When I heard about the content of 4:44, I wasn't surprised at the revelations, I was surprised that they (Jay Z fans and the infamous Beyhive) were shocked. Beyonce and Jay-Z are (were???) a notoriously private couple. Until Blue was born, they were tight-lipped about EVERYTHING, but smiled for the cameras and collaborate together, which made people proclaim that they were a successful couple. They're happy and winning at life.
Even as people speculated that some noteworthy songs were about Jay, they never stuck. Even when the symbolism was more and more obvious, it was "Jay would never cheat on Beyonce--she's BEYONCE!!!" So, yes, part of some allowing the veil to be pulled over their eyes was sex symbol status, but it was mostly IMAGE.
Sometime before Solange-gate, I started seriously believing that Jay was a serial cheater. I can't recall what exactly made me definitely think that, but it most likely was a collection of situations that made me say, "Yo, this dude ain't faithful to Beyonce." The Hive found these accusations ridiculous because no one would ever cheat on King Bey, but they perceived her from the perspective of a fan rather than putting themselves in the shoes of a man who has equal or greater status, which is fundamentally different.
People got so caught up in believing the image they were being sold (which IMAGE is everything for entertainers) rather than questioning what they weren't being shown. Celebs are entitled to their privacy, but we took at face value that they had a healthy relationship because they posed for the cameras and performed songs together rather than acknowledging, "hey, this is a seriously private couple--how can we definitively say anything?" Granted, you are allowed to believe the best of a couple, but when said the couple "allows" you into their personal life without you ever really see the personal side of them they promised, again, making conclusive statements about something you don't know is how you get fooled by marketing techniques.
The signs have been there for a while, but people constantly ignored them because "Jay would NEVA." People need to understand: Jay didn't NEED Beyonce, just like she didn't NEED him, but he was rich and had a lot of power by the time he met Beyonce. He was with her before she became her own brand and was even his peer in a sense. But, Jay-Z never considered himself lucky to have her because of who she was as a person, but rather what she could offer him due to what he lacked growing up, what he wanted out of life (his specifically), and how she could help with said image. And that's HOW he could cheat: he wasn't looking to build something with her, he was something to create something for himself and Beyonce fit the standards that he needed to make it happened. This isn't to say that she lacked agency, but to explain his mindset. Regardless of whatever his feelings really were for her back then, he was used to doing whatever and whoever he wanted. Beyonce somewhat improved his image, but men like him with power like his don't view relationship the same way as we, the fans, do. And that is where we constantly make mistakes as fans: we keep putting these celebrities, famous men specifically, in our shoes and believing they perceive the world as we do. That the value they place on people and things is the same as ours when it isn't.
From the beginning, Jay always treated Beyonce as a trophy, but you've never seen Beyonce treat him as one. He was always bragging about her looks and power and many wanted to perceive this as being proud of her, when really, Jay was proud because she added to his legacy. He may be individually proud of her, but he'll always place his own wants, needs, and desires over anything else, especially because he has insecurities that he compensates for; A man who grew up with nothing has always been called ugly, hung out with fuck boys, and then decides he wants to rebrand himself isn't going to change who he is, rather, he changes how he APPEARS to others.
Someone can correct me on the validity of this, but I believe he even said he'd had his eye on Beyonce since she was 16 and that she would be his and waited until she was 20 because "it was time." Time for what? I'm not going to touch on the creepy aspect of this, BUT this sets off warning bells of Jay having control issues. People wanted to think of this as romantic, but how is it romantic for a 28-year-old man to look at a 16-year-old and think this? What usually happens when older men date younger women? They control them, they manipulate them, gaslight them.
It sounds farfetched, right?
Years later, Beyonce thanked Jay-Z for shaping her into the women she is, which rubbed many hardcore fans wrong, because it sounded like Jay-Z "molded" her aka controlled her. Part of the reason Jay-Z was effective is because Beyonce is a 'Pick Me' (A person who begs for the attention, acceptance, and approval of a certain group in different things they say. In most case, it's to attain the attention, acceptance, and approval of the opposite sex.-Urban Dictionary). This sounds egregious to say about Queen Bey, but honestly, listen to her lyrics, "Upgrade U" being the most notable one, "Love On Top" and many others. I'm not saying this to shade her, but rather, to better shed light as to why Jay-Z was able to operate like he did.
Take into consideration that Beyonce grew up in a home where her mother stayed with her father for years, despite his cheating, and only left when he had a baby outside the marriage. It was instilled in her that cheating wasn't a deal breaker--even SERIAL cheating wasn't a deal breaker. You STAYED and WORKED on your relationship/marriage, especially if there is a child involved. "You're the girlfriend/wife--he comes before YOU." In Beyonce's mind, the only inexcusable thing is an outside baby.
Jay-Z used her relationship beliefs (and lack of experience), age, and her father's infidelity to his benefit--he exploited her for personal gain to the detriment of her own. Due to these factors, as well as underlying daddy issues (which let's be real, she does have them), he knew she'd never fuck up his image--she "wouldn't embarrass him." She'd stand by him, smile for the cameras, and work on "their" issues, which really means HIS issues.
We believed it because Beyonce played that part PERFECTLY. No matter how much heartache and pain she was experiencing, she was going to be the woman she felt she needed to be for him. She wasn't going to quit. She was going to be patient with him. As much as Jay seems to support his "independent" and "feminist" woman, he'd never date that type of woman--what we see on camera, what he supports on camera, is not who she is in real life and that reality is difficult for many to reconcile.
When Lemonade was first released, many believed it until Beyonce's camp denied it. We then said, "Jay ain't crazy enough to do that." And "Beyonce would take half and the kids if he did." In our minds, Beyonce is a no-nonsense woman. Even those who still believed it said, "Well, she chose to forgive him and they've moved passed it." When, clearly, Beyonce has been forgiving Jay-Z for a LONG time.
I think some of us allowed ourselves to be fooled by marketing because we see ourselves in Beyonce, we admire her, we want to be like her, so no way in hell does something like that happen to her. But, Beyonce has traditional beliefs, despite her music. We've read and heard snippets of this throughout their relationship, but there was cognitive dissonance going on--we had to make the narrative fit.
Even if you ignore everything else that happened before Lemonade, I think the fact that many ignored Solange-gate speaks volumes. People were more focused on the fact that Solange hit Jay-Z and how he didn't hit back than they were with the fact that Beyonce was emotionless as she stared while this happened (and remember that time she looked high at a Nets basketball game). For such a strong couple, why would she have allowed this to happen? When she exited the elevator like nothing happened and fans said, "She's being professional." In retrospect, many have now learned she's been doing that FOR YEARS. Because, there is no way in hell, a woman who LOVES her husband is going to let her sister beat her man UNLESS something happened.
It is actually Jay-Z's "fault" why we even know. If he hadn't egged on Solange, there would be no Lemonade (this was to tell her pain but put a positive spin on it to take back the control of the image of their marriage), and then 4:44. Do you all honestly think Jay-Z would've allowed, yes, I said, allowed, Beyonce to release that album on Tidal exclusively if it made him look bad? If he couldn't put his two cents in? What happened at the end of Lemonade? She forgives him--we forgive him. Then, they had twins, such a happy family, right? He releases his album and tells his side and what do people say, "He's learned." Yes, after years of cheating, a miscarriage, and STILLBORNS??? How many are truly as angry as we should be? Jay-Z has controlled this narrative because he has always controlled the narrative. And who wants to get into why it took Blue for Jay to actually start appreciating and treating Beyonce better?
We wanted a royal black couple so bad--a black couple who were super successful and worth a billion dollars. A black couple who were constantly getting invited to the White House and were friends with the FLOTUS and POTUS. We wanted Beyonce to be the perfect, flawless person she is portrayed. And for Jay-Z to have changed because of the love of a good woman. THAT is how we got fooled by good marketing.
Now, some may disagree, but I want you all to seriously question WHY. Yes, she and Jay-Z broke up once, but for a relationship that lasted as long as theirs, I don't think it was difficult for him to get back in her good graces.