How Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Bold Predictions About Fatherhood on ‘Watch The Throne’ Played Out
Eight years and seven babies later, who knew Jay-Z and Kanye West’s open letter to their unborn children would pack so much truth, irony and foreshadowing?
Nestled at the heart of the tracklist of their only collaborative album, Watch The Throne, “New Day” envisions a fresh start, a clean slate of possibility and purity through infants’ eyes. The song was released on Aug. 8, 2011, eight years ago today, a buried jewel of an album cut out-gleamed by monstrous singles like “Niggas in Paris” and “Otis.” There was so much we didn’t know then, but clues are there, sprinkled on the tight, two-verse lyric sheet.
The inspiration for "New Day" sprung from a conversation the artists had at the Mercer Hotel in New York City about their impending fatherhood, according to Bu Thiam, then Def Jam’s vice-president of A&R.
“Both of the guys don't have kids yet,” Thaim told MTV News in 2011. “So, it was just a conversation that they were talking about just having kids and how they're gonna raise their kids because of the success that they're having now." In a better-paint-the-baby-room-yellow twist, both artists write to sons but actually had daughters first.
While touring the platinum Watch the Throne—a project that earned the Roc-A-Fellas seven Grammy nominations and has aged fine like expensive wine or expert stock portfolios—'Ye and Jay would perform “New Day” sitting down on a stage step, kicking wisdom from the world’s stoop.
“This my favorite shit I ever wrote,” Kanye would tell concert-goers, before imagining dad life through a social and political lens: "And I’ll never let my son have an ego/He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go/I mean, I might even make him Republican/So everybody know he love White people."
The song’s opening four bars are Mr. West’s response to the backlash he endured from blasting former President George W. Bush, racist media and the failure of FEMA during a 2005 Hurricane Katrina benefit telethon. That he contemplates making his unborn son Republican reeks of retrospective irony, given West’s recent support for and meetings with President Donald Trump and insistence on wearing MAGA caps.
Now strained if not estranged, the relationship between Jay and Kanye has a political bent. In the run-up to the 2016 election, Hov and Beyoncé supported Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton at her Cleveland rally, and Clinton praised Jay-Z for addressing racism, oppression and the criminal justice system.
Kanye’s verse continues: "Just want him to be someone people like/Don’t want him to be hated, all the time judged/Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge."
Ironically, Kanye’s most controversial and divisive moments weren’t in the rearview but way off in the distance when he penned these lines. The artist’s unwavering support for Trump, outrageous quotes about slavery, curious artistic choices (see: dressing up as a Perrier bottle to perform “I Love It” with Lil Pump) and public feuding with the highly popular Drake have harmed him in the polls.
That he chose to have his four children—North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm—with Kim Kardashian will make their avoiding the trappings of fame all the more challenging.
As for Jay, it's likely he already knew wife Beyoncé was pregnant when he opened his verse like this: "Sorry, Junior, I already ruined ya/’Cause you ain’t even alive, paparazzi pursuin’ ya."
Sure enough, cameras follow the billionaire Knowles-Carters on jetskis in tropical locales and on European vacations, snapping grainy pics of 7-year-old daughter Blue Ivy and 2-year-old twins Rumi and Sir.
Fun fact: When Jay-Z included two-day-old Blue’s cries at the end of his 2012 new-dad anthem “Glory,” she became the youngest person ever to appear on a Billboard chart.
But the most potent and prescient portion of Jay’s “New Day” verse is its conclusion: "And if the day comes I only see him on the weekend/I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him/Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin’/’Cause my dad left me, and I promise never repeat him."
Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s relationship would be in jeopardy when Jay’s infidelity (see: Becky with the good hair) led to turmoil and the very real possibility of weekend-only visits. But therapy, honesty and forgiveness would win out. The dad would remain in the frame of those paparazzi family shots.
“Look I apologize, often womanize/Took for my child to be born [to] see through a woman’s eyes,” a wiser Jay would write six years after “New Day.”
Still making sense of things and finding hope with a pen and a pad. —Luke Fox
See 55 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 10 in 2019