The Maturation Of Jay-Z: The Role Of Fatherhood In Shawn Carter's Life & Times

As "a kid torn apart once his pops disappeared" promising he would "never repeat him," Jay-Z has continued to make big statements in Hip Hop. In 2012, the statement has been about fatherhood.

Now I’m just scratching the surface ‘cause what’s buried under there / Was a kid torn apart once his pop disappeared.” - Jay-Z, “December 4th"

It seems Shawn Carter has submitted his early petition for “Father Of The Year.”

As the “maturation of Jay-Z-Z” barrels down manhood’s truest avenue - fatherhood - Marcy’s-finest is parking on parenting. He’s announcing closer-to-home-type ventures now, like the “Made In America” festival in Philadelphia that he’s curating, his Barclays Center directorship, his partnership with Duracell. His mentorship is getting shouted out on the reg, as if he’s practicing. Roc Nation signee, Rita Ora, describes him as “family.” Jada Pinkett-Smith gushes over Jigga’s “love and respect for Willow,” while collaborating on an Annie remake starring Jaden’s little sister. Going on record in support of gay rights is another sign of an evolved maturity. There was even a different air to his sly mention that he again planned to push to rap to the back, much less grandiose than his faux retirement in 2003. “I thought I would be more inspired to have all these feelings to talk about,” Hov told Billboard recently. “But I really just want to hang out with my daughter. I want to enjoy this time for what it is.”  

Music doesn’t come much more heartfelt than “Glory” - Jay-Z’s ode to his daughter, Blue Ivy. Permeating through Pharrell’s effervescence and B.I.’s baby cries are tidal waves of emotions: joy, relief, regret, reconciliation. It’s a celebration of life, arguably his most emotive offering ever, emblazoned with everything he intends to represent as a parent. And possibly most poignantly, it signals how Blue Ivy’s birth is Shawn Carter’s chance to discontinue the sins of his father, a struggle he’s toiled with on wax over the past 12 years.   

Ya grandpop died of nigga failure / Then he died of liver failure / Deep down he was a good man / Goddamn I can’t deliver failure.” - Jay-Z, “Glory”      

His is a personal narrative, but the plot is commonplace. Boo Hoo. Sad story. Black American Dad story - an afflicted tale replicated a million times over in The Land Of The Free, Home Of The Quick To Incarcerate. Statistics like these existing in the world’s wealthiest nation are criminally beyond irony, honestly. Making it through America’s poverty stricken communities - on a single parent - is like making it through Hunger Games. “No one was going to help us,” wrote Jay-Z in Decoded. “Not even our fathers stuck around.”

In the memoir, Hov describes how his pops, Adnes Reeves split when he was nine years old, leaving him with little more than an obsessive attention to detail and the seeds to a hustler's ambition. He chronicles “cold corners far from home in the middle of the night serving crack fiends” as a sort of treacherous boot-camp subsidizing his eventual global takeover. He keenly fingers hostile government policies, like “racist drug laws that penalized possession of crack cocaine with more severe sentences than the possession of powder” as perpetuators of the epidemic - the cycle - while owning his destructive role in this twisted production. Having depended on a cagey-type cunning for survival throughout his life, in Decoded, Shawn Carter rocks his humanity like a Hublot.                   

Those four initial albums rarely delve into the personal, non-hustling related, life of Iceberg Slim. The opening verse on Life & Times...Vol.1‘s “You Must Love Me” sticks up like a cowlick, maybe a stray couplet darted here or there. But until 2000‘s The Dynasty Album, not much else. With Vol. 2...Hard Knock Life’s astronomical reception (Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in tow, five million records sold), Hov was approaching the paramount of Rap success, yet still saddled with the narrowing “money, hoes, clothes”-label that first decade. Then he almost threw everything away.

I get it down / Anxiously the public can’t wait / Niggas had to have it before it’s release date / Jigga get irate / Press get it fucked up / Took me $1.8 [million] but I had to get it straight...” - Jay-Z, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”

The macro surrounding Jay-Z’s 1999 weapon and assault charges after allegedly stabbing Lance “Un” Rivera during Q-Tip’s album release party for Amplified feels like the tipping point for Jigga’s eventual reconciliation with the absentee Adnes Reeves, (and arguably those later lyrical forays into broader aspects of the human experience). At that time there were two other major court cases taking place in New York City: Diddy and Shyne’s murder rap, and the trial of the accused plotters of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. As he tells it in Decoded, the Hip Hop Police were in full effect and the media covered the Puffy/Shyne trial as if it were on par with the case against the terrorists. To avoid a more aggressive attack from the D.A. in the aftermath of Diddy’s eventual acquittal - and by default becoming “a sideshow for the state” - Carter settled and took probation like a Don is supposed to. S.Dot explains:

But more than that, I realized I had a choice in life. There was no reason to put my life on the line, and the lives of everyone who depends on me, because of a momentary loss of control. It sometimes feels like complete disaster is always around the corner, waiting to trap us, so we have to live for the moment and fuck the rest. That kind of fatalism - this game I play ain’t no way to fix it, it’s inevitable - feels like realism, but the truth is that you can step back and not play someone else’s game. I vowed to never allow myself to be in a situation like that again.

Squeaking through a dangerously close call is enough to take full stock of life - mend wounds, re-prioritize, recalibrate. That Jay-Z would notch rings like the San Antonio Spurs in the ensuing decade - dominating with stellar albums, a nearly untouchable lyrical utility belt, and a corporate strategy expected for a burgeoning Warren Buffet - is less surprising in hindsight considering he nearly became a statistic at the height of his career, years removed from those cold nights in Trenton. To a degree, he could’ve become his father (or Shyne, or DMX, or Lil' Kim, or some other 1990s standout imprisoned at the height of his career). It makes sense that, following his settlement, Adnes crept into Jigga’s rhymes.   

I seen my first murder in the hall / If you must know / I lost my pops when I was 11...hmmm...12 years old / He’s probably somewhere where the liquor is taking it’s toll / But I ain’t mad at you, Dad / Holla at your lad.” - Jay-Z, “Streets Is Talking"

It was never merely the narratives that held the power in Shawn Carter’s street tales. It was the commiseration. He made you feel the hustler's experience. The visceral emotions weaved within joints like Vol. 2’s “Coming Of Age (Da Sequel)” or American Gangster’s “Fallen” last long after playlist’s end. Hova revels in the dangerous discomfort; dances in the slippery dichotomies. His relationship with his father plays out in similar paradigm shifts. On The Dynasty - the album crafted during the “Un”-cident - “Street’s Is Talking’s” semi-olive branch is countered by “Where Have You Been’s” effusive outburst, as if he’d been waiting to exhale since he was nine years old. On The Black Album’s “December 4th,” Hov outright blames Reeves for leaving him to the streets, six tracks ahead of “Moment Of Clarity’s” detached, arguably jaded closure - a personal verse repping for an entire generation:

Pop died / Didn’t cry / Didn’t know him that well / Between him doing Heroin / And me doing crack sales / With that in the egg shell / Standing at the tabernacle / Rather the church / Pretending to be hurt / Wouldn’t work so a smirk is all on my face / Like ‘Damn that man’s face is just like my face’ / So Pop, I forgive you for all the shit that I lived through / It wasn’t your fault, homie you got caught / In the same game I fought / That Uncle Ray lost / My big brothers and so many others I saw / I’m just glad we got to see each other / Talk and re-meet each other / Save a place in Heaven til the next time we meet forever.” - Jay-Z, "Moment Of Clarity"

Who knows how the Shawn Corey Carter story might read had that butterfly effect fluttered slightly askew. What might be the outcome had he faced murder charges rather than assault; or was sent to prison? Is he even “Hov” without Adnes’ abandonment fueling his fantastic trek to the stratosphere?

Life deals a billion what ifs. Undoubtedly Jay-Z’s considered all the ways his could’ve been different, just like all of us do all the of time with our own lives. It’s human nature. But Jigga beat the odds; beat the statistics; beat the system designed against millions from similar environments. His passport is full. Now, he’s fortifying his base, pursuing ventures closer to home, and, as he says in that Billboard interview, “...[enjoying] this time for what it is.” If Hov has it his way, Blue Ivy will never face the same sins as her father.       

Promise to never leave him / Even if his momma tweekin / 'Cause my Dad left me and I promised I’d never repeat him.” - Jay-Z, “New Day"


Justin "The Company Man" Hunte is host of #InboxSessions and #TCMS on PNCRadio.FM, and contributor to several online publications, including HipHopDX, TanningOfAmerica,, and He is a Brooklyn resident. Follow him on Twitter @TheCompanyMan.


  • Jeremiah

    This is well written article.

  • jake

    i wonder if people think blue ivy carter is already in the illuminati


    REALLY THO-REALLY THO-REALLY THO........I wish I could see your ignorant face when you read this... you DUMB NIGGA.... FACT 1 Jayz 1st album.... song called D'evils... also DEVILS if your too dumb to figure it out.... "Illuminatti want my mind, soul and body, secret society's trying to keep an eye on me" so we know that Jayz knows there ARE SECRET SOCIETY's... FACT2 JayZ can be seen wearing Aleister Crowley quotes "do what thou wilt" do you know who he is... dummy? Prolly not... he called himself the devil and his sign was 666... same as lucifer.. FACT3 Jazz O... who JayZ stole his name from... is on camera admitting that Jayz loves homosexual sex FACT4 Jayz hand sign is the PYRAMID.... hmmm cant figure that one out either stupid?? FACT5 Rockafella Records.... need I say more... you know who the Rothschilds are, and the Rockafellas... prolly not cus you are a dumb negro!!!!! Theres a million more facts.... I dont have time.... If you cant see it... thats on YOU....stop with your bullshit... your favorite rapper is not a good human... stop trying to be a dissinfo agent... WE SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU!!!

    • NONO

      Yea this is dumb for really. People hit up youtube and suddenly think they are professional historians... "Illuminatti want my mind, soul and body, secret society's trying to keep an eye on me" was said by Prodigy from Mobb Deep..So I guess that means P is Illuminati too? And what does the pyramid have to do with being evil?...So called societies took that knowledge..It was never theirs to begin with...I wish I could see the look on your ignorant face...DUMB NIGGA

    • Anonymous

      kill yourself, just for thinking you figured something out by trying to expose the most obvious shit. you REALLY tried to make a point with d'evils being devils? LMAO. really? I NEVER thought of that. god damn. 'dumb' would be a compliment for you.


    Time to end this G.O.A.T. foolishness. In this constant debate about Jay-Z being the best ever I read things like "Nas will destroy Jay-Z" or "Eminem got a better flow than Jay" Those are OPINIONS. When will you fools learn that you can't win a debate with OPINIONS. Every rapper has a different style based on where they are from, the time period in which they were most successful, and their unique personality. We all can go on for days about our personal preferences but in a debate criteria like this is completely IRRELEVANT and automatically BIASED. The only way to win a debate is with cold hard FACTS. And the fact of the matter is that, when you weigh all of the tangible criteria (Sales, Critical Acclaim, Consistency, Longevity, and Impact) Jay-Z makes the strongest case for the G.O.A.T. Eminem has sold nearly twice as much as Jay-Z, and he is Jay's equal when it comes to longevity and impact. But Em lacks the consistency or critical acclaim that Jay-Z has (Im not talkin cult/fanboy classics, Im talkin CERTIFIED classics. XXL/Rolling Stone/Source approved) Eminem is VERY close though. Nas has enjoyed more critical acclaim and more overall respect in the hip-hop community through the years. And he's definitely equal to Jay with longevity and impact. But he hasn't been no where near as much of a consistent presence in hip-hop as Jay has. And he is obviously lacking in the sales department. Lil Wayne just may be the most consistent rapper of all time. He's no slouch when it comes to longevity and impact either. His glaring flaw? In his 12 year career Lil Wayne has yet to drop a truly critically acclaimed classic album (and it can be done in this climate. just look at kanye's discography). Also, contrary to popular beleif, Wayne lacks in the sales department. Sure, Tha Carter III and IV are blockbuster albums, but his OVERALL sales of 10 mil US pale in comparison to Jay-Z's 31 mil. 2pac is a touchy subject. When it comes to impact, pac takes the cake. No other rapper touched the world like 2pac did. He, like Em, has also sold more than Jay and he was very consistent in his time. Sadly, 2pac passed before his time which allowed Jay-Z to surpass him in longevity and critical acclaim. LL Cool J was the prototype for what a G.O.A.T. could be. He has enjoyed the most longevity, and he was fairly consistent, but his sales, acclaim and overall impact are no where near the likes of 2pac, Eminem, and ofcourse Jay-Z. Biggie, Rakim, Common, Snoop, the list goes on. All of these MC's are great but none of them have the total G.O.A.T. package like Jay-Z does. Jay-Z is the 3rd highest selling rapper of all time, and the richest. He's one of the most acclaimed (perhaps only rivaled by his boy Kanye). He dropped multi-platinum albums YEARLY from 96'-03', and he is still going strong today. He's been in the game since 88'. He's impacted hip-hop in countless ways from starting one of the 1st successful MC-owned record labels, to being the 1st non-athlete with a signature shoe, to surpassing the likes of Elvis with #1 albums. Jay-Z is without question the Greatest MC Of All Time. Period. You don't have to listen to him everyday (Im currently on my Kendrick wave). You don't even have to like him. But for goodness sake, RESPECT THE FACTS.

    • OPINION, Not Facts!

      Boils down to opinion, faggot. Saying Jay-z has more critical acclaim than Em proves it. How come Em is ahead of Jay on every GOAT list ? Rollingstone, MTV, VH1, etc ?

    • Anonymous

      Someone please give this kid a cookie!

    • Jim

      Kind of defeats the purpose of telling people to not fight debates with opinions. You seem to have forgotten that what makes up the criteria for a "goat" is in and of itself up to personal preference, so pretty much all those accomplishments you just listed can mean nothing to the next person. Just saying.

    • Grown

      Respect! Yes Jay-Z does have the total package for a G.O.A.T and people have to respect that.

  • Grown

    I personally, I have so much respect for Jay-Z. One because we all know that he is not perfect but he is always growing and do better things for inspire us young black men to do better and improve our lives and our community. Jay-Z has done a lot for Brooklyn and his personal growth is something fans of hip-hop can look up too. What we can learn from Jay-Z is that we have to continue to grow and evolve ourselves to be better. His growth and improvement in life is something no one can ever take away from him, if Bennie Sigel and all of the old Roc-A-Fella artists were always growing as businessmen and improving their standing as artists, than they will not need any reason to hate or act like not having Jay-Z has ruined their chances.

    • Anonymous

      Well you have to respect someone for always wanting to be better and improving himself on the next level. Rap music was his start but pop music is where the dollars are at. Why do something that pays you less when you can do something that pays you more. No man owes another man any favors. In the end it is all about self and self interest. He is taking care of him, his closest friends, his community and his kids. No other person who is not important to him should be forced down on him to care for, only a man selects what is important to him. THE BEST EVER is not just determined by flows, it is always determined by where you stand STATUS wise from your beginnings to NOW. Jay-Z should get G.O.A.T Status because he started from nothing and now has a status no can touch.

    • Anonymous

      Well he's an ex drug dealer who contradicts himself at every turn, and breaks all the street codes he used to abide by and rap about on record which he notoriously became famous for. Now seems like one of the biggest hipocrites in raps history conforming to pop culture and pursuing his own personal interests in the world of business, there's no real power left.

  • Anonymous


  • NYC777--

    In Conclusion--Jay-Z and Kanye Wests No Church in the Wild is an example of a widespread and continual effort to promote police state imagery on TVs, movie screens and computer monitors across the world. Associating cool artists who are adored by millions of people with riot police not only normalizes the concept of a police state but also creates an unconscious positive association in the minds of the viewers. Meanwhile, in real life, protests across the Western world are increasingly being met with riot police. Violent repression, brutal arrests and sophisticated weaponry are being used with less and less restraint and are even becoming the norm. Peaceful protests are often purposely sabotaged by paid agent provocateurs who incite violence, legitimizing the police repression. DO NOT BE FOOLED by the smoke and mirrors that make up the news and music videos: The presence of heavily armed police forces during public demonstrations is not normal; rather, it is an aberration in a free and democratic society. However, this obvious fact seems to have been forgotten as police state laws and tactics and weaponry are being deployed with increasingly frequency across the world. But there is nothing cool or normal about riot police even if they are shown with strobe lights in a Jay-Z video. Even if they dance around with Rihanna, Beyonce or Lady Gaga. Even if theyre in all the video games. An oppressive police force is the opposite of normal in a free and just society. And if riot police ever do become normal, the elite will have accomplished an incredible feat: Duping the masses into accepting a police state, without it even knowing it.

  • Anonymous

    There are 3 types of HHDX fans.... 1. the people that suck Jay Z dick and believe he cant do know wrong 2. the people that don't care 3. the people that see right through that dumb satanic nigga!!!!

    • Anonymous

      REALLY THO-REALLY THO-REALLY THO........I wish I could see your ignorant face when you read this... you DUMB NIGGA.... FACT 1 Jayz 1st album.... song called D'evils... also DEVILS if your too dumb to figure it out.... "Illuminatti want my mind, soul and body, secret society's trying to keep an eye on me" so we know that Jayz knows there ARE SECRET SOCIETY's... FACT2 JayZ can be seen wearing Aleister Crowley quotes "do what thou wilt" do you know who he is... dummy? Prolly not... he called himself the devil and his sign was 666... same as lucifer.. FACT3 Jazz O... who JayZ stole his name from... is on camera admitting that Jayz loves homosexual sex FACT4 Jayz hand sign is the PYRAMID.... hmmm cant figure that one out either stupid?? FACT5 Rockafella Records.... need I say more... you know who the Rothschilds are, and the Rockafellas... prolly not cus you are a dumb negro!!!!! Theres a million more facts.... I dont have time.... If you cant see it... thats on YOU....stop with your bullshit... your favorite rapper is not a good human... stop trying to be a dissinfo agent... WE SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU!!!

    • reallytho

      word? why don't you educate us. What satanic messages are there to see through? give specific examples please. If you serve your god, why do you give a fuck about Jay-z or his fans? It ain't your job son. let god do him and you go find a job and invest in educating yourself instead of taking precious time to spew foolishness online. you can and should find better things to do with your time. that goes for all you other hiphop conspiracy theorists and trolls. spend less time being a lame and you might actually start to enjoy your life.

    • Anonymous

      I am #3 nigga!!! good shit!

  • Southern Fried

    This is the type of articles black men should be reading all the time. We have our head in the sand 24/7 and are in denial. Music is different for us because it infects us differently than other cultures. We need music that is helping us to learn. I don't care about your cars, clothes, hoes, u better than me, etc. Let us pray.

  • mdkeren2

    BELOW on every new video article and basically any new piece of content

  • Anonymous

    Jay-z is a child molleseter , somebody report this sick camel lookin nigga.


    HHDX: Please go back to reporting about rappers in skinny jeans beefing. This article is too mature for a HHDX because judging by the comments, it went right over most niggas heads.


    Haha I got you young dumb niggas fooled, thinking this babay is actually beyonces and mine... I adopted this kid from the BLACK NOBILITY BLOODLINE to keep the Illuminatti structure... I am a satanist, I believe in worshipping the devil, and homosexual sex!! I am a mind control handler, Beyonce and Rihanna are my bitches!!!!

  • Ryan

    There are so many Blacks out there with no fathers, maybe some people who look up to Jay-Z will do the right thing. I didnt have my real father in my life, my brother didnt have his, NONE of my friends had theirs... This shit has to stop for us to get ahead as a race.

  • Michael Scott Peterson

    So what we giving out awards for niggas being up standing fathers? Please in any event Jay is doing what needs to be done that shit shouldn't be looked upon as something he should be rewarded for. So fuckin what his father wasn't around when he was young hell half of the kids in the hood grew up without a father doesn't mean they'll make the same mistake their father did. Niggas need to take their fuckin cameras and shove them shits in some politicians face and figure out why their raising our taxes while they keep the same fuckin salary.

    • Anonymous

      i wonder how your comment would look if this article was about nas. the jay hate is just ridiculous.

  • Leroy

    It's cool that jays putting in the effort. Never thought about that trial changing his music.

  • Leroy

    Just cause your rich, don't mean u a good father. Just ask shawn kemp...or Steve jobs daughter.

  • billy bucks

    I know many people are laughing that being a father is now being placed on Jay-Zs list of credits and accomplishments. But if you read this article and truly contemplate everything Jay-Z has accomplished in his life (including being a father) it IS outstanding. You can hate Jay-Z all you want to. But there are only a hand-full of people that have done what he's done in hip-hop...

    • Anonymous

      He has'nt actually accomplished anything,but suck the pennies from out these baby's mouth!

    • Anonymous

      oskamadison::::: actully dumb nigga.... the truth is WE see right through JAYZ and his satanic bitch ass!!!!!!!!

    • oskamadison

      TRUTH!!! The mindless hate and sarcasm come from those who are simply missing the whole point.

  • Anonymous

    Now Jay Z can really retire now, Yeah!

  • sel

    Jay Z is so mature???? He only talks about how much money he has. Whoa thats mature. Jay Z is the best faterher ever and Beyonce the best mother ever. They deserve it. They had so much pain in there lifes. Nobody in the whole world had more pain then jay and beyonce.

    • Anonymous

      lol. jay's lyrics fly straight over your head. when nas brags about money (that he doesn't even own) and crimes (that he never did) it's cool, huh? jay's at least real.

  • Anonymous

    Father of the year. lol!!!!!! Just another senseless article by staff of DX which consist of dumb teenagers.

  • Ant

    Wow, Jay-Z has had a kid and is involved with its upbringing. What an amazing human being. You never see this anywhere else in the world

  • Anonymous

    By far the GOAT!