College Isn’t For You? Follow This Blueprint To Success by Victoria Adamo (@vicsayyy)
Jay Z’s rigorous rags to riches story is proof that experience is the best educator. Not only is he an inspiration for his success in one of the most competitive industries in America, but for his self educated business savviness. As a high school drop out and street swindler in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York, his hardcore hustlers spirit is to credit for his ascension and consistent progression in Capitalistic America.
While Jay had it harder than many, his pungent poverty might actually have been an obstacle that catapulted him into success. When you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Jay Z’s only option was success. When he came into some consistent fast cash, he didn’t stop in satisfaction nor did he continue to risk his life. Rather, Jay Z followed a strategy innate to us all if we only just listen to the truth.
To sum it up in one idea- opportunity cost. Some will say he was loyal to his money, I argue his loyalty is to himself. Opportunity cost is the ratio of loss to gain consequential of a decision. He didn’t get lucky with good decisions, he strategically analyzed the win/fail of his decisions. Living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods is a cut throat lifestyle. It’s every man for himself, and Jay learned this early on that if he didn’t look out for himself, no one else would. So, he made decisions to benefit his lot.
To anyone with a dollar and a dream, this is for you.
Right Place, Right Time
As Russel Simmons declared, “when you’re down with people doing smart things, you become instantly smarter because you watch the smart things. You might figure your own way to do the smart things, but if you see it you understand it.” Being surrounded with people who believe in a cause as much as you do is recipe for success. Passion is contagious, and the more talented, driven people involved the better the chance.
Establishing connections with people who shared his passion for the music industry was to Jay’s benefit. A friend, Jaz O, was signed early on in Jay Z’s path to musical success and exposed him to the luxuries of traveling and performing on a trip to London in the early 90’s. Ironically, accompanying Jaz took Jay away from his Brooklyn home during a major street raid that landed his associates in jail for over a decade. Had it not been for that music related trip to London, Jay could have been on his way to the slammer himself.
In addition, it was his friend at Atlantic Records- Clark Kent- that initially got Jay into the booth, eventually taking him off the streets. As a talent scout, the first rapper that came to mind was Jay. It was Kent’s persistent pleading with Jay to get into the booth that accumulated tracks into his first album.
It Takes Money To Make Money
In a darwinistic approach, Jay started off as a street salesman going where the money was. He recognized his resources in the only environment he knew to fund himself and his family. When he came up, young Jay didn’t splurge on over the top luxurious cars or designer clothes. He knew his limits and didn’t exceed them.The opportunity cost for flashy things is less money.
Jay was about his paper. Instead of splurging on flashy things early on, Jay Z invested his money wisely. In fact, he was hesitant to get in the studio early on without a real positive response. Studio time was expensive, and he feared a monetary and timely loss for his hobby. Instead, he wrote songs on the side and spent time at Brooklyn open mic’s. For this reason, his talent didn’t hit the ground running until the age of 26 when he first recorded an album.
Know Your Worth
Jay’s first album wasn’t popular with major record labels. Discourage him it did not! He decided to go it alone, collaborating with people who believed in his cause to create Roc-a-fella records. He marketed his music on his own- selling in unconventional places like barber shops until the whole city was vibing to his music, when eventually major record labels caught on.
Realizing the opportunity there was in the music industry to make money was enough for him to transition from the dangerous street lifestyle to hip hop artist and businessman.
When he gained national popularity, Jay realized the influence his music had over the masses. Sales for brands he’d advocated in his music increased exponentially. Why give free advertising to benefit other people when he could be profiting directly? And so started the path towards branding himself- buying and creating brands in clothing, alcohol, sports teams, and night clubs- rhyming about them in his music and increasing sales to profit himself.
The Law of Supply and Demand
He references it in his music multiple times- “Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense, but I did 5 mil I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.” “I dumb down my music to double my dollars. You criticize me for it yet all yell holla.”
It’s not about liking it, it’s about understanding it. Perhaps a bit contradictory to his motto of staying true to himself, Jay knew what people wanted and he gave it to them their way. “If I can relate to it, there’s millions of people out there who can too.” While hip hop was targeted to a younger generation, fans were aging much like him. Unique to the industry, he gained exposer at an older age, rapping about things older people can relate to, expanding his audience.
Abandon Your Ego
Contradictory to his music, Jay is described as humble natured- introspective and intuitive. He’s described as a good listener and seldom talker. For this reason, he’s constantly learning and open to new ideas from his mentors and fellow artists.
Although he’s idolized and clearly successful, Jay is always improving. Collaborating with artists from remote genres like U2, Linkin Park, Eminem and Justin Timberlake breaks free of the finite limitations of hip hop, gaining exposure from a different fan base.
Perhaps the overall message Jay Z’s pumping through our speakers is that it’s no matter the hand you dealt, rather the way you play it. For a poverty stricken black kid from the projects, societies system was against him. Instead of letting it beat him, he stubbornly beat it. He refused to be a sell out, and became a sales man. Know yourself, know your strengths and know how to portray them to society.