Jay-Z and Bowenian “Going Home”

Jay-Z and Bowenian “Going Home”


Jay-Z’s song “Moment of Clarity” is a powerful example of what renowned family psychotherapist Murray Bowen calls “going home” and “doing the work” to make sense of your family system.  To thoroughly experience the song, I recommend you find his version from The Black Album on your favorite streaming platform. The variations posted on YouTube have mostly the same lyrics, but don’t include the somber depth of the original music production that was so moving when it first came out in the early 2000s. This video of him describing his process in writing the song, however, is fascinating and inspiring. This interview clip with MTV host, Sway, is like a mini therapy exploration.

While exploring the reconnection with his estranged father shortly before he died, Jay-Z echos many experiences I have heard my therapy clients discuss in terms of how  vulnerable it can feel to confront challenging family conflicts, estrangements, and stalemates.  This conversation reflects and normalizes that, as an adult, it’s your prerogative to determine who your family is, how close you want to be, and what boundaries you keep. Young Jay-Z recognizes that he didn’t owe his dad tears, and he didn’t owe his dad silence either. He is striking a balance between boundaries and outreach on his own terms, as both are psychologically important. He states, “I didn’t let him off the hook,” in expressing what it was like to be his son.

In Jay-Z’s processing I hear how confronting his family system opened up a path for forgiveness and acceptance. He acknowledges in this interview that he still has a lot of work to do. He is able to articulate vulnerabilities and defenses he is still working through. We see his progress throughout his career both through his own art and his (now) wife’s – especially in Beyonce’s masterpiece album, Lemonade, and his response 4:44.

A note on the psychotherapist reference from the beginning of this post: Dr. Murray Bowen’s family system’s theory is a foundation for most relationship therapists. To some degree, we always use it in our work. For more information visit The Bowen Center , or explore with your therapist.

Moment of Clarity

By Shawn Carter, Marshall Mathers, Luis Resto, and Steve King

Turn the music up turn the lights down I’m in my zone


Thank God for granting me this
Moment of clarity, this moment of honesty
The world’ll feel my truths
My “Hard Knock Life” time my gift and a curse
I gave you volume after volume of my work so you can feel my truths
I built the Dynasty by being one of the realest [n-word]s out
Way beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Y’all can’t fill my shoes)
From my Blueprint beginnings ’til that Black Album ending
Listen close you hear what I’m about, [n-word] feel my truths

 Pop died, didn’t cry, didn’t know him that well
Between him doing heroin and me doing crack sales
With that in the egg shell standing at the tabernacle
Rather the church pretending to be hurt
Wouldn’t work, so a smirk was all on my face
Like damn that mans face was just like my face
So pop, I forgive you for all the shit that I lived through
It wasn’t all your fault homie you got caught

And to the same game I fault that Uncle Ray lost
My big brothers and so many others I saw
I’m just glad we got to see each other
Talk and re-meet each other save a place in Heaven
‘Til the next time we meet forever


 The music business hate me ’cause the industry ain’t make me
Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be making
I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars
They criticize me for it yet they all yell “Holla”
If skills sold truth be told
I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense (But I did five Mil)
I ain’t been rhyming like Common since

When your sense got that much in common
And you been hustling since, your inception, fuck perception
Go with what makes sense
Since I know what I’m up against
We as rappers must decide what’s most important
And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back to me, that’s the win, win
So next time you see the homie and his rims spin
Just know my mind is working just like them (The rims that is)


 My homie Sigel’s on a tier where no tears should fall
‘Cause he was on the block where no squares get off
See in my inner circle all we do is ball
‘Til we all got triangles on our wall
He ain’t just rapping for the platinum, y’all record
I recall, ’cause I really been there before
Four scores and seven years ago prepared to flow prepare for war
I shall fear no man you don’t hear me though

These words ain’t just paired to go in one ear out the other ear, no
Yo, my balls and my word is all’s I have
What you gonna do to me? [N-word] scars’ll scab
What you gonna box me homie? I can dodge and jab
Three shots couldn’t touch me thank God for that
I’m strong enough to carry Biggie Smalls on my back
And the whole BK [n-word] holla back


Spencer Northey

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