I am not a fan of drug dealers. I saw first hand how drugs, and drug dealers can totally decimate a neighborhood, families, friendships, and even level entire cities.
This is East Cleveland, Ohio where I’m from, which is now a ghost town because of drugs.
I’ve known drug dealers. I had a pretty big one in my own family for a period of time. I’ve seen product come in, and big money come back. I’ve seen high school friends become kingpins then fast tracked to the pen.
I’ve witnessed a culture I am a life member of, HIPHOP, go from focusing on peace, love, unity, having fun, style, originality and most importantly, have a balanced representation of what it is as a culture and not just music, turn into criminal rap music and dominant culture. Growing up I listened to Public Enemy and Ice T. LL Cool J and Poor Righteous Teachers, for example. I may be dating myself with my references, but it is from these Golden Era years that we can even have a discussion about Jay Z, and what he’s done, or owns.
With all of this said, I can’t front, Jay Z has become an inspiration. Not just for Hip Hop culture, but in business, and even his marriage. Am I a fan of Jay Z’s music? Not most of it. Most of his songs I appreciate and have in my playlist would be considered B sides. Here’s an example.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHVihXRCfAE American Dreaming
Am I trying to ride for Jay Z because he’s an icon? No. I gain nothing by writing this and I am not trying to get signed by Roc Nation. Also, I have serious problems with any artist who uses the N word and talks about previous drug tales without considering, not just in rhyme reflection, but really understanding the terror drugs caused on many communities of color. To me, rapping about it is still glorifying it, and I could never fully support that type of music because of who I am and where I stand. Like Oprah, there would be many instances where I would have to agree to disagree if I had a conversation with Mr. Carter.
But, with all this noisy chatter about how much he really owns of The Brooklyn Nets, I felt like I had to chime in and tell folks to back up, look deeper, and instead of trying to chop at a giant, learn from him. Whether you like it or not, Jay Z is a giant. His wife is a giant(ness). It’s inescapable, and even if you don’t like it, you have to respect it. Also, let’s see where he is right now, and you tell me if you think this could not be inspirational, especially to a young African American man child.
Jay Z is married.
Jay Z is a business owner of multiple brands, and partners with other businesses and businessman for ventures that include stadiums.
Jay Z is wealthy and uses his star and economic power to further causes of his choice. Fela on Broadway is a good example.
Jay Z came from the projects, a place where many children are preconditioned to failure.
Jay Z is a father and committed to his family.
Jay Z is an innovator in this present society.
Jay Z defined success for himself, and works towards it.
Last but certainly not the least, Jay Z has a strong black woman by his side who is also equally, if not more successful in many endeavors as well.
Sure, I could make a list of things Jay Z and his wife are doing that I may not personally like, but who am I to judge? I’m not. My point is, there is a bigger narrative missing, and Dr. Cornel West included, should stop trying to chop down someone else, and get their accomplishments up. What do the critics own? Even 1% of? What businesses have they created, or are they just masterful speakers of the problem, and make money off the problem, by only talking about it, but never solve anything but more fill for their own pockets?
Why does it matter if Jay Z owns a half percent or 20%? It a larger context, it doesn’t. Here’s why. One, Jay Z is not even a basketball player and has successfully found a way to not only sit at the table, but negotiate his importance, contribution, and business sense into a deal that is unprecedented. Remember, his 40/40 club, is located inside the arena. Two, remember, this is a young black boy who never imagined that there would even be another sports teams in his neighborhood from Brooklyn, and now he is opening the venue performing music that he owns quite a bit more than just 1%.
People are saying, “yeah he’s the face but he doesn’t own anything.” Wrong? He owns your first impression because his face is on it. Every time they show Jay Z it inspires a young black man-child who sees someone actualizing his dreams. If the Russian owner’s face was the face of the Brooklyn Nets right now, many people who have something negative to say about Jay Z wouldn’t even have anything to talk about. It would have blown over our heads. Jay Z is not only cementing his legacy as an artist or businessman, in a very historical way, he is being apart of building structures that he is connected to, no matter the percent at the end of the day. It’s a powerful statement, in my point of view.
Finally, I just hope people are taking a look from respect and admiration over hating and being critical, when we could spin this story into a success story for many people to be inspired by. When I saw the photo of Jay Z standing on the roof of his old stash spot, I thought about what he might be thinking. Only Mr. Carter knows, but if I was a betting man, I would say he was probably very thankful. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s accomplishing his goals, in a major way, and overcame tremendous odds. I think instead of worrying about how much he owns, Black folks in particular need to wake up and start trying to own something for themselves too, partnering with people and institutions to create win-win situations. My 2 cents.