I work at a creative agency where a handful of us regularly talk about culture and the dynamics of race/gender/ class and a number of other rant-worthy topics. I shared your article and it kicked off this exchange. Thought it might be worth sharing:
(Note: this conversation takes place between myself and a Cannes lion-winning creative director who is a black man in a predominantly white industry. I haven’t included his name here as I want to check with him first.)
“In all honesty, I am admittedly dubious of Mr. carter and his blueprint.
Jay Z is a cool guy who is really good at what he does. Better than most of his peers I’d say.
He achieved a very a high level of popularity and smart business folks leveraged his personal brand to make good deals based on the cultural strength of his name. No harm in that.
It was good for jay z and even better for smart middled aged white men.
Jay has always been a very braggadocious mc who was masterful at painting himself as a have and not a have not.
Even amongst other pop culture artist he had a way of portraying himself as more sophisticated than them and lucky for him it worked out.
As people drank moet or dom perignon in the 90’s Jay drank cristal. What is that he’d ask? You’ve never heard of it? Well I have because I’m Jay Z and I’m on that rich people shit and you’re not.
Culture, (black culture in particular ran to keep up) and as they did he pivoted again except this time it was Belvideer vodka and women who wore manolo blahniks, vvs diamonds and platinum instead of gold.
He’s done this numerous times. Right now it’s Basquiat paintings, tom ford suits, Dusse Cognac and Ace of Spades Vodka.
And he’s done it with wit, suaveness, confidence and a godfather-esque crack house to the penthouse narrative.
He painted (and still does) this illusion that corporate america is a pawn in his game as opposed to him being a pawn in theirs.
The truth I believe is somewhere in the middle.
If rap wanes in popularity and jay z’s name ever loses steam those corporations wont answer the phone for him anymore.
His accumulated wealth will keep him afloat for a lifetime but in contrast those corporate stake holders don’t need a popular name to continue to grow wealth for their childrens children.
they’ll pivot from jay z and gobble up the next hot thing as they always have as part of the great white american power structure.
That’s the difference between a business man and a celebrity.
So where does that really leave jay z’s legacy?
As a society we’d say he’s won because he grew an enormous amount of wealth and was embraced at some levels by white america.
By that measure he has indeed won.
In my opinion he’s still a poor black boy who leveraged a crack dealers narrative, black cultures fascination with white opulence and pop cultures obsession with decadence to gain generational wealth for his close inner circle.
Not bad I guess.
Left holding the pieces though are generations of black boys and girls who still aren’t any closer to understanding what it is to use a sound education and a strong work ethic to gain generational wealth.
As Chris Rock said, “It took me being rich and famous to finally move into a prestigious, posh, predominantly white gated community just to find out that my neighbor………was a dentist?”
I say that to say the notion of generational black wealth is absolutely critical but jay z’s blueprint hasn’t provided that nor has it imparted any wisdom on young black boys and girls on how to actually achieve it.
Jay z’s brand of hip-hop has been about spending and not saving.
Appearing rich but not actually being rich even though he is.
He’s certainly been an inspiration but for most milenial black kids being a business man has become a catch phrase for having an imprint on a record label, a clothing line and sponsoring a liquor brand and he’s contributed to that mentality.
With a 610 million dollar net worth did jay z’s blueprint say that he’d still be rapping about saling crack at 46?
Did his blueprint say that even with his fame and noteriety white america would care about his opinion as it dealt with pop culture but not his opinion on economics, politics, climate change and so on?
It doesn’t sound like it but I really do like the guy but I’m confounded by the illusion of his genius.
He pretty much summed it up for me years ago when in a song he said, “I’d really love to rap like Common Sense but the dollars didn’t make cents so I haven’t rhymed like Common sense.”
In others words money was more important than substance and that notion of opulence over true cultural wealth leaves his legacy a little impoverished for me.”