When news started to spread that Jay-Z had penned a sincere, remorseful poem about his use of the word “bitch,” there were some obvious signs that there was no way in hell it could be real. The story originated in a post on January 10 by blogger Renee Gardner, and it didn’t contain any explanation of how she had come by it. There were no other sources (no press-release, interview, not even text on a RocaWear t-shirt) to confirm that the rapper had suddenly found feminism, or even humanism, really. It was also unlikely that some real investigative snoop picked up the poem as it fell out of Jay-Z’s pocket on his way out of Lenox Hill Hospital with his newborn daughter. So why did New York Magazine, the Guardian, NME, Slate, Huffington Post and a bunch of other major news sources fall for what smelled like a classic internet mishap from a million miles away?
Well, maybe it’s simple. Maybe everyone just really wanted it to be true. Or, maybe it makes total sense that Jay-Z could have a change of heart over the word. But now that everyone knows the poem is fake, it’s drawn scrutiny to a man with a newborn daughter who has built much of a career on promoting language that degrades women. Time discovered that 109 of Jay-Z’s 217 songs contain the word “bitch,” making up “50.2% of Jay-Z’s entire lyrical output.” Now the guy is taking on the role of loving father. It’s kind of a warped way of doing it, but the whole life and death of this fake “bitch” poem momentarily held Jay-Z accountable for his hypocrisy.
Even as publications wrote about the poem or began to discover the forgery, resentment bubbled to the surface. “Oops, Jay-Z is Still Sexist,” came a headline from Slate, while the Guardian noted, (still under the impression the “bitch ban” was for reals), “it doesn’t begin to address his role in contributing to and profiting from the global power of a hyper-sexist brand of hip-hop masculinity.” The brief bloom of this poem’s news life provided an opportunity for music journos to take a step back from overlooking misogyny as the status quo in hip hop. It’s sad to think of how many critics praised Watch The Throne without taking issue that in the song “That’s My Bitch,” Jay-Z extols the virtues of his wife, the one and only Beezus, but then at the end of his verse says, without clarifying his use of “dog,” “Get ya own dog, ya heard? That’s my bitch.” In 2011, really? And now still in 2012? Not cool.
And, honestly, it seems like the whole demeaning women thing is just getting really old. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch. We’ve heard it from male rappers before. There must be some significance to the fact that one of the most buzzed about rappers in 2012 is a young woman named Azealia Banks, who, while she does use the word “bitch,” owns it in the context of dominating everyone around her. As for Jay-Z’s relationship with “bitch,” it’s kind of pathetic that Blue Ivy Carter’s dad wouldn’t use the opportunity, even if it was falsely created for him by a media fluke, to reflect on how his use of the word portrays women. Regardless of the poem’s validity, fatherhood is a great time for Jay-Z to finally make “bitch” a problem.
Follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone