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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 jayzever 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.

Forbes Magazine has estimated that Jay-Z takes in approximately $82 million per year with a net worth north of $350 million naming him to the Top 10 in the magazine’s celebrity money rankings.

jayz2Jay-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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Photo by: SOCIALisBETTER & NRK-P3

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    Are you a Jay-Z fan? I drop a little knowledge on Jay and what we can all learn about hustle from him -http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/sonnygill sonnygill

    Enjoyed this post by @justinlevy and the history of Jay-Z and what you can learn from it – http://bit.ly/juXpO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/sonnygill sonnygill

    Enjoyed this post by @justinlevy and the history of Jay-Z and what you can learn from it – http://bit.ly/juXpO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://uptownuncorked.com geechee_girl

    Nice article on unique role models, the value of inspiration and the value of the hustle. :)

  • http://www.sonnygill.com sonnygill

    Mr. S. Carter is a perfect example on how to expand your empire outside of your 'expertise'.

    I'm totally with you in what I find inspiration from – music. There are certain songs and lyrics that just pop out and relates to my life and what's going on and what I need to do to get to where I need to be.

    Also, another guy that's a huge business hustler in my eyes (though not nearly as good a rapper), is P. Diddy. I admire his desire for success, as well as his business savvy. You hear it the way he talks to the people he works with, at the shows he's at. He may be one arrogant son of a, but he's rightfully earned it. He remains focused 100% of the time, it seems, and truly motivates me when I hear him talk business.

    What's common from both is that they busted their ass from the ground up and did what they had to do to get to where they are now.

  • http://twitter.com/WSWDivas WSWDivas

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It | Justin …: Rocawear is a clothing and accessories li.. http://tinyurl.com/q5aoap

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://LeanStartups.com/ Apolinaras Apollo Sinkevicius

    Justin,
    I liked the angle of your post. There are many reasons why certain artists survive only 2-3 minutes of their 15-minute run for fame and some can do decade plus. I started my career in the entertainment industry (got out of it after spending 6+ years 100hour weeks, saving one agency and losing another one), so I very familiar with what some of those artists went through.
    Last year I wrote an article on another angle why Jay Z and some of the other hip hop artists succeeded: “Ideas are worthless!!! What entrepreneurs can learn from hip hop artists.” http://leanstartups.com/2008/11/ideas-are-worth

  • http://twitter.com/djcrazyed djcrazyed

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It | Justin … http://bit.ly/19wfFV

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/TheBizWoman TheBizWoman

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It | Justin …: Rocawear is a clothing and accessories li.. http://bit.ly/12nnvW

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/realsheila realsheila

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It | Justin … http://bit.ly/2I1vjm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan chrisbrogan

    From @justinlevy – What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan chrisbrogan

    From @justinlevy – What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/AnnieCorriveau AnnieCorriveau

    What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB (via @justinlevy @chrisbrogan)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/AnnieCorriveau AnnieCorriveau

    What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB (via @justinlevy @chrisbrogan)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://marketingfit.com/ Leesa Barnes

    I love Jay-Z. Discovered him when “It's a Hard Knock Life” came out. I digested everything Jay-Z since then.

    I remember an interview that Bono of U2 did about 3-years ago. He said that rappers “get it”. They understand that hip hop is much more than music, it's a culture and they understand how to capitalize on it. He said that the rock industry is dying because rockers don't get that what they're doing is a business.

    So, hats off to Jay-Z for thinking like a businessman. And thanks for reminding me about the hustle. Sometimes that's the only thing that'll get one to the top.

  • http://chartreuse.wordpress.com chartreuse

    Great article.
    You didn't mention how he, just last week, bought the rights to all his music. It'll be interesting to see what his next move will be.

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://www.chooselovemore.com Andrealoves

    Great article. I have a relatively new love-infused clothing and green living gear line, so stories like this, featuring someone who hustles for what is in their heart, are soul food for me. We are actually a Brooklyn based small business and when we shot our first catalog last year Brooklyn 2.0 by Jay-Z was THE soundtrack. I too find him super inspiring, and very motivating. Thanks for the great article. In these crazy times putting strategy and hope in the hustle is more important than ever.

  • http://twitter.com/TheScenestress TheScenestress

    Can’t Knock the Hustle: RT @justinlevy What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/TheScenestress TheScenestress

    Can’t Knock the Hustle: RT @justinlevy What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/TheScenestress TheScenestress

    Can’t Knock the Hustle RT @justinlevy What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB #fb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/TheScenestress TheScenestress

    Can’t Knock the Hustle RT @justinlevy What you can learn about success, raw business talent and hustle from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB #fb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • kkinnison

    Justin -

    Great post! I found it on a retweet from Twitter. I'm always on the lookout for folks that share your hustle and positive approach to life. I particularly enjoyed how you tied the lyrics to his business philosophies. I've subscribed to your blog and am looking forward to reading more.

    Take care,
    kk

  • http://twitter.com/petermarkellis petermarkellis

    Inspirational article about the rapper Jay-Z http://bit.ly/juXpO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/jessestrada jessestrada

    all i need to know, i learned from hov RT @chrisbrogan @justinlevy – What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/BAMStrategy BAMStrategy

    Marketing inspiration from Jay-Z? Of course! RT @justinlevy http://bit.ly/1xeLcB Difficult takes a day… and we can timeline impossible.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/HabitatAli HabitatAli

    Jay-Z? Hustle? Nah….never… RT @chrisbrogan @justinlevy – What you can learn about success from Jay-Z – http://bit.ly/1xeLcB

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://www.studio1thousand.com/ Kenzan

    Nice article.
    Funny thing about Jay, there were times in which he didn't know what he was doing, and he can laugh about it. In this clip below, he explains how at the beginning of Rocawear, he bought 3 sewing machines, and was planning to sew all the Tee shirts himself, or hire some girls to make them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YcSuHNCCVY

  • http://twitter.com/ecotea ecotea

    Great article on unlimited success http://bit.ly/Ck7Pz
    RT @Dan_Gould

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • ecotea

    Great article on unlimited success. I've never heard his hip hop song before, yet quite frequently, I see his name on the Fortune 500 list. -Tea

  • http://twitter.com/natewhitehill natewhitehill

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It http://twurl.nl/4ynkre

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    Whoa! After less than 12hrs of my Jay-Z post being up, I’m already the #1 result for “jay-z net worth”. Here’s the post http://bit.ly/juXpO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://www.netspray.com/begin Greg

    Some movies give me the motivation to follow dreams, Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting, and 8 Mile, are some that I have in my collection that I would say might get me motivated to move forward toward my goals.

    Lots of bands have come from nothing and many did things their own way and didn't change who they are even if the market wasn't right for what they were. You have to feel confident in what you are selling or you might as well not even try.

  • http://www.twitter.com/lydiapierce Lydia

    Jay-Z is like Stringer Bell from THE WIRE.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelallison michaelallison

    A Little History on Jay-Z and What You Can Learn From It http://is.gd/H1ZJ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/milewis milewis

    ‘Stop talking about where you want to get to in life and instead put together a plan which will help you to get there.’ http://bit.ly/juXpO

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/dontia dontia

    “Difficult takes a day; Impossible takes a week”: What u can learn from bizman Jay-Z [@justinlevy] http://bit.ly/R0qP1

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/emjaydoesPR emjaydoesPR

    @justinlevy on Jay-Z, Marketing and Hustle http://bit.ly/Jigga

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • webovator

    Nice article. Been a fan since Hard Knock Life. Or maybe Money Ain't A Thing. This reminds me of a quote I heard by one of the greatest actors of all time, in my opinion:

    “Im not a rapper, I'm not an actor–I'm a m******g hustler”
    - Ice T

    Branching out and offering new services, rather than being pigeonholed. Excellent ideas from two great businessmen.

    Ciao

  • TheBetsy

    Your right, he is an American Hustler in the finest sense of the word…

    He, and Diddy, are fantastic examples of hardcore work ethic, creativity and sheer chutzpah. Now I may or may not like their music or style (some of it I do) I can't argue, nor not emulate, the determination behind it.

    As for a hustler, I talked about my love of the American Hustler at TheLiquidBetsy.com, http://theliquidbetsy.com/2009/06/do-the-hustle

    Cheers

  • TheBetsy

    Your right, he is an American Hustler in the finest sense of the word…

    He, and Diddy, are fantastic examples of hardcore work ethic, creativity and sheer chutzpah. Now I may or may not like their music or style (some of it I do) I can't argue, nor not emulate, the determination behind it.

    As for a hustler, I talked about my love of the American Hustler at TheLiquidBetsy.com, http://theliquidbetsy.com/2009/06/do-the-hustle

    Cheers

  • Pingback: Rhapsody Thinks Outside the Box | Justin R. Levy

  • low-kee…

    One couldn't have put that any better than inspiration thats been placed on my shoulders for a damn long time….is something you just said out loud. Something we all know, yet we do fall in that trap “Why can't I be the next American Idol” (figure of speech) simple – “There's only twenty four hours in a day, make every minute last a life time….

    I hope this note takes me from the place I am now to a place we all dream…if I can add….I'm dropp'n beats and Akon happen to come on as I am dropp'n this last note….FREEDOM….

  • edwin

    yeah, he hustle hard, but he disorv

  • xam

    it amassing how 1 got 4rm street to top of d game of BUSINESS eva DREAMED OF,i learn to apply & QUADRUPLE in my ways

  • Ken-Z

     ”I don’t get dropped, I drop the label. World can’t hold me, too much ambition. Always knew it’d be like this when I was in the kitchen”…Jay-Z (On To The Next One – The Blueprint 3)