When I initially started writing my thoughts around the new Jay-Z album, I was pretty set on what I wanted to say. ” 4:44 is a set of journal entries of a man that’s done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, seen success, but ultimately wonders how his actions, experiences, and family will be remembered.” Seems logical and sound based on the lyrics and explanation of each song. But there’s so much more, especially when you put 4:44 in the context of when it was released and the Jay-z that released it. We can over analyze it till kingdom come but I’m just going to focus on two areas that hit me based on other things I saw/read last week. (This ended being way longer than I thought it was going to be so I split it into two parts… this is part 2 of 2)
Dave McClure and Jay-Z defining masculinity?
Earlier this week, Dave McClure, Co-Founder of 500 Startups, stepped down as GP due to multiple claims of sexual harassment from women founders and associates. As a huge fan of 500 Startups, their mission and outcomes, I was truly saddened by these allegations but not surprised. As most people know who’ve engaged with the Silicon Valley ecosystem, there’s a bro-ish culture still entrenched in how people do business which creates a sometimes hostile environment for women and minorities. Don’t get it twisted though, its not just Silicon Valley. I’ve heard similar stories from women in other sectors; the higher you go, the more questionable and outright disrespectful behavior you encounter. Why is it that some people in power, who often happen to be men, feel they are beyond moral and ethical parameters in how they engage with others? One of the key explanations I’ve heard in the recent week or so around sexual harassment in the VC space is there’s a “machismo/masculinity” problem that needs to be addressed and I agree. As a society, we have an outdated perspective on what masculinity encapsulates. Most men (and women) still operate on masculinity 1.0. As a result, we have guys chasing outdated ideas of masculinity that disenfranchises women and other men.
Masculinity 1.0 is purely focused on the three p’s; protection, providing, and pro-creation. Any student of history and biology understands the rationale and advantage in providing the the three p’s to your family and tribe. Make as many kids as you can, protect your lineage and your group, and provide food and shelter for those you are responsible for. Masculinity 1.0 got us to where we are now; 7 billion + people, weapons of mass destruction, and economic system allows us to trade currency for food and shelter.
Fortunately/ unfortunately (depending at how you look at it), we live in a time where we’ve built institutions to manage the key areas that define masculinity. For most in the developed world, the state takes care of security, you can go to the store and buy food instead of hunting, you don’t have to build your house, and sometimes men aren’t even needed for procreation. (Yes smarty pants, money has become an intermediary but hold off on that thought for now.) What does masculinity look like now that we have most of the basic external threats covered?
4:44 surprisingly encompasses this same question but from Jay-z’s perspective. He’s experienced most of his life through the masculinity 1.0 lens. From his experience hustling, building his business empire, promiscuity…etc, he’s done what he’s done to get to what we see today. Will that take him to the next level though? Kill Jay-Z kind of gets at this struggle between who his was and who he has to be now that he has a family and is focused on building legacy. What does masculinity 2.0 look like from Jay-Z’s perspective?
- Legacy – its an important theme throughout 4:44. I think Jay looks at providing from a societal and generational perspective. It’s less about his kids and more about his children’s children and lifting up those around him. Many would argue this is a function of his socioeconomic realities. I’d disagree. The “7th generation” principle taught by many Native American tribes say that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Legacy is something everyone can think about.
- Courage- I don’t know if Jay-Z could have made this album earlier in his career. Outside of my feelings about spilling your own tea, it takes a lot of courage to open up about your shortcomings. I guess Beyonce may have given him some. Courage in the face of adversity and tough times is essential to being a modern man.
- Self Improvement/Expertise – Jay-Z shows us in 4:44 why he’s one of the G.O.A.Ts of the music industry. 13 albums in, he’s still making quality music. He’s perfected his craft overtime and become one of the best at it. Mastery and self improvement is at the core of masculinity 2.0. What are you doing every day to improve yourself and build mastery?
- Morality/ Predictable framework for how you operate – Jay, for better or worst ,lays out his sense of of morality and his perception on how he tries to live his life. Living by a code, set of rules, or framework helps de-risk relationships so people know you before they meet you. It also helps to navigate gray area situations.
Transitioning away from masculinity 1.0 to a more modern day appropriate definition of masculinity will provide a new set of traits, actions and characteristics for men to aspire to. I believe a transition will do its part to eradicate some of the toxic behavior and beliefs we see as common place.