Kiss My Sass: Eat the Cake, Jay Z!
Before Christmas Beyoncé surprised the world with the release of a bitchin’ self-titled album featuring an array of popular artists: Drake, Frank Ocean, her husband Jay Z and Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The album blew my mind with the collection of 17 videos centered on the theme of marriage, sex and family.
Beyoncé says the birth of her daughter, Blue Ivy™ (yes, her name is trademarked), made the album possible: “Once I became a mother, I felt like I could tear down those fourth walls. I completely feel liberated, and I felt like I could no longer create my art for other people, so I just felt like it was time.” This is nothing new. Beyoncé’s personal life — both her relationship with Jay Z and her joy at becoming a parent — has played a pivotal role in shaping her career over the past decade. Far from keeping them out of the spotlight, she’s embraced the happy family image and become one of the most successful artists in the United States.
In 2013, Beyoncé and Jay Z cumulatively earned 100 million dollars. She rocked last year’s Super Bowl and published an essay titled “Gender Equality Is a Myth!” in the Shriver Report, urging women to continue to fight for their rights. This stance is apparent in her recent album as she reflects, “I took all of my insecurities, all of my doubts, all of my fears and everything I’ve learned over the last 17 years, and I applied it to this project. But more than the music, I’m proud of myself as a woman for taking the risks.” In the video for “***Flawless,” Beyoncé includes a clip of bestselling author and feminist Adichie speaking out about women’s rights during a TED talk.
Given B’s family branding and outspokenness on issues of gender equality, I was completely shocked by the song “Drunk In Love” from her new album. The song features a rap from Jay Z, during which he says: “I’m Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae/Said ‘Eat the cake, Anna Mae!’” In the video, Beyoncé mouths the lyrics as her husband raps them.
For those of you who don’t know, Ike Turner abused his wife, Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock), throughout their 16-year marriage. The line Jay Z raps is in reference to an evening the couple spent together celebrating one of Tina’s professional successes. As the couple sat together in a restaurant, Ike ordered cake. When it arrived and Tina didn’t want to eat it, he slammed it in her face shouting, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Beyoncé, self-professed feminist, made it clear by mouthing the lyric in the video and during her live performance at the Grammys that she condones or, at best, is complicit toward domestic violence. But Jay Z, as her manager and husband, is certainly not without blame. Most rap artists do include crude and inappropriate references in their songs, but most rap artists haven’t worked hard to develop a brand centered around their family. When Lil Wayne says something about violence and sex, no one takes it seriously. It’s still not acceptable, but, unlike Jay Z, no one looks up to Lil Wayne as a modern day Margaret Sanger because — let’s face it — Lollipop isn’t exactly about gender equality.
It’s important to note that I’m a big fan of Beyoncé and I have been for a while, partly because of her slammin’ tunes, but primarily because of what she represents as a strong, independent woman and mother. This is what disappoints me the most. She and Jay Z have worked hard to depict themselves as a happy couple conscious of gender inequality in the world. This image is hugely popular throughout the United States, with many comparing them to Michelle and Barack Obama. The Anna Mae lyric completely contradicts that image. It isn’t a clever or hot way to talk about how banging their sex life is. There certainly are other ways to do so that don’t downplay the seriousness of spousal abuse.