He should feel prepared to be a dad. He's been rapping about parenting for years.
The most anticipated baby of the year is here! Or it's on its way. Or it has here been here for months and its birth was kept under wraps. Or there is no baby at all and we've all been duped by an impressive public relations team.
I am, of course, referring to the progeny of entertainment's hottest couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, whose offspring has kept the gossip mill humming since we all learned of the pregnancy at the MTV Video Music Awards back in August. The truth is, we may not know the exact date of birth, since the couple have been so secretive about their private life that no one knew about their marriage until after it happened.
Regardless, this would be a good time to look at the best Jay-Z songs on the topic of fatherhood. From his rocky relationship with his own father to looking toward the future with children of his own, Jay-Z has tackled the issue of fatherhood quite a bit, and these songs represent the best of the crop.
5. "This Can't Be Life"
One of his first collaborations with producer Kanye West, this song from 2000's Dynasty album finds Jay in a moment of vulnerability that was incredibly rare at the time. Rapping alongside Beanie Sigel and Scarface, Jay-Z spends some time reminiscing on the ills of his drug-dealer past before dropping this poignant yet brief jewel: "It gets worse, baby momma water burst/Baby came out stillborn, still I gotta move on/Though my heart still torn, life gone from her womb/Don't worry, if it was meant to be, it'll be -- soon." You can feel the hurt from his missed opportunity to become a parent.
4. "Where Have You Been"
On the Dynasty album's last track, Jay-Z teams up with Beanie Sigel again to deliver some venomous bars directly to their absentee fathers. The hook on "Where Have You Been" features what sounds like a young boy innocently asking, "Daddy, where have you been?" but Jay's verse is anything but innocent, exclaiming, "F--k you very much you showed me the worst kind of pain/but I'm stronger and trust me I will never hurt again/will never ask Mommy, 'Why Daddy don't love me?/Why is we so poor? Why is life so ugly?/Mommy why is your eyes puffy?' " No love lost on this song.
3. "Moment of Clarity"
On what was intended (at the time) to be his final album (2003's The Black Album), Jay-Z comes full circle in his relationship with his father. In a "Moment of Clarity," over a brooding Eminem beat, he reflects on his feelings about attending his father's funeral shortly after they reconciled: "So Pop I forgive you/For all the s--t that I lived through/It wasn't all your fault/Homie you got caught." Here was the growth and maturity he was often accused of not possessing.
This one finds Jay-Z weaving a tale of immature teenage lust and its unfortunate consequences, which he grew up seeing quite often in his Bed-Stuy neighborhood in New York. He knows these characters well, from the young girl who gets caught up in the fast life to the young man who bucks his responsibility when his fling results in a pregnancy. The story is well-crafted and offers a twist in the chilling last line: "Six shots into his kid, out of the gun/Ni--as be a father, you killing your sons."
1. "New Day"
This is the crown jewel. His most recent full-length collaboration with Kanye, the hotly debated Watch the Throne album, found the two stuntin' and flossin' quite a bit, but in the middle of it all they took time to pen letters to their unborn children. Given the timing of this release, Jay was probably speaking to the actual fetus growing in Beyoncé's womb (and hoping for a son, apparently).
The song represents the culmination of all his thoughts on fatherhood up to this point. He starts by apologizing for the madness that the baby will undoubtedly be born into, but ends with: "Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin'/Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him/Never repeat him, never repeat him." Over a RZA beat with a Nina Simone sample in the background, it combines honest personal narrative with idealistic views of parenting that he'll soon have to live out.
Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer, social commentator and mental-health advocate. Follow him on Twitter.