What is left to be said about rap, clothing and real estate mogul Shawn Carter that hasn’t been said? Blasting onto the scenes in the mid 90’s under his rap moniker Jay Z. He’s sold in excess of 50 million records worldwide, held part ownership of a NBA team, has forged partnerships with Budweiser, HP, Reebok, Samsung and of late, Zuckerberg and Facebook. And we dare not mention his marriage partnership with the highest grossing female artist in the world, Beyonce. All this success has seemingly fueled Mr. Carter’s passion for making boss-like moves.
I recently sat down to listen to Jay Z’s latest studio work, the Magna Carter Holy Grail. While enjoying the tracks, I began to jot down some pointers I have picked up along the years as an avid fan of Jigga. Here are my lessons:
• Don’t chase the brand, become the brand: In the early years of Jay’s rap career, people weren’t just handing out record deals worth millions of dollars. You had to really grind to make your way into the door. While shopping his demo tapes to company after company, he quickly learned that the only way to get a deal was to make his own deal. This is when Jay Z partnered with other backers and formed Roc-A-Fella Records. They bypassed the record labels all together therefore retaining more profits. They also owned all of their masters for future deals on distribution.
• The more you evolve the more you become yourself: What others seemed to miss in the hip hop world was the era of transition. Gangsta Rap had made an exit while more commercialized music was played. Jay Z saw it as a numbers game not much different than the ones he played as a drug dealer. Find your corner (niche); get good advertisement and mass produce. He formed key relationships with execs at Def Jam Records and evolved into a savvy business man. It was clear he was more than just another rapper who would be satisfied with big chains.
• Keep your business and personal moves out of the public eye: Many were upset at Jay and Beyonce for never quit fully addressing if they were married, dating or what. It has long been known that Jay Z is extremely private about his personal and business dealings. You don’t usually her about them until he has finalized it and he wants you to. This has made him hard to track by those who want to de-throne his reign. While others are beating their chests bragging, Jay is usually four moves ahead of the curve.
• Address controversy on your own terms: Through the years Jay Z has been in a few controversial situations. From public ‘beefs’ with other rappers, dissention and the ultimate split with long time Roc-A-Fella partners and even questions around his familiarity with President Obama. But through everything, the media has come to learn they can ask all they want but he will not address things in a heat of reaction. Jay Z has a way of weaving things into his craft or at a time of his choosing. When you answer on your terms, you remain in control.
• Build partnerships that will feed your future: Jay Z says “If you are thinking of what to do tomorrow you’re already late.” This motto has kept his music in rotation consecutively since 1996. There has not been a time in hip hop since, even when he so called retired for a year, when Jay wasn’t on the radio with new music. He has only been able to stay relevant by building lasting partnerships. It seems every move compounds in influence and importance. Of late, he is at it again for the release of his new video partnered with HBO for the exclusive release. He’s giving new meaning to the phrase Pay It Forward.
As an entrepreneur I find inspiration in every interaction of life. I find myself watching documentaries on subjects I know little about just to absorb new information. Such is the case with Jay Z. He’s had a flourishing career for nearly 20 years in an industry with a very short shelf life. Not only has he done that, but he’s managed other artists, led Def Jam and branched out into multiple streams of business. I’d say gaining insight from him isn’t such a bad idea.