How does a song that lasts only 2 minutes and 38 seconds, a song that’s a throwaway track on a GOAT-level rapper’s sprawling but unfocused double album become a motto, a way of life, a modus operandi for a little over a decade?
Quite easy, really. When the guy adopting that song doesn’t think very much of himself and takes it out on the people he wished he could get close to. When his own ineptitude stopped that from happening, the projection was real.
“Bitches & Sisters” is 15 years in the rear-view mirror, a bonus track on Jay Z’s Blueprint2 album that used the time-honored tradition of the Madonna-Whore complex to separate the bad girls (bitches) from the good (sisters). I still remember the first time listening to the album in the Hornet newspaper office on the campus of Delaware State University and feeling like Hov had written that song for me.
My first few semesters at DSU were really more so about me buying into the hype EVERYBODY on college campuses were fuckin’. Or at least working on finding happily ever after. Easily influenced, I got the romantic words from my mother and other elders (“Girls go to college and look for husbands) and the raw from my peers (“Man, chicks down at Del State be ready to GO!”).
As a lonely high school nerd teased for my weight and many other things, college sounded like a dream come true. Even though I had randomly already begun sexual activity before enrolling, the prospect of smart Black girls who loved sex having sex with me was too good to be true.
And it was. For one, I was still holding onto an unrequited high school love, so the seeds of discontent were already sewn in that regard. Also, I was still a very self-loathing person, a habit I picked up in a flop attempt to be humble and a pre-emptive strike against being roasted. If I thought I wasn’t worth a damn, nobody else would be bothered to insult me, right?
The most important part of this sorry equation is the simple fact I had NO game. No one bothered telling me that in order to have women interested in you on any level, you have to be an interesting human being. That, I was not. I didn’t even bother wearing decent clothes in college. I truly wore sweatpants and a t-shirt every day at DSU. Ask anybody who was there with me – I only wore jeans and a golf shirt when I was covering football and basketball games.
Maybe the dress code wasn’t important, but the fact I expected to be swimming in panties for being “nice” was the biggest red flag of all, and I was too far gone to stop it. Enter “Bitches & Sisters,” a song that might as well have been Amazing Grace to me. The second verse was a dream.
Sisters get respect, bitches get what they deserve
“YEAH! Fuck her for not doing what I want, that’s why the dude she fucked dropped her!”
Sisters tell the truth, bitches tell lies
“Man she know she fuckin’, how she gon tell me that’s not what she lookin’ for?”
Sisters love Jay cuz they know how Hov is/I love my sisters, I don’t love no bitch
“YEAH! There’s a difference! Most of y’all on this campus bitches though.”
If I’d left this mentality behind in college, there really wouldn’t be a point to this. That should tell you where we’re going next.
I graduated with a degree in journalism and not long after that, I got my first full-time job in journalism, another disappointment in itself, but I had a car, a crib, a steady paycheck doing what I loved. Women love that kind of shit, right? Once again, I was sorely disappointed and instead of looking inside, figuring out what I was doing wrong, I ignored the common denominator and went with the easy path of blaming women for being superficial and shallow.
Looking back on Chris in his 20s and early 30s, I can admit that dude was a shit person – insecure, bitter, entitled, very much a projector. Oh yeah, and sex-hungry to the point that women were never people to me – just body parts and bodies in general. I was very much a follower in that respecting women was for corny ass dudes who really just wanted the same thing us raving misogynists wanted – they just took the long way home. Little did I know…
Fast forward to 2017. The same guy who was capable of breaking women down to simple pejoratives just wrote an entire album apologizing for fooling around on and breaking the heart of one of Planet Earth’s finest women MULTIPLE TIMES and realizing that things may not be the same because of his mistakes.
The first time I heard the 4:44 title track on the radio (Tidal was too rich for my blood before this new employment, still is), I couldn’t believe this was the same guy. Emotional Availability? Thinking about his kids? Realizing any miscarriages were of his own doing?
But instead of thinking that one Shawn Corey Carter was just pandering, one Chris Stevens began looking at his own dealings with women and how in spite of my presentation of being harmless…I really wasn’t. While I never overstepped my bounds physically, my mouth was reckless, my impatience and heavy-handedness when it came to trying to get what I want and nothing else…or nothing more…was damaging to say the least.
Admitting imperfection is one thing – anybody can do that. Admitting being a harmful person takes a level of honesty that not many of us, man or woman, straight or gay, Black or white, are ever willing to take on. The journey isn’t easy. It took Jay Z a solid 15 years between “Bitches & Sisters” and “4:44” to finally admit that he was terrible. Living with the fear of it being too late (“What if..you over…my shit…”) is a real thing.
And to a lesser extent, I’ve had to admit to myself recently that I’ve been in my own way when it comes to dating/relationships/socializing with women. No one told me to hate myself so much that I might as well have been wearing a neon billboard that said “LOW SELF ESTEEM – DEBBIE DOWNER – STAY AWAY!”
No one told me to not see women as nothing more than tits and ass.
I should’ve always been responsible for developing a personality – that includes going outside for more than work purposes, taking better care of myself physically so I wouldn’t be so self-loathing, being interested in anything a woman says that doesn’t start or end with “Yes, we can have sex.”
So while I’ve had this epiphany in my own life, I can’t say the same for others – everybody reaches a point of change at different times.
Problem with that is there are men still killing women because they can’t handle rejection. There are men who violate women physically simply because they can. There are men who still employ the Madonna-Whore complex or “Bitches & Sisters,” treating women based on how they appear or act. If it’s not in line with a man’s vision of how women should be, which is basically catering to our physical whims, then she’s bad news, branded with a scarlet letter.
Wild part about that is when women do go along with the program, they’re still thought of as being fooled, tricked or gamed, which is a LOUD sign of how men view themselves. “She actually gave it up to ME? I can’t believe it! I got one over! HA!”
It takes some time to work through, but men have to want to work through these issues to begin with. Women in the 21st century have drawn the figurative line in the sand – they really don’t take just anything from anybody anymore. While some of it is jokes, many women have started to give back as good as they once got and men cannot handle it because the prospect of women realizing their true power and adjusting/acting accordingly is devastating as hell. You thought it was hard to give women the bare minimum before? Ain’t no more bare minimum, bih.
So if Jay Z can admit to being a danger to women, regular-ass dudes should take a look at themselves and figure why we even have to have a “4:44” moment when we shouldn’t have even had a “Bitches & Sisters” mentality in the first place.