THE king of hip hop and the queen of pop have had a baby girl that they've named Blue Ivy Carter. Up until now the hottest celebrity babies have been Apple, daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin; Suri, child of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; and the child of Eddie Murphy and Mel B (probably). But Blue Ivy trumps them all. Jay-Z marked the occasion by rapidly posting a song about the new child on his blog Life and Times. One hopes it was written before his wife was on her back in recovery.
Anyway, it’s a typically stylish way to salute the little nipper. Produced by The Neptunes, it has a Dilated Peoples' Worst Comes To Worst-esque intro, brassy triumphant chords, a hand-clap beat, a walk-down bassline and samples of Blue Ivy crying. Jay-Z’s pride and awe spill out:
The most amazing feeling I feel,
Words can’t describe what I’m feeling for real
Baby, I paint the sky blue,
My greatest creation was you
The mentions of Beyoncé’s miscarriage before the birth of B.I.C ( as she is credited on the record) prevent the prayers and God stuff from sounding trite. Euphoria and gratitude are at home here.
As I said, the song is true to form. It’s sophisticated and well-judged without being in-your-face. Beyoncé and Hova are a refreshingly private couple. They married in secret and we know very few details about the ceremony. Every party they’ve had has been “intimate”; the only detail (and a wonderful one) I’ve ever heard is that Jay-Z once filled massive glass cylinders with giant honey bees for his wife. To decorate the room, nothing sinister.
They rarely sing explicitly about each other or cash in on their connection. There was the impeccably cool duet 03 Bonnie & Clyde but they were in character. Later, on The Black Album, Jay-Z paid an understated but powerful tribute with the aching cries of “B, B, B, B” at the end of My First Song.
The release of Glory is the most open they’ve have ever been as a couple. The move could have been cloying, smug or self-indulgent but it isn’t and let me suggest the reason why: it's the strength of the story.
Details of the birth, the past, and the future, cartwheel through the track. It has a start, middle and an end. Unlike many pop songs that have one idea and then thematic tendrils, many of the best hip hop songs tell a tale.
The power of verse within hip hop and rap is its arsenal of words. It has the space to go above the simple pop standard, drawing in the listener with lyrical embellishments, confessions, reminiscences. In Glory, we hear about the “pain of the last time” which we assume refers to the previous miscarriage. It’s matched by the lovely image of Blue Ivy dancing in the tummy:
Your mama said you danced for her
Did you wiggle your hands for her?
Later we hear about Jay-Z’s father’s alcoholism: “he died of liquor failure and then he died of liver failure” and the son’s revolve not to repeat the same mistakes. And it wouldn’t be a celebaby if we didn’t find out where she was conceived – Paris – the day before Beyoncé’s album Four (IV – coincidence?) was finished.
Some of the best hip hop tracks are stories. Aesop Rock’s No Regrets is a master in the story-telling category, Ice-T’s 6 ‘n’ the Morning and Warren G’s Regulate are also worth listening to. Wu-Tang Clan and particularly Ghostface Killah tell a good tale. For me, these tracks are preferable to much of the 'ho's, bitches and bling' tedium. The simple fact of having more words to play with in a rap and colourful back stories make for yarns – and Jay-Z just keeps getting better at it.