A Woman Like a Soldier, Holding Him Down: Fabolous, the Angel in the House, and Club Security

June 9, 2007

“Make Me Better” is a recently released single by Fabolous, featuring Ne-Yo. The lines of the chorus are, “I’m a movement by myself but I’m a force when were together/ Mami, I’m good all by myself but baby you, you make me better.” The song praises that supportive girlfriend, the woman who stays by her man, encouraging and guiding him. This is sort of what Beyonce is talking about in “Upgrade You”: “I can do for you what Martin did for the people/ Ran by the men but the women keep the tempo/ It’s very seldom that you’re blessed to find your equal/ Still play my part and let you take the lead role…I’ll follow…I’ll be the help whenever you need me.”

Such a woman is essential to any man’s success. The old adage goes something like, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” In Fabolous’s song, it’s a little different: “Beside every great man you can find/ A woman like a soldier holding him down” (emphasis mine). There’s an ongoing battle, and women have their part to play as well. Clearly there’s some history here, the image of the strong black woman floating in the background as Beyonce sings those lines. Women are supposed to do that essential work behind-the-scenes, to hold down the home front, and, in any war, to give their men something to fight for. Fabolous declares, “I’m a need Coretta Scott if I’m gonna be King.”

For all her good qualities, this exemplary woman’s most important role is in complementing her partner–who is, by all accounts, a great man. Fabolous hasn’t forgotten about himself in the midst of praising his lady; on the contrary, “First things first I does what I do.” His own strength and success unquestioned, this woman gives him a supporting background, the necessary motivation, and an edge: “Everything I am she’s my improve/ I’m already boss, I’m already fly/ But if I’m a star she is the sky/ And when I feel like I’m on top/ She give me reason to not stop.”

So now is maybe the time to check out the video. I’m not really sure what to do with it. It doesn’t exactly take up the grand history alluded to in previous lines: apparently the way Roselyn Sanchez supports Fabolous is by keeping an eye on things in the club. Not the most romantic concept for a music video. Sanchez coolly stands her ground and does her job, hardly batting an eye as he canoodles with random girls. I guess she’s supposed to be more than just a hot dumb girl–she’s smart and classy and there for him in the long term. Or something. Maybe you should just watch it.

As much as this song is caught up in Fabolous’s own masculine power, it offers a fascinating vision of the ideal woman. She is devoted and selfless. Basically, she’s Coventry Patmore’s Angel In The House, her concerns subsumed under his. Importantly, that image also suggests a certain idealizing of feminine virtues. This woman, the supportive girlfriend, also has her head on her shoulders–perhaps more than her man does. She’s responsible and wise, protecting and advising him. “She treats me like a don, watches for the hit/ Checks where I go, even watches who I’m wit/ The right when I’m wrong, so I never slip/ Show me how to move, that’s why I never trip.” She exerts a positive influence over her, perhaps hotheaded, male partner.

We see something of this Woman As Moral Compass in Knocked Up as well. That movie starts out in crass celebration of male childishness, with the uptight women ruining all the boys’ fun. But, by the end, the hapless 23-year-old Ben must enter the adult world: he gets a job, stops smoking pot, and takes responsibility for the baby about to be born. He does this under the gentle guiding influence of his true love/baby-mama Alison.

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