Entrepreneur at the Core

By Derrel “Jazz” Johnson

You can call Jay-Z many things.  He is a father, a husband, a record executive, a recording artist, a festival curator, a sports agent, sports bar and clothing brand owner, and much, much more.  But the thing that he was before all of that was an entrepreneur.  Jay-Z got his first experience as a businessman dealing drugs in Brooklyn, New York, and he spoke about it in a recent issue of Vanity Fair.

“I know about budgets.  I was a drug dealer,” Jay-Z told the magazine.  “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up.  Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash, those were the businesses back then.  Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life.  At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”

While some may see his comments as glorifying drug dealing, which, to a certain extent, it is, he also says if you are in that line of business, you need an exit strategy, or the likelihood of ending up in jail or dead is high.  Anything Jay-Z does is going to be glorified by many who are growing up in similar neighborhoods, but if one really examines his statement, he mentions a blueprint for possible success, even in this illegal industry.

Though Jay-Z sold his minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets, his ownership in the team was quite profitable.  He certainly didn’t make much from the stake itself, but if you walk through Barclays Center, his fingerprints are figuratively all over the building.  There is a 40/40 Club within the building, a brand owned by Jay-Z, and his Roc-a-Wear clothing line also has a store within the area.  The uniforms worn by the team were formulated by Jay-Z, and he also assisted with some of the building’s sponsorship deals.  Let us not forget that he opened Barclays Center itself with eight straight sold-out shows.  The ‘All-Black Everything’ feel of the area and the Nets uniforms were also influenced by Jay-Z.  He and his wife now perform at Barclays Center, and haven’t performed at Madison Square Garden on recent tours, something that should continue.  I also suspect he made a lot of contacts that have made his transition into the world of sports agents easier.

Jay-Z exited the world of team ownership to form Roc Nation Sports, a joint venture between Creative Artists Agency and Roc Nation.  While only in business less than a year, Roc Nation Sports represents numerous high profile clients, including New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, and Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins.  Look for the company to make more high-profile signings in the near future.

Budweiser Made in America Festival is another brainchild of Jay-Z. The festival, which takes place annually in Philadelphia during Labor Weekend, has only been around for two years, but has seen stars such as Beyonce, Kanye West, 2Chainz, Public Enemy, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, and Jay-Z himself grace the stage for fans.  Though I missed the first year, I did attend the festival in September, and I would strongly suggest making plans to be there in 2014, as it is an absolutely incredible day of music from various genres.  I took a short bus trip down to catch the festival, and the lines at the Port Authority was a clear indication that many New Yorkers decided to take a ride to Philadelphia for the festival as well.

Jay-Z will soon embark on his Magna Carta Tour in support of his album that topped the charts over the summer.  How an artist as popular as Jay-Z could record a new album in secrecy is beyond me, but he was able to accomplish this earlier this year.  The tour stops at Barclays Center in Brooklyn January 12 and 13 next year.

What is next for Jay-Z?  He’s been successful in music, fashion, sports, and more.  It would be difficult for anyone to speculate on what this innovator’s next move will be.  He is a man that wears many hats and I expect him to accumulate more as he continues to grow as a person, but at his core, Shawn Corey Carter is an entrepreneur.

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