The “Cool Kid”

Jay Z Captures “Cool”

This picture of Jay Z depicts “black cool,” according to Ebony.  In every group of people, there is always the one cool black guy; Jay Z portrays what it means to be cool and black, to have power as well as poise.

This picture depicts an African American man who appears to be successful.  He is dressed well with a velvet jacket, a white button down shirt, a tie, sunglasses, and a pocket kerchief; he is also clean shaven and well-groomed.  His picture is also on the front of a magazine, an African American magazine cover, to be precise.  His posture denotes confidence, power, and success. His face is serious, his stare is direct, and his fingers are about to snap.  He looks like he is in charge and people will listen to him.  Beside his picture are the words, “Swagger, confidence, effortless style: The 25 coolest brothers of all time.”  These words indicate that this man must be the epitome of “black cool.”  This magazine was also published in 2008; it is a modern depiction of black cool.

In every group of kids, there is always the one cool black kid, the guy that every boy wants to be and that every girl wants to date.  But what makes him cooler than the rest?  Why do his thoughts hold so much meaning and why are his words so powerful?  According to the cover of Ebony, black cool means having swagger, confidence, and effortless style.  Black cool is about appearing poised and put together without any effort at all.

Blackness is fluid; it is always evolving and it can represent many different things: color, identity, race, culture, or ethnicity.  However, within each category of blackness, black loses its fluidity.  Blackness is fluid until it is categorized, one category being “black cool.”  There is only one way to define black coolness; only one way to be the cool black kid.  While black can refer to a number of different things, black and cool together are limited.  Paul Beatty in The White Boy Shuffle writes, “I was the funny, cool black guy…I learned early that white kids will believe anything anybody a shade darker than chocolate milk says” (Beatty, 27-28).  Being cool and black holds meaning; this status involves power and control of people.

Jay Z’s picture is powerful, it holds meaning; it’s on the front of a magazine so it is persuasive.  Men and women will see these captions and want to learn how to become like Jay Z, how to live out black cool.  Blackness is not just race or identity, it is power and performance.  It is also appearance; if Jay Z had on a ratty T-shirt with an uncombed afro and a 5 o’clock shadow, black cool would be seen as a joke.  His performing pose, his sleek appearance, and his powerful stare are what give this picture meaning, persuasiveness and the ability to be taken seriously.

The one cool black kid in every group of kids knows he is cool.  He may not be cool simply because he is black, but he is cool because he is confident, he has swagger, and he appears to do things effortlessly.  The combination of these three things holds power: the power to be labeled “cool.”


D, Nigel. “Ebony Lists The Top 25 Cool Black Men Of All Time.” RealTalk NY RSS. N.p., 4 July 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

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