A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It
For the past 13 years I’ve been a HUGE Jay-Z fan. I started listening to Jay-Z in 1996 with the release of his first record, Reasonable Doubt. Not only was it one of the best records I had ever heard, I was also intrigued at how he released the album.
When no major record label would give Jay-Z a deal, he formed Roc-A-Fella Records along partners Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs. Reasonable Doubt became a hip-hop classic and is ranked at #248 on the Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time“. That album was the start of 13 years of what has been 13 years of 1/2 greatness mixed with 1/2 genius.
In case you don’t fully realize how successful Jay-Z has been, let’s take a peek at his history:
- Since 1996 Jay-Z has released 10 solo albums, 5 compilation albums and 4 collaboration albums (full discography can be found here).
- In 1997 Jay-Z sold half stake of Roc-A-Fella Records for $1.5 million then sold off the other 1/2 for $10 million in 2004.
- Jay-Z has been nominated for 31 major awards, winning 8 of them.
- Jay-Z has released or been featured in 6 movies/specials including: Streets Is Watching, Backstage, State Property, Paper Soldiers, Fade to Black, and Dairy of Jay-Z: Water for Life.
- In 1999, Jay-Z co-founded Rocawear. Rocawear is a clothing and accessories line for men, women and children. Jay-Z sold the rights to the brand to Iconix Brand Group for $204 million. Jay-Z still oversees the creative direction, marketing, and product development for the men’s line.
- In 2002, Jay-Z and partners purchased the sole United States distribution rights to Armadale Vodka, a premium vodka.
- In 2006 Jay-Z became the co-brand director for Budweiser Select helping the company on strategic marketing and creative development.
- Jay-Z founded the 40/40 sports club chain with locations all across the United States.
- Jay-Z has an endorsement deal with Armand de Brignac’s Ace of Spades champagne.
- Jay-Z is part owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA team. It is reported that Jay-Z paid $4.5 million for his share in the team. Jay-Z also has plans of moving the team to his hometown of Brooklyn.
- Jay-Z was the first rapper to receive a sneaker deal with a mainstream shoe company with the release of his S.Carter line with Reebok. It was the first sneaker deal for a nonathlete. It quickly became a best-seller.
- In 2008 Jay-Z signed a deal with Live Nation for reportedly $150 million which includes a 360 deal which will have Live Nation partnering with Jay on all of his creative ventures.
- Recently Jay-Z invested in J Hotels, a real estate development venture, which recently purchased a $66 million property in Chelsea, New York.
- …and many, many more accomplishments including many philanthropies, being named GQ International Man of the Year, several appearances in major mainstream product ads, and much more.
Jay-Z embodies being a hustler. You don’t accomplish what Jay has been able to accomplish in 13 years without hustling and a raw business sense. Of course, it takes money to make money but he started with a concept of success and has done whatever it takes to keep pushing forward. He hasn’t followed the path of many other music artists but instead has blazed new paths into industries that wouldn’t allow a rapper in (and still many probably wouldn’t).
Why has Jay been successful?
Because he realized that he could do so much more if he broke away from being just a rapper but instead a business man. While Jay has many memorable verses, this verse on Kanye West‘s Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix) shows just exactly how Jay think:
Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week / I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man / Let me handle my business, damn!
What’s the lesson to learn here?
Whatever industry you’re in, don’t get stuck. Look at other ways to extend yourself, your product, your brand or your industry. Stop talking about where you want to get to in life and instead put together a plan which will help you to get there. Impossible you say? I bet Jay-Z always pictured taking 8 figures a year. He might have not known the exact way he would get there but he never settled. He always is looking for another industry to extend himself into.
What are you doing to realize your goals? If you’re sitting on the couch enjoying the newest episode of American Idol, I bet that some of your competition has Jay-Z blasting while they come up with their next move. If you and I are competition, I can guarantee that’s what’s happening. I gave up cable television just so I could focus and hustle more. Sure, I watch a tv show or two per week using Fancast (client) or Hulu but the other 100 hours a week I’m working on crushing it.
As you can probably tell, I find a lot of inspiration in Jay-Z. So, who do you look to for inspiration? What is it that they teach you? Most importantly, what do you do with the lessons you learn from them? If the answer is nothing, then you mind as well go back to watching American Idol.
Want to learn more about Jay-Z?
I highly recommend picking up the June 2009 issue of Cigar Aficiando for a multi-page article on Jay-Z. Also, if you haven’t ever seen Fade to Black , order it from Netflix or your local video rental store.
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