As a 26-Year-Old White Woman, I Can Really Relate to Jay-Z
A confession: When Jay Z writes his lyrics, I feel as if he is writing them for me, a white woman from suburban Pennsylvania. His soulful rhymes about drug-dealing, his forlorn verses about incarceration, and his triumphal beats about being a pioneer in the music industry are all things I see reflected in my own struggle to rise up and overcome the hardships of being an Anglo-Saxon American female.
Jay-Z's music is special to me because he and I come from similar backgrounds. He grew up surrounded by misfortune in a housing project in Bed-Stuy; not 200 miles away, I was raised in a dilapidated five-bedroom, five-bath with a picket fence that was barely off-white and a cherry blossom tree that was closer to my sister's window than mine. I weep when I listen to Jay's "Where Have You Been?" because I remember what it was like when my father came home late at night, almost past 6 p.m.
If Shawn Carter's music had been around at the time, perhaps it could have soothed my shattered soul. But without his rhymes to keep me going, I had no outlet for my tears but my Tempur-Pedic pillow.
I loved the movie Annie as a kid, so I'm more than familiar with Jay-Z's "Ghetto Anthem." I've even been to the ghetto once. It wasn't on purpose -- I got lost on the way home from the Camden Waterfront, but driving by those dark houses with their barred-up windows was more than enough for me to develop a complete understanding of Jay's childhood experience. What little I don't know from that night I can fill in from having watched The Wire.
In the song "99 Problems," Jay-Z discusses an example of a prior run-in with the police. A cop bringing in the K-9 squad for the crime of going 55 in a 54? I know exactly where he's coming from; I once got pulled over doing 40 in a 25 in Michigan City, and I was sweating bullets as I cried in front of the officer and swore nothing like it had ever happened to me before.
When he gave me that warning ticket, I acted all sincere, like I'd never do it again, but it wasn't the first ticket I'd gotten my way out of with some tears. Thug Life, indeed.