The interview with my husband was harder than I thought it would be.
While I insist on telling the truth and being vulnerable in my writing it’s not something that’s always easy for me. Vulnerability is hard for me because in being vulnerable there’s no real way to protect myself from discomfort, pain, and judgement. I try to make up for how F’ed up I am by how well I write but in talking with my husband about Jay-Z, the album, and our turn at reconciliation and forgiveness I realized—there’s no way for me to clean this up.
We were a mess back in the day.
Still, our narrative is our narrative. I’ll own that. I’ll also own how much we’ve grown and that we’ve learned a lot about love.
I’m happy to know my husband. Thankful he’s been my longest friend and that he’s my family. I love how screwed up and beautiful he is and while the interview wasn’t easy, I’m excited to share with y’all some of what came up out of our 4:44 musings. This interview took two days. Leave a comment if you have any questions or feedback and don’t be afraid to share.
Q: When did you know that you loved Jay-Z as an artist? What was the specific moment you realized you were a fan?
Mikey: “Chris Petrie is my cousin and I love him, and if he ever reads this I want you to know I love you cuz. Anyway, he was a big Jay-Z fan. Whenever me, Brandon, and Chris would talk music we would each discuss our favorite record label. At that time, Chris was big on Roc-A-Fella and I didn’t really listen to them like that because I was big on Bad Boy and you couldn’t tell me shit about anything outside of: Biggie, Puff, Mace, and everything that Bad Boy did. I couldn’t listen to anything else. At this time I was eight or nine. Brandon was a year older than me, he was ten and Brandon’s favorite was Dirty ENT and Saint Lunatics—he loved Nelly. That was his thing. However that day, Chris played Blueprint over Auntie Grace’s stereo when she was gone and the song that he played was Takeover and the beat did something to me. The beat—oh my God yo—when the beat for Takeover dropped? Shit. It was the fuckin’ guitar rifts. The ‘dun dun dun dun’ and we all simultaneously bobbed our heads to it. ‘R-O-C we runnin’ this rap shit’ and I was like ‘You got it Jay! You runnin’ it’ and we just kind of ran with it from there. It was this perfect mixture of cocky and seamless delivery to a beat that just made me say, ‘Yo whatever words he says, I fuck with from now on.’”
Mikey: “So we were listening to the album and we were playing NBA Street and we go from Takeover to Izzo to Girls, Girls, Girls In that order and I was like ‘Oh so not only can he really rap, but he’s cocky and named a song after himself and now he’s just talking about himself and makes himself seem like the greatest person ever. Girls, Girls, Girls is still one of my favorite songs to this day and you want to know why Randie? Because the song is called Girls, Girls, Girls. To myself I said,
‘You know what Jay-Z? You got the right mind.
You have the right thought process because I love girls too. I love girls all over the world Jay-Z. Tell me more about these girls you love.’ As I got older I listened to him more and I related. I related to every single struggle line and every single line about hustling. If it wasn’t something I did it was something I’d seen. It was [also] great to see him succeed. Every time Jay-Z was successful I felt successful. If Jay-Z just dropped a new album and it went platinum, we went platinum. Roc-A-Fella just signed somebody else, we just signed somebody else, and we were in a really good place as a label. We were number one on 106 & Park and we were killing it. I used to rap in the shower because the shower head looks like one of those microphone in the booths and I’d move my head around the water and get my hand movements to look like Jay-Z’s. [My thoughts]: Carry yourself like Jay-Z and dress like Jay-Z. I only had one pair of S (dot) Carters but I had a pair. If I did what Jay- did, I would be like Jay-Z. He was a really great role-model. He had money, he had women, and he could rap. He did some questionable things though. Jay-Z hit people and he slapped women. He was a little more disrespectful than I liked so I wasn’t going to do that but, this hustling shit? I could really fuck with that.”
Q: What did you love about the 4:44 album?
Mikey: “So that cocky, hustling, womanizing nigga that we just spoke about from Blueprint, Reasonable Doubt, and all those other albums just basically said he has feelings and he hurt someone else’s feelings and that made him feel worse. He’s remorseful and he explains why. He laid all those things out to bear. In his music Jay-Z has always been honest but 4:44 was more honest than ever. 4:44 was softer.
The album was an honest telling of a man’s fuck ups. It was an exposure, and it was black male vulnerability from somebody that knows the power and position that he holds when it concerns black men. Just like with me and you, Jay-Z was getting to that point where Beyonce wasn’t playing the game any more. Beyonce is not struggling. She doesn’t need Jay-Z. She chooses to be with Jay-Z out of love or that connection that they share or whatever the case is and he almost fucked up and when you get to that point, and if it’s worth it to you—and women like y’all are–, you’re gonna do something. . . Jay-Z didn’t have to make this album and that again speaks to the maturity of it. However, was he going to be quiet after we all heard Lemonade? He could have been quiet, he really could have, but he owes it to people. He owes it to his wife, his kids, and the people who love him, and want to hear from him. We’ve all been wondering what he’s going to say next and if it was going to be something worth saying and it was. Also, I loved the album because of the great instrumentation. I really loved the production on the album but that’s because the producer is the shit. All it was missing was Kanye.”
Q: What didn’t you like about yourself and why?
Mikey: “One of the things I didn’t like about myself was that I didn’t feel like people saw me as something that was desirable or cool when I was compared to some of my former friends. I wasn’t someone that everybody was chasing after or what everybody was talking about. I didn’t like that I wasn’t special to other people. This was before I grew up. Still, back then I didn’t have a sense of self-worth. I was still discovering myself and who I was. I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be. Which personality was I going to make the permanent one? I wasn’t happy with who I was as a person. There’s nothing I can pinpoint, I was just unhappy and I was sad.
However, with girls I could be whoever I wanted to be. This meant I could get and do whatever I wanted to do. There were many different sides to me. If a girl wanted somebody to be more sensitive, I’d be more sensitive or appear to be more sensitive. Fake it till I make it. If she wanted a dude to sit down and talk, I’d talk and listen—if I was going to get something out of it. Or, if she just wanted a dude for sex? I’d be that too. If she wanted a relationship, I could pretend and do that too. I was a chameleon. I fit whatever I needed to fit because I didn’t know myself to love myself.”
Q: How did your relationship with your father impact your relationship with women?
Mikey: “My relationship with my father was complicated. In the earlier years when my father was in prison he would send birthday cards that he would draw or paint. That was the only connection that I had but I used to love it.
I noticed that we had similar handwriting and we wrote our names the same. I was constantly trying to find a connection with what I was given.
We weren’t throwing the ball back and forth but it was nice because he thought of me enough to write those cards and to do something in my name, which was his name.
Anyway, I finally visited my father for the first time in 2001. My mom asked me if I wanted to see him and I said yes. We went to Ross or Marshalls and she let me pick out an outfit. I got Khaki pants and a Khaki shirt. I thought I was so clean.
That day I saw him for the first time and we took the only picture of us that exists. I’m in my khakis and he was in his khaki jumpsuit and we matched, which was weird, but that’s the full extent of my relationship with my father.
After meeting him, I created a persona or this goal of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to be as a man and as a father. Especially after I learned more about him. I knew of things he did wrong and I wanted to do the exact opposite. I thought to myself, ‘How can I stay out of prison? How can I be better or smarter in relationships? How can I position myself as a father-figure and as a father myself? What can I do to prevent a child from feeling what I felt and having the experiences I had that left me empty and feeling as if I was missing half of myself?’
However, prior to getting to that point of clarity and knowing what I wanted to do with my life, my relationship with my father or lack thereof actually inspired me to do some of the dumb shit I did when I was younger. I heard my father had multiple kids so I used to make this joke when I was younger. I’d say, “Yeah my father had 20-something kids and I’m going to beat that. I’ll have 30-something kids.’
I was doing stupid shit. I heard a lot about “Nurse” men and that made me want to be a “Nurse” man. My father had so many sexual partners. I wasn’t trying to one-up him, but I heard he was good with women, so I wanted to be good with women. I tried them and did shit young people should not be doing or experiencing. On one hand I was unaware that everything I was doing was as damaging as it was but on the other, I knew how good I was and how fucked up I was and I didn’t want to commit to either. I believe I was safe to walk that line because either way I could get whatever I wanted. I could get people to see the good and understand the good, and it would help ease whenever I messed up.”
Q: What made you decide to stop straddling the line?
Mikey:“You weren’t playing the game anymore. Why are you laughing? You weren’t. You weren’t playing the game. You didn’t show anger or any of the emotions somebody still playing the game would show. You said you were numb and that wasn’t going to work for me because that meant you didn’t feel anything. Hearing that? I was like ‘Fuck. I guess the game is over.’ So, it was time to hang it up. But before we even had that conversation, I was in the process of getting my things together. I was cutting people off and severing toxic relationships. I was stepping away from elements that would damage both my life and my relationship with you. I was cleaning up my life and putting more of my focus back into my school work. I was trying to do what I was supposed to do. However, you were not in the mood and you showed me you were done.
So I transferred some money from my savings, but I had to pay my rent so I reached out to my grandmother, my mother, and your mother and asked them for some money for gas. I told your mother in that same breath that I needed to come talk to her. In that visit I told her a little bit about what was going on and why it was important that I come see you. [After speaking to our mothers] I got in my car that night on Wednesday and showed up Thursday. The whole time I was driving I prayed. I said, ‘Lord. Father. God, I’m very serious about this and if you give me the chance to make this right I’m not gonna fuck it up.'”
*Editors note: (Mikey discusses having a lot of car problems on the ride from Atlanta to Wooster, Ohio. After being towed 300 miles, his car began working properly and he made it safely to his destination)*
Q: Why did it take you hearing that I was numb for you to want to reconcile?
Mikey: “You being numb was different. You’d never been fed up before. I could deal with you being mad, but you being done? That’s not how the game works. We keep playing, you can’t just get up and quit and leave the board. I also wanted to reconcile because I liked being good. I liked not fucking up. I liked making you proud and making others proud of my accomplishments because I’m worthy of something. I liked being the best version of me and I’m only the best version of me and I was only the best version of me because of you. The common denominator was always you. You were why I was so great. It was a mixture of how you treated me, how you talked to me, what you saw in me, all you’ve invested in me, your belief in me, and how I felt about you. I loved you. You were the best friend—are the best friend. You were always everything. You should ask my mom and do an interview about that.”
Mikey: “ – It would be a good one. I would read the hell out of that. Back then, I wasn’t the best person but I was in love. I meant it. That care was something you can’t fake and that care was real. In your case, your care was always unconditional but now we had reached a condition and you didn’t care anymore. So I was like ‘Okay, yes I will never reach this condition again. Let me please get to Ohio.’”
Q: What do you suggest for men going through reconciliation or trying to reconcile? Any advice?
Mikey: “Continue to show your best self. Saying you’ll be better isn’t enough. Well, to be more specific, it’s enough if all you want to do is just enough. If you’re trying to be more than just enough, than do more than enough. You have to show all of it all the time, you have to be your best self consistently. You have to be in the mindset that this is something you will have to do forever. If you’re not willing to do that then don’t waste your time or their time. For men who want to reconcile consistency is the biggest part.”
Q: What do you wish we did differently?
Mikey: “I wish we didn’t have the upbringing we had. We’ve both been through a lot. In hindsight, the pain we experienced was necessary to get to where we are now. However, we didn’t need to go through this. You didn’t need to experience what you experienced with the men in your life to be the type of person you are today. You would have still been as great as you are. I didn’t need to experience what I did to get to where I am. It wasn’t necessary and without some of that hurt we would be so much better in the areas that we’ve struggled with. We weren’t ready to be together back then and we didn’t have anyone to talk to about how to have these conversations because truth be told, at that age, nobody took us seriously. In moments when were trying to communicate and talk to each other it was assumed we were fucking. If I could have done something differently myself, I would have stopped playing. I didn’t treat you like you were important. We weren’t big on self-healing. We were self-aware. We knew what bothered us and why but we weren’t actively pursuing ways to heal. In all, we’ve been through things that weren’t necessary but our children won’t. They’ll have a lot more tools at their disposal. They’ll be much more aware of themselves at an earlier age. We’ve been through enough—more than enough—to help save them from themselves. There are some things my daughters and sons won’t experience and things my wife will never experience again. Hopefully that trickles down to my grand kids and great grand kids and my great great great great and so on and so forth.”
Q: What’s the hardest part about being vulnerable:
Mikey: “The hardest part about being vulnerable in this relationship is the fact that eventually I’m going to have to talk about emotions. I love to bottle my emotions. I don’t like to share all of the time. I remember the conversation we had when we were younger and I was bragging to you that I hadn’t cried in seven years–since my uncle died in 2006. I don’t cry often. I only cried as a child when I got beat, but even then I sucked it up quick because boys are supposed to be tough. Another hard part about being vulnerable is telling the truth or preparing to hear something about yourself that’s difficult to hear. Saying something that might hurt the other person or trying to spare the other person’s feeling is hard when I have to be vulnerable as well. However, in this thing that can’t be our focus. I can’t lie and a lie of omission is still a lie, and that’s what we said we wouldn’t do.”
Q: What are you most proud of about us?
Mikey: “I am most proud of all that we’ve overcome and all that we are. What people see or get a sense of, whether it’s on social media or whether it’s in person is real. The love I have and feel for you is real and the way I show it is real. There’s nothing disingenuous about this. There’s nothing half-assed about this anymore or fake.
Everything that we are is a culmination of the work that we’ve put in.
We put in some hard work to get to this point and not only do I love you but I love you properly. I love you fully and wholly and I’m whole and you’re whole and we’re still healing, and we recognize that’s still a process. We’re actively shaping our lives the way we say we want them. We are taking control of what we can control and we are everything we said we wanted to be even if we aren’t everything we said we wanted to be, you know? We’re doing what we said we wanted to do. We’ve grown so much.
I am most proud of how you look at me now. I give you something worth looking at. I’m proud of us and our bond at this point. We said we wanted to be married because this is what we’ve dreamed of and we’re actively shaping this dream together. I’m proud you’re still on this journey with me and that you’re in the passenger seat and you trust my steering. But you’re not just riding blindly. You got the map in your lap and you’re keeping me on track. I love how far we’ve gone and I’m excited to see where we continue to go. I’m proud of us because the Chapmans are good people.”
Randie: “We try.”
Mikey: “No, we’re good people. We are genuinely good people.”
Q: What do you want people to take from this interview?
Mikey: “This does not need to be a ten-year process. For the dudes? You can do this right now. Start right now or stop right now. You don’t have to continue doing fuck shit because it’s comfortable. You don’t have to make women feel uncomfortable and you don’t have to be bad. You can actually right now just decide to go tell a woman that you love her and you want her to feel safe and you apologize. I want men to know you can apologize for your shit and own up to it and you can man up any moment you choose if you would like to be happy and value your relationship. However, if you don’t, respect that relationship enough and let that woman be with somebody who does. You can grow up right now no matter what age you are. You can have these difficult conversations and heal yourself no matter where you are. It took Jay-Z a long time and he mentions that. It’s difficult and it’s hard and it could have taken me another ten years but it didn’t because it doesn’t have to.
To women who will read this: You don’t have to keep dealing with us. You don’t have to stay. Reconciliation—what did you say in your last post, Randie? Sometimes it looks like leaving and that’s just something he’ll have to accept if that’s what it comes down to. But if it’s something worth having to you, set those standards. Come together on those agreements and non-negotiables because some niggas need structure. You’re laughing. It’s funny but we need parameters. Set those parameters. Give us something to work towards and watch us succeed, watch us make you proud but you also don’t have to settle. Men enjoy the women who feel like they have to settle. Women who settle are a type, they are a sought-after type by a man who just wants to take. If you want to give and settle we’ll take and keep taking and keep giving you that 70% because you’re not asking for any more.
Lastly, any couple that’s going through something, you can work it out. You can work it out or don’t. Get yourself in a healthy space but know that not talking about it isn’t going to work. Inaction will lead to failure and you can deny it all you want but it will be there forever. It’s possible to be happy. That’s my takeaway. It’s possible to be happy no matter how fucked up you were or how fucked up your life is, or how much you fucked up. It’s possible to do right and it’s possible to fix it.”