Meet Papa Jay-Z

Sure, his song about his new baby shows he's image-savvy, but it also proves he's a changed man.

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Jay-Z released "Glory," a song dedicated to Blue Ivy Carter, his newborn daughter with wife Beyoncé, on Monday. When I pressed play on the sentimental track, I was shocked.

Rap has been here before, of course. Only people who haven't spent many years listening to as much hip-hop as possible would be surprised that the genre's artists can be deep, introspective and personal. Die-hard Jay-Z fans recall the brief mention he gives to having a stillborn baby on the song "This Can't Be Life" from his 2000 release The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. Most recently, Jay-Z mined the fatherhood topic, albeit hypothetically, on "New Day" from last year's Watch the Throne album.

But anyone paying attention to Jay-Z's career notices how, over the years, he's attempted to dissociate himself from the stigmas of being just another rapper. He might record a verse with artists like T.I. or Rick Ross, but those are basic moves to keep his street cred intact: strategic but effortless.

These days, Jay-Z focuses on establishing himself as a living legend, not just within his genre, but beyond it. He has to be more than a critically acclaimed artist; he has to be image-savvy as well, so he does things like plan February's headlining shows at Carnegie Hall, then releases a song about the timeless topic of parenthood before his wife even gets released from the hospital.

Jay-Z doesn't write a song like "Glory" because rappers like Ja Rule have songs like "Daddy's Little Baby." He does it because legendary hip-hop artists like Lauryn Hill have songs like "To Zion." The cries that Jay-Z tacked on at the end of "Glory" aren't there because he thought it was adorable (it is). He's emulating Stevie Wonder's knack for nuance on "Isn't She Lovely."

Perhaps even slyer is how he one-upped his own wife. He knows that Beyoncé has all the tools to create a smash hit about their daughter, but before Mommy can even get in a recording booth, Daddy says a few words.

None of this is to say Jay-Z was all brains and no heart when he recorded "Glory." Vulnerable lyrics about a previous miscarriage and their daughter's conception are a clear indicator that her birth moved Jay-Z. The question is, for a rapper who has a reputation for being so tight-lipped about his personal life with his celebrity wife, what changed?

Back in 2009, after Jay-Z released The Blueprint 3, this publication published a commentary that I wrote entitled, "Jay-Z Should Rap About Marriage": "When are we going to hear one of these married or crazy-in-love rappers like Jay-Z rap about holy matrimony? With one song, Jay-Z can do what Hill Harper, Steve Harvey and arguably the Obamas have not been able to do. He can make marriage cool."

As a Jay-Z fan and a nerd when it comes to issues surrounding love, relationships and marriage, I was disappointed not to hear anything about those topics from my favorite rapper on that album. I thought it a missed opportunity.

On "Glory," Jay-Z goes beyond the personal and into the secretive, divulging details to which only the closest of kin was previously privy.

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