….I think not…

  • Yeah I’m tired of being told to follow in the footsteps of the almighty Jay and Bey. I wouldn’t be interested in a former man whore.drug dealer who is 12 years older than me. No thank you .

  • John S. Wilson

    Not much I can add to that. I too am a Jay-Z fan but the lack of critical thinking on the issue of whether he can be a model for relationships and even fatherhood, is mindboggling. Let’s just keep listening to his music (and by that I’m talking pre-WTT) and call it a day.

  • Jay-Z is not the best rapper of all time. I can’t even compute that sort of blasphemy. His body of work has some highs, but I wouldn’t but anything he did in the top 25. All of his duo and group work is blah. He released the Blueprint 2. Common perception is that Nas bodied him with Ether. The greatest rapper of all time is clearly Ghostface Killah. No one has a discography that compares.

    Granted I’m not on Twitter as much as usual because Tumblr has become my current attention stealer so I don’t people were actually attempting to start the argument that Jay is a role model. I don’t see how. We have absolutely zero insight into how their relationship operates on any level. Even if we operate under the assumption that Jay and Beyonce’s records are 100% factual in the depiction of their relation, that isn’t anything to aspire to have.

  • J.T.

    Maybe a more appropriate way to look at Jay as a relationship role model is as the exception and not the rule. He represents the possibility of doing 20 years of dirt and still establishing a healthy relationship and family, not the model of healthy relationship building.

  • Ain’t nobody looking at JayZ or TI for advice on love and being a father.
    Nor are women looking for Michelle to pen a memoir on how she just happened to snag Barack.
    FOH with that.
    Ninjas need to live they own life and stop lookin at these folks who “made it” to either be the prototype or the target of scrutiny.

  • Imtoeda

    Oh so agree!!! I’ve actually heard people (yes people I know gay dudes too) say things like “I want a man like Jay Z” and my first thought always is “Oh you want a man that sleeps with another man’s baby mama and then raps about it to make the other guy look bad? Cool story bro”. That and I can’t cosign anyone calling their significant other a bitch. I don’t care if it’s a compliment or the rap game, I’m not the baddest bitch in the game homie and if you wanna eat dinner in our house you better realize it.

  • Mo-VSS

    Yeah…no. I’m calling BS on this for a few reasons:

    1) While Jay-Z is reported 42 years old (which means 40 is the new???…I digress), his relationship status NOW is what people are lauding. How he got there, people don’t care too much for or about. Not saying that it doesn’t matter, but at the end of the day, people respect the end result because they don’t usually see what it takes to get to that point. Speaking of which…

    2) You, me and anyone not involved in his daily life or inner circle have NO IDEA what type of man he was prior to being with his wife. We can speculate based on his music, but honestly…how many former flames have come out and said anything, good or bad, about this man? Not including Superhead, I can’t think of one. And Superhead was a jump-off, not a legitimate gf or significant other. As we know little to nothing about his past relationships from the people directly involved, how can anyone say with confidence that this man was this or that in his personal life and relationships with women?

    3) Men don’t have to do dirt in order to get it right. I know y’all want us to desperately believe that y’all need to sport f*ck until your late 30’s in order to appreciate a good woman, but that’s a line of BS this woman isn’t buying. You either realize the worth or keep it moving.

    4) Let’s suppose for a minute that you’re right and he was a ho, dog, playboy, etc earlier in his life. The type of women he encountered may have had something to do with that. If he’s surrounded by hos, it’s easier to be a ho. Women who only wanted him for money, fame, cars and clothes probably got a fraction of that and some dyck for good measure. Then along comes someone with her own, not looking for a come up and he was impressed. So he had to step his game up.

    At the end of the day, the message should be that when the right one comes along, men need to step up. Y’all holler about “where are the good women” while you entertain and chase hos for years on end. Meanwhile the good women are sitting back wondering why we have to settle for a man who’s good years have been spent with hos. Just as no good man wants to sport a ho for a wife, no good woman wants to settle for some used up man with a string of hos (and kids upon kids, or diseases or a f*cked up mentality because of the type of women he used to deal with) in his past.

    Jay-Z may have some things in his past that are unsavory (and don’t we ALL) but the message is clear. Cut the games, grow up, treat your woman with respect and class, MARRY HER and have pride in the family you two create. If that’s not admirable, then what’s the point of this all any damn way?

  • DC

    Meh, I mean…I don’t know that it matters in the grand scheme of things. He’s not the first rock star to marry a younger woman, have a kid with her and all that. It’s just different ’cause it’s rap.

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