*When news broke of his romance with Beyoncé, Jay Z’s mainstream appeal took immediate flight. His identity underwent a pivotal change, transforming him from a drug-dealing wordsmith into a polished gentleman worthy of first-class citizenship. After the untimely deaths of iconic rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, a vacancy opened for hip-hop’s next kingpin.
With no legitimate rival in sight, Jay Z was handed the proverbial torch by default. Hungry for a savior, the rap community readily embraced its new champion. He was given a perch to occupy alone, high above his contemporaries, but still too radical for America’s conservative elite. In the years that followed, a renaissance of teenage rebellion swept across suburban neighborhoods, propelling hip-hop to the foreground of pop culture. Jay Z was consequently in route to becoming the Obama of contemporary music: all he needed was a First Lady. Fortune later provided the perfect companion.
When the duo officially went public in early 2003, Beyoncé’s solo career was on a vertical path. The 90s had come and gone, and her leading role in Destiny’s Child quickly became a distant memory. The process was also made easy because many of her peers suddenly disappeared from the spotlight. Blindsided by a drought of marketable female performers, the R&B landscape desperately needed a sparkplug. Beyonce responded with one of the highest-selling debut albums in American history.
Although his following remained loyal, Sean Carter’s ongoing legal battles, his turbulent split from then business partner Damon Dash, along with the explosive emergence of Southern-style emceeing, caused his star to diminish. He later announced the first public retirement in hip-hop history. Contrastingly, Beyoncé continued to ride the momentum of her rapidly growing success—including multiple Grammy nominations, leading roles in feature films, and enough endorsements to rival Michael Jordan’s portfolio in his prime. Her shoulders also carried the load of Jay Z’s sputtering fame.
Hidden comfortably in the background, a series of sublime business maneuvers hoisted him to the Forbes List’s lower rung. Simultaneously, his increased wealth and entrepreneurial dexterity attracted the attention of Corporate America. His finanicial rebirth also came with a price. Seemingly alienated from the rough exterior of street life, Jay Z’s new polish rendered him unfit for hip-hop’s crown. The culture hadn’t yet evolved. His numerous fans, though still devout, reluctantly moved on.
Beyoncé’s reign of music supremacy sliced through the next decade and catapulted her to record-breaking heights. The fragrance of her success even masked the stench of her future husband’s decomposing reputation. He was no longer at the top of his profession. That position was reserved for a younger, fresher MC, not a cruddy old dinosaur. Instead, Jay Z became the world’s most celebrated groupie and purse holder.
With egg on his face, the forty-something-year-old rapper embarked on a ferocious comeback tour. He sold millions of albums. He packed stadiums and arenas. He opened a posh playground for adults in New York. He put an embargo on skinny jeans and auto-tune in hip-hop. He unleashed an ego monster named Kanye West. Still, even with new ingredients, his cooking delivered the same dry taste. “Hova” officially became mortal, and worse, unoriginal.
Today, rumor spreads widely of Jay Z’s repeated adultery. His elongating paper trail of extramarital affairs continues to dominate headlines and radio conversation. The newest mistress in question, former R&B sexpot Mya, has shifted media speculation into another gear. Formerly an item in early 2000, the likelihood of their continuing affair adds depth to this highly-public melodrama.
Regardless of the truth, Beyonce will eventually inherit enough subject matter to produce her next platinum selling album (and perhaps a sequel). The press, her salivating critics and fans, have initiated a full-on blitz into her private life, helping facilitate the growth of a premature scandal.
Like a wise PR veteran, she remains conscious of her words to the public and has offered strategic moments of transparency. With the bigger picture in mind, Beyonce will continue to keep her lips zipped. She has already become a better business mind than her husband, and a public divorce would offer countless opportunities for her to exact revenge and earn sympathy: including non-stop talk-show appearances, book deals, and everything else pursued by a woman scorned and internationally worshiped.