URMND Contributor: Gary Taylor, MSW
If you haven't heard by now Sean Carter, also known as Jay-Z (and arguably one of my favorite rappers of all time), recently did an interview with the New York Times where he touched on his Grammy-nominated album “4:44”, therapy and infidelity with his wife Beyonce. I was ecstatic to see this interview because when the album released (possibly my favorite Jay album) it was a timely project for the current climate.
We all know Jay has built a business and a brand for himself, estimated net worth of about 810 million dollars in which if you combined that with Beyonce they are about a billion combined. A whole lot of money, that means no problems, right?
You guessed wrong.
Insert Beyonce’s most recent and introspective body of work “Lemonade” and “4:44”, you get powerful albums that speak about a rocky marriage between the two. Was it all true? We will never know, but we did receive some of the greatest music from our legends.
That’s not why I am here though. I want to talk briefly about Jay-Z going to therapy. On the album Jay hints at seeing a therapist (a win for people of color), and the people he influences. During the interview, Jay reports how therapy helped his marriage but also himself. He states that it helped him realize that “everything is connected” and your “emotions are connected to something.”
He also tells a story about when he was young, people would get into fights simply because someone was looking at the other. He realized that this person may be in pain and fearful that the other could see their pain and that is why the fight came about. Often when people are dealing with mental health symptoms and confronted on it they may lash out in fear or anger. It may come off as irritating or inability to acknowledge there is an issue. I found that to be insightful for Jay to parallel that scenario because it is indicative of how we view therapy and mental health in general.
If you listen from Jay-Z’s first album “Reasonable Doubt” to “4:44” you can tell Jay has went through a lot of mental health struggles. Songs come to mind such as “Song Cry”, where the hook goes “I can’t see them coming down my eyes, so I gotta make the song cry.” Which he cites in the interview that now “the strongest thing a man can do is cry and be vulnerable.” What about the track Lost Ones, where he talks about the loss of his nephew
“My nephew died in the car I bought, so I’m under the belief it's partly my fault/Close my eyes and squeeze, try to block that thought/Place any burden on me but please not that, Lord”.
On the title song “4:44”, he seems to be speaking to Queen B and apologizing for his infidelity:
“I apologize for all the stillborns cuz I wasn’t present/Your body wouldn’t accept it/I apologize to all the women whom I toyed with your emotions/Cause I was emotionless.”
This all has to do with mental health, and for a lot of artists their best music comes from their pain which inherently is attached to their mental health. We can go on and I can cite multiple songs, which I told myself I wouldn’t. But there is a growth in Sean Carter, not Jay-Z, the man that we are failing to see.
One of the contributing factors is therapy, an unbiased opinion and someone that can maneuver through our past and connect our present and future. It is through therapy that Jay finds a sense of emotional and mental growth.
From the days of “Big Pimpin” and emotionless raps you are now witnessing a transformation. One could say that this is due to age, being married and a father (which ultimately is true), but old habits die hard. It is through therapy and those life experiences where you are now witnessing a better husband, better father and a better man. I am not saying therapy is the cure to all things, I am merely saying that acknowledging our mental health, our past/current stressors or trauma and finding a solution to address it, is the best thing you can do to ensure a mentally fit life.
With that said I am hoping that because of Jay’s vulnerabilities we will be able to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and mental health treatment. I am hoping we in the black community would be encouraged to seek therapy to deal with our unresolved issues or past. After all, if our favorite celebrity does it, it makes it ok, right? So why haven’t you talked to someone today?