Kept my name in his music – Nas and Jay Z – 2001

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

Introduction

“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…”[1]

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”[2], 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.”[3]

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

homosexuality.

In this essay I will attempt to illuminate how, in my interpretation, one rapper, Jay­Z in his song

“Takeover”[4], while praising his friends and insulting (dissing) a fellow rapper, was read as

having crossed this line in Nas’ response “Ether”[5]. 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.

 

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