Daddy Denied: Jay-Z Says Fatherlessness Made Him Delay Becoming A Dad

While practically anyone with access to a computer and wi-fi is writing titillating stories about every… single… morsel… of information about Beyonce’s pregnancy—She’s craving waffles! It’s a girl! Auntie Kelly bought her yet-to-be-born niece a $5,000 hot pink crystal bath tub!—GQ, one of my favorite go-to magazines for in-depth profiles with substance and style, struck journalistic gold with an in-depth, thoughtful interview with daddy-to-be Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. In it, the writer borrows lyrics from Jay-Z’s “New Day,” a song off his and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album, to kick off a discussion about the rapper’s absentee father and how he plans to be a better dad to his baby. He raps:

Promise to never leave him, even if his mama tweakin’
‘Cause my dad left me and I promise to never repeat him
Never repeat him
Never repeat him.

In the GQ story, Jay-Z acknowledges that now that he’s going to be a father, he’s thinking a lot about his own father, Adnis Reeves—how his connection with his “superhero” was “ripped away” after Adnis, devastated by the death of his brother, became an alcoholic and substance abuser and left the family. A month after father and son began to reconcile in 2003, Adnis died. The GQ piece, the cover story of the magazine’s Men Of the Year 2011 issue, continues:

All that was part of why Jay wanted to wait to have kids. That promise, in “New Day,” that fear of repeating his father’s mistakes—it’s real. He knows, intellectually, that he’s not just going to spaz out and leave. “But I bet he didn’t believe he’d spaz out and leave either,” Jay shrugs.

He was rich enough to provide, years ago. But he wanted to be rich enough to be present—to leave rap alone for a while, if necessary, and not in a trumped-up pseudoretirement kind of way.

“Providing—that’s not love,” he says. “Being there—that’s more important. I mean, we see that. We see that with all these rich socialites. They’re crying out for attention; they’re hurting for love. I’m not being judgmental—I’m just making an observation. They’re crying out for the love that maybe they didn’t get at home, and they got everything. All the material things that they need and want. So we know that’s not the key.”

I know that there was quite a brouhaha over the massive attempt by conservative, married black folk to use Beyonce and Jay-Z’s pregnancy announcement as a referendum on black marriages and single black motherhood, and I promise you, I’m not using this post to enter that fray. If you’re a regular MyBrownBaby reader and you know my heart, you also know I’m happy for any black woman who becomes a mom, and if she chooses to do so without marrying the man who helped her create that baby, her business, her right.

But there’s another side to this story—one in which a black man who grew up without a father in his life made the deliberate decision to plan his parenthood. To wait to become a father until he was confident he could be the kind of dad he needs to be—wants to be— to his child. This is such a radical departure from the average excuse that always seems to be tossed out when black fathers who are the unfortunate victims of absentee fatherism are running from their own responsibilities as dads. You know the one—“My father wasn’t around and I don’t know how to be a dad, so…”

Jay-Z provides yet another blueprint: If you don’t know how to be a dad, figure it out before you bring another life into this world, so that you can be ready for the awesome task of raising another human being.

Yet another reason why I love me some Jay-Z.

Check out the GQ interview in its entirety, here—it’s well worth the read.


1. Dear Daddy: New Documentary Tells the Story of Fatherlessness Among Daughters
2. Congratulations Beyonce & Jay-Z: Welcome To the MyBrownBaby Crew!
3.  A Second Chance: Should Kelly Rowland Let Her Absentee Dad Back In Her Life?
4. Motherhood Denied: The Dark Legacy of North Carolina’s Eugenics Law, Through the Eyes Of A Black Mom

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Thanks D. Marriage must become the first choice for mothers and fathers. Your post appears to lean on (absentee) fathers but not (single) moms. The basic family structure of marriage is the best option I have seen as it does the following: increases income significantly; improves the neighborhood where you live; increases chances of success of your children; provides two heads when raising children instead of one. One can choose to ignore the evidence but it is there and overwhelming.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      I’m with Liona on this one, Anthony: Not everyone has the privilege, desire, resources to find a marriageable partner, but that shouldn’t ever stop a human being’s desire to reproduce. And I’m “leaning” on absentee fathers because single moms, no matter the financial, emotional, mental, physical situation, are consistently held to a higher standard of parenting responsibility than fathers, as if a man’s responsibility is a choice rather than a requirement. Perhaps there’s something to moving on from the bashing of single moms as the problem and addressing why so many men think it’s okay to make children with women and then shirk their responsibility to those children. Our society has it set up nice and tidy so that we place that blame on the shoulders of the mothers. What this post says is that it takes TWO to make a child, and perhaps it’s high time men started considering the ramifications and consequences of having unprotected sex with women when they have absolutely no game plan to deal with those consequences.

    • As a social science researcher I appreciate your analysis of the outcomes of single parent households. Yet, it behooves us to realize that we can only measure what already is. We cannot measure what could be. What I have always asserted is that the reasons why there are so many negative outcomes associated with single parenthood is not because being a single parent is inherently negative but because of what we make single parenthood mean in a status competition capitalist society with few social services. It is entirely possible to imagine a society where a single mother OR father has access to part time and full time subsidized day care, flexible work hours, extended paid maternity leave, and universal health care. All of that would address the largest negative effects of single parenthood you describe. One may not have MORE income but they’d need less income to provide a stable home in a decent neighborhood because 40% of their pay wouldn’t be going to child care and health insurance. Decent neighborhood schools whose quality isn’t so tightly coupled to local real estate prices could mean there’d be less of a quality of life penalty to living in a lower income neighborhood. Etc., etc.

  2. Thanks for the post. I think it is awesome that he chose to wait to be sure he was ready to take on the responsibility that he lost as a child from his own father leaving…

    In response to Anthony, I don’t think marriage has to be the first choice for everyone that decides to have a child. Not to mention those families that are not typical, their union is not even acknowledged in every state. There are happy and functional people in this world that have been raised by their Grandparents, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, Foster Parent, Step parent, Dads, Moms, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts, Uncles… a family works by what is offered or can be offered to a child, love, stability, a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, etc, etc, etc…

    Yes it would be great if every single family could be a two parent family but that is not always the case… So the next best thing is to deal with what you have been given and to make the most out of it…

  3. And his wife, Beyonce stated in her recent interview for Harper’s Bazaar that she prolonged becoming a mother until she became the woman she wanted to be. I know every one can’t do this, but it is the best thing to do when deciding to bring children into this world.

  4. D, you are such a dope Writer. And this piece is so on spot. #ThatIsAll

  5. Loving this article. You touch on some good topics. I am an aunt of 9 and I soooooooo understand Jay! I want to wait until I know I can be present and I feel the world is safe for my child’s life. If I do not have the resources to help my child, then this womb is not housing anyone. Love Thanks!

  6. Love Love LOVE him!! I remember telling my friends in high school if I could raise a Sean Carter w/o the selling drugs factor I would be happy but seeing his struggle, his growth, and the man/husband/father he’s become I’m so much more in admiration of him. This was a great article and I wish all the young guys lashing out making babies would just stop to consider what could be if they just took their time and chilled on rushing to grow up.

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