Weddings and marriage are not uppermost in the minds of most hip-hop stars (aside, maybe, from protecting one’s assets in a divorce). But despite the genre’s reputation for a less-than-progressive attitude towards women, hip-hop history is full of valuable lessons about marriage. (VH1 even created an entire franchise, “Love and Hip-Hop” about the romantic adventures of rappers.)
To be sure, for every sensitive Drake out there, there’s a dozen self-described “pussy monster” Lil’ Waynes. But your hip-hop fan heading into marriage can find some good advice by revisiting the classics, the kind of advice your dad might give. And we’re not just talking about Big Daddy Kane, Big Poppa, or Daddy Yankee. The wisdom of M.C.’s is all around us, often in unexpected places.
Here are some lessons from which every guy on the verge of marriage can profit.
Celebrate Your Queen
Most men are insecure, which is why we walk around bragging about how “real” we are. How much more appealing would be if you took a moment and expressed some appreciation for your woman instead. Give praise where it’s due. Acknowledge that, without her, you’d be a lonely loser with an embarrassing browser history. Remember the 2007 single “Make Me Better,” by Fabolous and Ne-Yo, where Fab says,
You plus me
it equals better math.
Ya boy a good look
but she my better half.
The point is, always acknowledge the way your woman improves your life. If you were to cut both you and your fiancé in half and have them surgically connected, which half would you want to date?
Throw Away Your Little Black Book (or Delete Tinder, If You’re Under 30)
Look, we know you were once an untamed lothario, and there’s a long list of ex-girlfriends in your past. It’s not enough to leave them there in the past; you must reassure your future wife that, from now on, she is the only one.
Need help with how to phrase it? Rely on the masterful language of Jay Z, whose 2002 collab with Pharrell “Excuse Me Miss,” includes this well-crafted promise of fidelity:
Love let’s go half on a son
I know my past ain’t one
you can easily get past
but that chapter is done.
(Ok, so he didn’t exactly live up to these words. But still, he said it so well.)
Let Her Know She’s Your Equal
Consider Notorious B.I.G.’s 1993 track “Me and My Bitch.” Yes, we know: that title doesn’t sound even remotely feminist. It’s not, and neither is the song, which offers plenty of things to object to.
But in one important way, this track depicts the kind of appreciation every husband should have for his wife. The woman Biggie raps about is no casual sex object to be treated with contempt: she’s his equal, his literal partner in crime, someone he knows will call him on his shit without hesitation:
And if I deceive, she won’t take it lightly
She’ll invite me, politely, to fight, G
And then we lie together, cry together
I swear to God I hope we fuckin’ die together
While we’re not suggesting you and your spouse start throwing punches, you should be equal partners, passionate enough to argue and loving enough to forgive.
If You’re Getting The Milk, Buy The Cow
There’s an old saying, “Why buy a cow when you’re getting milk for free?” which is often used to justify a life of prolonged bachelorhood. For the record, we don’t approve of that saying, and even though the question is rhetorical, we have an answer: because the cow isn’t a cow. She’s a woman, and she has equal say in the matter.
Given its general celebration of the player lifestyle, some people may think hip-hop is anti-marriage, but there are important exceptions, even if they are uncommon. Take Common for example.
Long before he got rich doing voiceovers for Microsoft commercials, Common was a serious rapper. In his 2002 collaboration with Mary J. Blige, “Come Close,” he sexily mutters,
It’s destiny that we connected girl.
You and I we can affect the world.
I’m tired of the fast lane,
I want you to have my last name.
Old-fashioned? Check. Romantic? Check and underline. There’s a reason Common was a college campus fave back in the day: you just got schooled.
Women Are Like Flags
Ok, one last questionable metaphor: Consider how a woman is like a flag. Both are bold and beautiful communicators, who dazzle when on display. Both sometimes need to be treated with special care, mended and cleaned. Neither a woman or a flag should be flown upside down, used as a drapery, or for covering a desk.
What does all this have to do with hip-hop, you may ask? Only everything.
You see, of all the lover-men ever to lick his lips and lace an alliterative lyric, none was ever more loved by ladies than LL Cool J. And as LL reminded us way back in “I Need Love,” that’s because he knows how to treat a lady right—which is to say, like a flag:
I’ll search the whole world
for that special girl.
When I finally find you
watch our love unfurl.
Notice the use of the word “unfurl.” Now ask yourself, what else unfurls? That’s right: flags. Patriotism.