Business, Success and Life Lessons from Jay-Z


I wasn’t always a Jay-Z fan. In fact, I would say that I was one of the late passengers to hop on the Jay-Z train. While many of my friends were listening to the likes of Jay-Z and Biggie on their walkmen, my mixtape consisted of Mase and Will Smith. Then one day, I think it was about two or three years after the release of Reasonable Doubt. A friend of mine gave me a cassette version of the album.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

At a young age I simply enjoyed his music. He knew how to create music that you could not only dance to and enjoy but also relate to in one way or another. As his music matured and he began creating his legacy rather than just a hip-hop career; my opinion of Jay-Z went from, “Wow he’s good at music” to “Wow he’s good at business”. I’m not sure when it started, but I think it was somewhere in between the creation of Roca-Wear and his retirement announcement that I realized he was just as much of a businessman as he was an artist.

After conquering the music industry and following that up with business success in clothing, advertising and a variety of other ventures, Jay-Z has become one of the most recognizable self-made men in the world. This year the rapper, businessman, owner and artist will add one more title to his repertoire; author. His book, “Decoded” – (BUY IT) will take a look at his life and the evolution of the music industry through his own lyrics.

What Jay-Z can teach you about Business

Dumb down for your audience and double your dollars

For me, this line can relate to two different lessons about dumbing down when you’re doing business.

First, it’s important to understand the effectiveness of simple communication. If you over complicate your businesses process or  marketing message, people will find it difficult to connect with your brand or understand your messaging. In fact, there’s a good chance that if you’ve complicated your message, your potential clients will move on to less confusing competitors. In business we often over complicate things without even noticing. This is why there is so much emphasis on having a personal elevator pitch and a professional elevator pitch. Albert Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

The second type of dumbing down is what some would call selling out. Facebook did what many would call selling out when they went from being a university exclusive service to a service available to the general public. While their several members of their fan-base thought this was a horrible idea, Facebook realized that this was something they had to do to attract the masses and become the largest social network in the world.

Jay-Z faced a similar situation when his first album, Reasonable Doubt. The debut album only attracted a few true hip-hop fans and barely made a splash mainstream. Jay-Z quickly realized that he had to dumb down his music to double his dollars. This switch in his style caused quite a bit of controversy in the hip-hop world but was essentially the turning point for his entire career.

Next time you see the homie and his rims spinnin’, Just know my mind is workin just like them… The rims that is!

This line speaks to the notion of being an opportunist and hard worker. Someone who is always thinking of new ways to improve their business or inner self. A lot of people stay idle right after high school or University and stop educating themselves. Those who are fans of life-time learning however, are the ones who save their companies millions of dollars and ultimately find themselves in senior positions earlier than expected. It’s important to stay curious as sooner or later it will lead to brilliance.

Never settle, Multiple revenue streams is the key to success.

Early on in Jay-Z’s career it became clear that he understood the importance of diversification. He may have picked this up on the streets but either way, he understood that diversification was the key to business success. He didn’t go to business school and learn about portfolio diversification – He simply understood good business 101. The more streams, the more money – it’s that simple.

Ever since he first came on the scene as Sean Carter instead of Jay-Z, he’s been adding more and more pieces to his empire. From being the owner of a night club to owning a percentage of the New York Nets, the man they call Jay-Z has completely changed the way musicians look at business. More and more we are seeing musicians begin clothing lines or teaming up with brands to sell products. With the most recent announcement that Jay-Z will be releasing a book, “Decoded”, it will be interesting to see if any other artists start putting their pens to paper for something other than lyrics.

What Jay-Z can teach you about Life

Get the hottest chick in the game to wear your chain.

Jay-Z & Beyonce
Jay-Z & Beyonce

If you’re a believer in psychology then this is one line from Jay-Z you shouldn’t take lightly. Jay-Z said this line when referring to Beyonce Knowles, his current wife and at the time girlfriend. She was without question one of the hottest (in all definitions of the word) in the music industry and since dating they have completely turned the music industry upside down. Arguably, the most powerful couple in the music industry. Jay-Z being able to land Beyonce could very well have been one of the best moves of his career.

According to PsychPost, the happiest marriages are the ones in which the wife is more attractive than the husband. Now, I’m not calling Jay-Z ugly or anything but Beyonce is one of the most beautiful women in the world. The study reads:

“Although more attractive wives behaved more constructively during social support interactions with their husbands, more attractive husbands behaved less constructively and were less satisfied with their marriages,”

So while this statement may not hold much relevance to female readers – It definitely sheds some light on what men should be looking for in relationships. It’s also important to remember attractiveness can be based on physical appearance and personality. When it comes to relationships, you shouldn’t settle for someone that’s just okay. You need to find someone who you’re happy to wake up beside in the morning and can be yourself around 24 hours a day. You go through this world once so it only makes sense to ensure that the person on your arm is someone special.

You Can Pay For School, But you cant buy Class

When Jay-Z uses this line in the hit single Swagger Like Us, he’s referring to “no class” as a personality characteristic not in the sense of attending class at school. A few weeks ago I ran into an individual who was extremely well educated but had absolutely no respect for the property or feelings of others. While they may have felt like they were on the top of the world, the entire room looked at this person as an individual who needed a reality check. When it comes down to it, you can be as smart as Einstein but if you’re someone who has no respect for others, its rare that you’ll receive it in return.

A great example of what this line refers to can be found in this letter from a self-made merchant to his son who is studying at college. The letter is filled with lessons and morals that students should have going into and leaving post-secondary education. Here is a short snippet of the letter, I think you’ll get the point:

College doesn’t make fools; it develops them. It doesn’t make bright men; it develops them. A fool will turn out a fool, whether he goes to college or not, though he’ll probably turn out a different sort of a fool. And a good, strong boy will turn out a bright, strong man whether he’s worn smooth in the grab-what-you-want-and-eat-standing-with-one-eye-skinned-for-the-dog school of the streets and stores, or polished up and slicked down in the give-your-order-to-the-waiter-and-get-a-sixteen-course-dinner school of the professors. But while the lack of a college education can’t keep No. 1 down, having it boosts No. 2 up. Of course, some men are like pigs, the more you educate them, the more amusing little cusses they become, and the funnier capers they cut when they show off their tricks. Naturally, the place to send a boy of that breed is to the circus, not to college. Read more here

I’m not perfect, No one on this earth’s surface is

In today’s world, self-awareness is more important than ever. The individuals who believe they are bigger than life are usually the ones who slack off and find themselves being left behind. An issue stemming from the increased popularity of social networking sites and blogging, is the narcissist epidemic and the idea of self-delusion. People are becoming more and more obsessed with themselves to a point where many of them feel as if they’re in fact perfect and are to ignorant to see their own faults. As soon as you begin thinking you’re perfect, you begin missing opportunities to improve yourself. Learn from those around you and most importantly, learn from your mistakes. Because you will make them. The only question is whether or not you are able to recognize when they happen.

Love it or Hate it. Jay-Z has changed the music industry and the way millions look at business. Never has there been a artist who has taken their music and leveraged it to the magnitude of Jay-Z. While the likes of P.Diddy and Akon have also been coined Hip Hop Cash Kings the fact that Jay-Z has double their net-worth speaks volumes. Jay-Z is an artist/businessman who everyone can learn a few things from – Denying that, is simply ludicrous.

A few other great Hip Hop – Business posts:

A few Business Lessons from P.Diddy (and Donald Trump)

The Eminem Guide to Writing

Five Business Lessons from Kanye

5 Start-up Lessons from Jay-Z