Jay-Z’s road to fatherhood has been well documented as his evolution from “forever mackin'” to singing: “me and my girlfriend.” He has certainly evolved into Hip-hop’s first family outside the Obamas. Jay’s stance on fatherhood, trusting women, and slowing down fast enough to be caught by any woman has softened since the introduction of Beyonce into his art. It is interesting to analyze this song in lieu of the actual birth of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s daughter; whom the track, written in 2005, is ultimately for. Through his song “Beach Chair,” he focuses centrally on all he wants for his potential heir in the coming years. In the first verse of the song, Jay-Z spits in an observational tone that suggests he is reflecting on his own thoughts from the past: “Life is but a dream/I don’t wanna wake up/thirty odd years without havin’ my cake up.” Right out the gate, he paints a picture of his biggest nightmare; struggling to survive and allowing a life of poverty to curtail his dreams and aspirations for success. Through his ever growing catalog of music, Jay-Z has alluded to his heirs, his legacy, and being the father that his own was not. The title to Jay-Z’s song “Beach Chair” is the signature of ultimate success. The ability to sit back, relax, and enjoy the waves as they come crashing in. Nah, its not a sign of laziness or lack of work ethic; its a signal that you have worked, hustled, and built your wealth to the point where you can afford to pay folk to work and hustle for you. The end gold is to provide opportunities to those who come after us in general and to ensure that his actual offspring doesnt know the kind of struggles he has seen in his lifetime. Ultimately, success for Jay-Z manifests itself in how much access to opportunity Blu Ivy will have in his wake.
See I got demons in my past/so i got daughters on the way/if the prophecy’s correct/then the child should have to pay.
His primary fear isn’t death or being arrested; its living a life that he believe’s would be mediocre; which would ensure that his children were mired in mediocrity. He would rather hustle “24/7, 365, 366 in a leap year” to break away from the cycle of poverty that he was born in–even if its by unethical/illegal means like selling drugs. But the consequences of going “from havin’ shabby clothes” (as a poor kid in Brooklyn) to “crossing over/Abbey Road” (being as successful as The Beatles) still haunts Jay. He raps, “See I got demons in my past/so i got daughters on the way/if the prophecy’s correct/then the child should have to pay.” He Still, he would rather “barter [his] tomorrows” –gamble his own future success by selling coke in hopes that his child will have a brighter future.
In the last two bars of the first verse, he indicates why he risked so much for success: “when im no longer here/to shade her face from the glare/I’ll give her my share in Carol’s Daughter/And a shiney new beach chair.” Growing up in the Marcy projects of Brooklyn, the hope for riches was Jay’s most important goal because he saw how hard his mom had to work for what little she had and the desire to shield his own offspring from the same life of economic depression. He wants to protect his offspring literally–Carol’s Daughter is product that protects skin from the sun–and figuratively–the beach chair represents economic security.
In the second verse, he doesn’t let the fear bind him: “I ain’t afraid of dying/im afraid of not tryin/everyday/hit every wave/like im Hawaiian.” Not being distracted by mundane things is important and focusing on one’s goals and working toward aspirations is key to achieving the “hope’s of one’s grind.” He explains why his fearless, by-any-means-necessary attitude led him to success: “gun shots sing to these other guys/but lullabies don’t mean a thing to me.”
In the last few bars of the second verse, Jay displays his innate ability for wordplay, metaphors, and imagery. His metaphorical skills are impressive: “some said HOV, how u get so fly?/ i said from not being afraid to fall out the sky.” Above he compares the figure of speech, being “fly” (admired and above others) to literally not falling out the sky. He follows that by painting an amazing play on words: “when I say farewell/my soul will find a even higher plane to dwell.” It means that when he die’s, he will be on a higher plane (e.g. heaven or another dimension) or it could mean a literal air plane that fly’s higher. Brilliant.
For all the negative things he did to get to the point of his success, he has no regrets, “no compromises” about the means he used to achieve them. It was all for his own children and then heir to his legacy. He wanted to make life as easy as possible; because the environment he grew up in was so difficult. Until “she’s declared the heir/I will prepare/a blueprint for you to print/a map for you to get back.” His “last testament” is make sure his child isn’t “conned outta 2 cents.”The hustle isn’t for hustle sake. Its from a desire to provide a better environment for those who come after us. For those growing up in the ‘hood seeing tragedy after tragedy, it takes major success and work to right the wrongs of their pass. Thank God for Hip-hop.
*This is The Word…govern yourselves accordingly.