This post was written by Ramsay of The Daily Mind.
“Be fluid. Treat each project differently. Be water, man. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style they can’t figure you out.” – Jay-Z
Jay-Z is one of the most successful rappers in history. He has had more number one hits than I can count on my two hands. He has been CEO of two powerful music labels. And, most importantly, he is married to the hottest girl in the business! So what can Jay teach us about success and work ethic?
The answer: a lot.
Who is Jay-Z?
In case you have been living under a rock for the last 20 years I will quickly tell you who Jay-Z is and why he is worth studying. However, you don’t need to know who this man is to appreciate what he has done.
The Early Years
Jay-Z grew up in the projects in Booklyn, New York. He was abandoned by his father at a young age and got into selling drugs and skipping school. A renowned intellectual; his gifts were being used to create a massive drug business. However, he soon turned all that around when he established his own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, and released his first album. It was a huge success – the first of many.
The name “Jay-Z” is a stage name; his real name being Shawn Corey Carter. There is a lot of speculation as to where this stage name comes from. Some people think it is because his mentor’s name was Jaz-O, others say it was because his childhood nick name was Jazzy and others say it is because the Brooklyn Subway runs from station J to station Z. Whatever the reason the name Jay-Z now stands for so much more than just a few good hip hop albums.
What Jay-Z can teach you about success and work ethic
Now that you know who he is we can look at some of his amazing life events, poetic rap quotes and pioneering innovation and extract some useful lessons on success and work ethic. Pay attention because this man is exceptional.
1. Give people what they want
“I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars, they criticize me for it yet they all yell holla.” – Jay-Z
The rap game is, truthfully, a very snobby industry. If an underground rapper gets famous people call him a sellout. But, if he stays underground people say he hasn’t got skills because he hasn’t got a record deal.
This didn’t bother Jay.
He knew he had skills and he was confident in that. He didn’t create rap albums to prove anything to anyone else and as such was able to make moves that put in him in a very good financial position. His first album was poetic and deep but after realizing that he was alienating a large portion of listeners he “dumbed it down” to increase his fan base. He knew what people wanted and he gave it to them. The rap industry might have called him a sellout but the listeners bought his records. Soon he was a best seller and a powerful player in game – others were now going to the “sellout” for loans and advice.
If you want to be successful you need to know what the people want. Know your market. Know your niche. There is no point trying to sell music to deaf people or movies to the blind.
2. Take risks
“The Martha Stewart that’s far from Jewish, far from a Harvard student, just had the balls to do it.” – Jay-Z
Jay-Z started out as a drug dealer from the ghetto. He didn’t graduate secondary school. But, he knew he had something special inside and so he took big risks to better his position. The drug dealer soon set up his own record label (unheard of in those days) and turned himself into one of the most successful musicians in history. After 10 years of pumping out hit after hit he accepted a high powered role as the CEO of Def Jam Records. This is yet again an amazing feat – an uneducated man taking control of an international firm.
However, these are not the only risks that Jay has taken. He has an extremely wide variety of investments ranging from clothing lines to basketball teams. On the surface it looks like Jay has made a lot of risky investment decisions. But, is it more risky to diversify or more risky to put all your eggs in one basket? If Jay’s records stop selling he will still extract millions from his clothes, clubs, merchandise, signed musicians, sporting teams, etc.
If you want to be successful you need to take some risks. However, do like Jay did and invest wisely. If you risks that are not calculated and measured you will lose out badly.
3. Don’t give up
“Put me anywhere on God’s green earth, I’ll triple my worth.” – Jay-Z
Jay-Z didn’t have his first big hit until he was in his 30’s. Most musicians are done and dusted by that age but Jay backed himself and his team and he didn’t give up. It would have been easy for Jay to stay in the drug trade and make big money living a life of crime. However, he wanted something better for himself and he knew that with hard work and dedication he could get it.
Take a look at what Jay says about persistence:
“Sure I do, I tell you the difference between me and them
They tryin to get they ones, I’m tryin to get them M’s
One million, two million, three million, four
In just five years, forty million more
You are now lookin at the forty million boy
I’m rappin Def Jam ’til I’m the hundred million man.”
Jay-Z’s “never say die” attitude has taken him to places that other people will never reach because they give up too quickly. Successful people never give up, even when everything looks pretty gloomy. It doesn’t matter which successful person you look at, they have all faced adversities and they have all pushed through them.
4. Take care of the people around you
“I got mouths to feed til they put flowers on me.” – Jay-Z
It is important to take care of the people around you. If by some chance you do strike it rich you need to realize that you got there because of the kindness and efforts of a lot of people. No body got anywhere by themselves. To think so would be a mistake. Jay is well aware that he is who he is today because he had the moral and financial support from the friends, family and business partners in his life. To forget them would be a serious error.
If you take care of your business partners other people will perceive you as trustworthy and be more likely to engage your services. Furthermore, the people with whom you have already done business will be more likely to take care of your in return.
With this in mind I should take a second to thank my home-boy Alex for digging up all the quotes for this post!
Success is not about what you know, it is about who you know. But it’s no use if they know you for the wrong reasons.
5. Watch your mouth
“A wise man once told me don’t argue with fools, because people from a distance cant tell who is who.” – Jay-Z
Leading on from number four it is important to watch what you say. One of the first things my father ever taught me about business is that you should never say anything bad about anyone in the industry because sooner or later you will be known to be untrustworthy.
Jay-Z is very careful about who he disses in his rap songs. He has never bitten the hand that feeds him. His disses always go out to competitor rap artists and are used as a marketing method to make himself known in the media and music industry.
I myself would never say some of the things he has. However, you have to take note of how he has done it as every word was deliberate and intentional. None of it came as en emotional response – it was a business move. Let me illustrate:
For over five years Jay-Z had continuous beef with a fellow New York rapper called Nas. They were both fighting to become the best rapper in the city. Each artist took turns saying things about the other until the conflict became so popularized people thought there was going to be bloodshed.
Finally Jay-Z called a massive concert at Madison Square Gardens called “I Declare War”. People feared that it would trigger a new gangster war in New York City. The concert sold out and to the shock and awe of the people attending Jay walked out with rival rapper Nas and the two did a concert side-by-side. He declared peace instead.
Be careful what you say about people. It will have an effect.
6. Make your own destiny
“Gotta keep it peace like a buddhist…
Nobody gonna Wesley snipe me
It’s less than likely,
Let I breathe Jedi knight,
The more space I get the better I write,
(Oh) Never I write, but, if, ever I write,
I need the space to say whatever I like.” – Jay-Z
This quote is my favorite of all of Jay’s quotes and it might need a little explaining. Like many of his lyrics it is multi-layered and allows for many different interpretations.
Firstly, Jay says that he needs space and that no body or no circumstance will get in the way of that. He creates his own space and doesn’t let other people bring him down.
Secondly, Jay-Z is somewhat of a prodigy whose lyrics are composed on the spot and usually in the recording booth. It is well known that he never writes any lyrics down but instead commits it all to memory. In the quote Jay is playing on this fact saying that he never writes but if he did it would say exactly what he intended.
He is the author of his own destiny. Are you?
Some other inspiring Jay-Z facts
Jay-Z has said and done so many amazing things so I thought I would share a few as a conclusion to this post. I have selected some of the most inspiring for you to browse through. Hopefully something will stand out to you.
If you have any other I have missed be sure to leave a comment!
Facts about Jay
- Jay is worth a reported $182 million.
- Jay is married to singer Beyonce Knowles
- Jay had six consecutive albums reach number one
- Jay’s album the Blueprint 2 has sold over three million copies
- Jay is part owner of the basketball team the New Jersey Nets
- Jay takes equity in his business deals instead of endorsements and as such has built up massive wealth.
- It was Jay who signed Rihana, NE-YO and Mariah Carey all in one year to make Def Jam a fortune.
- Jay and Kanye West donated $1.3 million to Hurricane Katrina victims
- Jay sold his clothing company for $204 million in cash
This guest post has been written by The Daily Minder from the blog that makes the daily grind meaningful – The Daily Mind.