avatar for Antonia Randolph

Antonia Randolph

Antonia Randolph is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Winston-Salem State University. Her interests include diversity discourse in education, non-normative black masculinity, and the production of misogyny in hip-hop culture. She published most recently in The Feminist Wire and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Her current book project, That’s My Heart, examines portrayals of intimate relationships and of black inner-life in hip-hop culture.

“Men Birthing Intimacy: The Case of Jay-Z’s 4:44"”
Research shows that male homosocial spaces often discourage emotional vulnerability and encourage sexism (Bird 1996). Hip-hop deviates slightly from that trend by providing male homosocial spaces for open expression of affection towards men, but not towards women (Oware 2011; Randolph, Swan, and Rowe 2017). This paper examines how Jay-Z’s song “4:44” transforms male homosocial spaces into settings that give birth to male intimacy towards women. I argue that the album’s sole producer, No ID, provided the conditions for Jay-Z to reveal feelings that he could not express on his own (Leight 2017). Interviews show that No ID acted as a midwife that induced the birth of Jay-Z’s disclosures about his infidelity that he wanted to discuss, but did not know how (Leight 2017). Through a series of actions, including being the sole producer and soliciting Jay-Z’s personal playlist, No ID created an environment of trust and disclosure that eased the birth of Jay-Z’s most revealing song. Moreover, the video footnotes to “4:44” feature a group of Jay-Z’s male friends collectively nurturing their ability to be emotionally vulnerable within heterosexual romance. They cite their lack of guidance from other male figures, including their biological fathers and “old heads” from the streets, as necessitating their collective need to teach each other how to be emotionally open. Thus, romantic intimacy was a ability that black male musicians collectively grew in each other. This model of men using homosocial spaces to be vulnerable and honest about the hurt they caused is an important departure from previous research showing black musicians nurturing emotional intimacy at the expense of their female partners (Carby 2009).