In the song “Ape Sh-t” with his wife Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Jay-Z called out the NFL saying, “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.” However, today the rapper is rhyming a different tune. Last month Jay-Z formalized a deal with the NFL through his entertainment company, Roc Nation to consult on live music entertainment for league events. For many it seemed a slight departure from where the rapper previously stood. Two years ago, Jay-Z donned a Colin Kaepernick jersey on Saturday Night Live in support of the shunned football player, but recently he’s expressed that, “We’re past kneeling.”
And yet, we’re not pass police brutality and Kaepernick is still out of a job.
Despite the controversy, both Jay-Z and Kaepernick are incredibly influential. But when it comes to their significant others, Beyoncé and Nessa’s presence and support plays a role in how the public perceives them. This is not to say Kaepernick and Jay-Z rely on their women for public acceptance, but when it comes to high-profile relationships like these (especially for couples of color) women can have a strong impact in how accepted and admired their man is. Take for example, Michelle Obama or Winnie Mandela. While their husbands are beloved and respected, their own character and popularity helps to fuel the admiration of their husbands. Imagine if Michelle spoke out publicly against her husband or if Winnie went on vacation instead of fighting for the political leader’s freedom? It would cast a shadow on how these men are viewed and stir public doubt and confusion.
The Carters, Diab and Kaepernick are each separate forces. However, when it comes to how both men are perceived, Nessa and Beyoncé have influence.
This isn’t the first time Jay-Z’s actions have raised eyebrows. Who could forget when Beyoncé spilled all that tea about his cheating through her Lemonade album in 2016? However, instead of sending the Bey Hive after him or canceling him through an exclusive interview, she stood by him. This forced the public to forgive him and move on as Beyoncé had, and kept Jay-Z from being socially black balled. Beyoncé wasn’t holding his infidelity against him and so neither were we. Instead of boycotting his 4:44 album, we streamed it, making it his top six album.
Nessa, a radio/TV personality, contributes to Kaepernick’s image by reminding us of his humanity. Kaepernick has become one of our generations most prominent activists, akin to Muhammad Ali. He is a symbol of pro-blackness and revolution. However, Nessa forces us to look beyond what Kaepernick represents and instead at what he means to her. We see her love for Kaepernick when she goes to bat for him via social media or on the radio. She not only defends her man but his mission with unfiltered passion and frustration.
Nessa doesn’t censor her statements when defending what she believes in. When Jay-Z signed with the NFL, she called the deal “disgusting” and clarified that Kaepernick had not been included in the conversation beforehand. Although Kaepernick released a different response, he didn’t dispute Diab’s statement which showed a level of endorsement. It also allowed us to see another side of him through Nessa which shows just how much the couple reflects one another.
In addition to speaking up for Kaepernick, Nessa also took the time to nurture his interests. She introduced him to her former colleague Ameer Hasan Logginsat, a professor at Berkeley who taught black representation in popular culture. This allowed Kaepernick to deepen his understanding of African-American culture and is part of what prepared him to become the activist he is today.
Unlike Nessa, Beyoncé rarely expresses herself through interviews or social media. Instead she uses her music to send a message. Even in the wake of her husband’s debated deal, Knowles shows solidarity by maintaining her silence. Speaking out against her husband has never been Knowles’ style to begin with. Through their use of music and absolved silence, the Carters manage to control their own narrative. Beyoncé’s loyalty and dedication to Jay-Z sways our view of the rapper. Because of who Beyoncé is, our trust in her pushes us to have faith in her husband, despite his debatable actions. She did the same through their joint album, Everything is Love, where the couple demonstrated musical and marital harmony. The album is lyrical proof of her complete forgiveness of Jay-Z and their step toward a better future.
In prominent couples like Diab and Kaepernick and the Carters, women have the power to uplift or undermine their partner. With the world watching, it’s easy to fall victim to the assumptions or the preconceived notions of others. However, Nessa and Beyoncé prove that with the right person, couples can create the perception they want and deserve. Behind every Jay-Z and Kaepernick, there’s a Beyoncé and Nessa amplifying the layers and the greatness that they see in their partners.