The phrase “daddy issues” may have become a bit of a dismissive quip, but behind it is a weight that can sink relationships—and destinies—across generations. Kendrick Lamar discussed the matter on his Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers album earlier this year, and Kevin Hart and Jay-Z recently delved into the topic in the latest episode of the second season of the comedian’s Peacock interview series, Hart to Heart.
Speaking on his well-known childhood rift with his late father, Hov explains that a perspective change helped him understand why his dad gradually distanced himself from his family.
“It was like ... he's doing this to me,” Jay remembers of his initial interpretation of his dad’s behavior. “What cracked the code for me was like, really, what was he going through?”
That question led Hov to consider the tragedy that had enveloped his father’s life after his younger brother, Jay-Z’s uncle Ray, had been stabbed to death. As Hov explains, his father would spend his nights searching for Ray’s killer, and this kept him away from the house. At the time, Jay’s mother demanded that Jay’s father stay home so he could take care of the family instead of roaming the streets, which Hov’s father, in turn, took as an impossible mandate: "How it sounds to him is, ‘You want me to choose between you and my baby brother, who I was supposed to protect?’”
Without this kind of dialogue, you can risk making the same mistakes as those who’ve wronged you, and that only serves to continue a cycle of emotional turbulence that can eventually traumatize the people you love.
Jay previously touched on parts of this story on his American Gangster cut “Pray” in 2007. On his Black Album song “Moment of Clarity,” Jay mentions that his father eventually became addicted to heroin, which only put further distance between them. The ending of his first verse sees Hov find a measure of closure: “So Pop, I forgive you for all the shit that I lived through/It wasn't all your fault, homie, you got caught/Into the same game I fought, 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!”
For his part, Hart also opens up, contextualizing the way he came to reckon with the intermittent absences of his own father. "With my dad, right, there's moments where I realize, 'Oh this is when dad wasn't around. [These] are some of the things that would have been dope for dad to be around,” Hart explains. "There's no animosity there, but there's an awareness of where the void is. So now I take that and apply it to mine... I don't want to duplicate that.”
Like Hov, Hart has also used his art to discuss aspects of his relationship with his father. And yet, there’s something even more vulnerable about delving into these ideas without jokes or tidy rhymes. It’s a moment of consideration that Hart, quite frankly, hasn’t always shown. This conversation illuminates the self-awareness and empathy that can help repair fractured relationships that stretch across decades. Without this kind of dialogue, you can risk making the same mistakes as those who’ve wronged you, and that only serves to continue a cycle of emotional turbulence that can eventually traumatize the people you love. For men—especially Black men—being this open isn’t exactly easy. But neither are holding on to unresolved feelings without reflection.
Peep a clip of Hov and Kevin Hart’s convo below, and peep the full episode on Peacock.