This is an essay I did on Nas’ and Jay Z’ different conceptions of black masculinity and how it relates to wealth, heterosexual and homosexual relationships and other factors. It’s long, but oh well.
Emma Holten, Queer Theories and histories, Spring 2014
Kept my name in his music
Nas, JayZ and the beef
“Whether exaggerated or not, men speak about their sexual conquests: “me and my boy hit it,
me and my boy did her, me and my boy did this”. So there’s a lot of ‘me and my boy’ in there.
Not so much about the woman, but ‘me and my boy.’”
– Michael Eric Dyson, in the documentary Hip Hop Beyond beat and rhymes
In her 1985 book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick introduced a more complex way to reflect on homosociality.
Homosociality, by her definition, is a close friendship/hatred/competition or other type of strong
affect between two people of the same sex. She emphasized that while these types of relations
between females tended to, in an organic, gradual way, go from nonsexual to sexual,
homosocial connections in males is “the radically disrupted continuum in our society…”
Thus, the point when a very close male relationship goes from being homosocial to homosexual
is a contested, political place.
Deeming her approach to be, in “generalized terms… achronic”, she encouraged scholars and
students to implement the method in their own analytical pursuits.
This type of “shift” becomes especially fraught in cultural spaces where homophobia is
rampant, as is the case in for example gangster rap and hip hop music: “… the cornerstones of
gangsta rap music – hypermasculinity, misogyny, and homophobia – pervade the genre.”
Conversely, rap music is also an environment that nurtures and encourages close relationships
with you friends or “homies”. This makes for an artistic and cultural sphere where the
homosocial continuum becomes somewhat of a balancing act of publicly showing respect and
love for your samesex collaborators, while outwardly never crossing the “line” into
In this essay I will attempt to illuminate how, in my interpretation, one rapper, JayZ in his song
“Takeover”, while praising his friends and insulting (dissing) a fellow rapper, was read as
having crossed this line in Nas’ response “Ether”. Further, I want to explore how the
structure of the homosocial continuum can be extended to other value assessments in male
relations like the meaning of money, status and race. Showing how the way we structure and
validate desire, sexuality and gender is a hugely political field, that cannot be excluded from
discussions of how we interact, even on the most basic levels.
The analysis will focus mainly on Nas’ contribution, seeing as it is an “answer” to JayZ’ attack,
and thus functions as an interpretation of this attack and its properties.