Jay-Z: Bare Some Pain

Jay-Z, rapper and entrepreneur, talks candidly about therapy and how it transformed his outlook on life’s tribulations.

I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted.

Jay-Z and Beyonce, an illustrious duo, each bared their souls on their solo projects 4:44 and Lemonade. Aside from the alluring melodies, artistic music videos, and the subliminal innuendos – the narrative of both albums flows like therapy sessions.

The singer and actress’ album, Lemonade, touched on her marriage hardships, political stance and womanhood. Rapper Jay-Z’s album spoke on similar issues, but from his own perspective. 4:44 had a candid and vulnerable approach in comparison to his previous albums. Jay-Z credits therapy for helping him confront and cope with difficult emotions.

Both artists are very private individuals who rarely commit to interviews. They release works of art, but seldom engage in press junkets. Therefore, the revelation of Jay Z’s mental health struggles came as a surprise.

The 21-time Grammy winner talked with Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of The New York Times, about the personal growth he experienced from therapy. Baquet states, “I did want to try to understand how, with an $88 million Bel Air mansion a freeway ride from neighborhoods where black people endure with so little, Jay-Z holds onto his younger self — a black man who grew up in the ’70s in the Marcy projects of Brooklyn. It seemed from his new body of work that examining this high-wire act of straddling two places had been stirring more deeply within him.”

As a Brooklyn native, Jay-Z had a tough upbringing witnessing violence and selling drugs to get by. He had to come to terms with understanding that his mother was gay and that his father left his family behind when he was age 11. “I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/But I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted,” lyrics he wrote to his song December 4th.  

He told The New York Times,I was just saying there was a lot of fights in our neighborhood that started with “What you looking at? Why you looking at me? You looking at me?” He acknowledged that his first reaction was often anger simply because it triggered his survival instincts. However, therapy helped him transition his anger into compassion, “These young men coming from these … they just in pain,” he says.

Therapy has affected his outlook on the topics he discusses in his album such as having an affair, raising children, and being a black entrepreneur.…I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life… you’re at such an advantage,” Jay-Z states to The New York Times.  

Along with his openness, Jay-Z recognizes that his voice matters. “I think when you make music, you want people to hear different things, and then you want it to start a dialogue. Because that’s how we get to understanding,” he says to The New York Times.

Jay-Z also conversed with CNN’s Van Jones about mental health, as well as the stigma that goes along with it, especially in the black community. “Mental health, PTSD and trauma is so rampant in our community,” Jones said on the The Van Jones Show, before joking that “as scared as black folks are of the cops, we’re even more scared of therapists.”

Jay-Z concurred with the host stating the youth needs help with social anxiety, bullying and alcohol abuse.  “I think actually it [therapy] should be in our schools. Children have the most going on. Their minds aren’t fully developed,” he states on The Van Jones Show.

Acknowledging a problem can be hard, but it is welcoming to see a successful entrepreneur discussing mental health and fighting masculine ethos. Jay-Z hopes to break the stigma.

Jay-Z speaks on letting go of his pride and the idea that men should be heroic in his Song Cry. “The strongest thing a man can do is cry. To expose your feelings, to be vulnerable in front of the world. That’s real strength. You know, you feel like you gotta be this guarded person. That’s not real. It’s fake,” he tells The New York Times.  

To contact the writer, email Leslie Rivera at leslie@supportiv.com.

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