Jay Z is possibly the greatest hip hop artist of the last two decades, putting out platinum record after platinum record. His hustler mindset has enabled him to achieve success, over and over again, time after time, not only in music but in the business world as well. Let us decode Jay Z’s most famous hip hop lyrics to get a peak into the inspiring perspectives of the business mastermind:
1) Hustler’s Mentality: “Can’t knock the hustle”
Ever since Hov has been young, he has had a “hustler mentality” from selling drugs on the corner of Marcy Projects, to making his own way into the rap game. Jay Z understands the principle that you can’t just dream about the good life, you have to go out and get it! This mindset is proven in many songs such as “Cant Knock The Hustle” and “Can I Live,” specifically the lyrics, “I’d rather die enormous than live dormant that’s how we on it.”
Jay Z stated in the documentary of the hit album, Reasonable Doubt, that the line can’t knock the hustle isn’t about drug-dealing, but it’s about a way of life, the hustle of always wanting to get ahead, and that nothing can get in his way. In the hit single “You Don’t Know” he further expresses this mindset by cleverly rapping “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I am a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well.” No doubt Jay Z has proven this over and over again, by having 13 albums go Platinum, beating every musician before him except The Beatles (who have 19).
2) Branding Ability: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”
Jay Z ties his brand to everything he touches, and it pays off big! He states that every business he encounters, whether it’d be his 40/40 clubs, to creating his own clothing line, is an extension of who he is as a person. He understands that he is the brand, and that he needs to express himself through his businesses to reach his audience. In fact, he credits the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin for his branding abilities, which teach people how to make their business stand out from the crowd. This becomes very evident to the masses which entice them to buy into him, and become a loyal fan.
When his book, Decoded came out, Microsoft’s Bing went into a project with Jay by scattering pages of the book printed on landscapes all over the world as a “treasure hunt” so to speak for Jay Z’s fans to look for the pages throughout the globe, and upload their images on Bing. This one move increased Bing by a massive 11.7% which put them in the top 10 website globally for the first time. This is the branding ability of Jay Z, when he has his hand in something, it turns golden, he knows that he is the business.
3) Decoded: “Confidentially speaking in code since I sense you peaking”
Everyone wants what they can’t have, knowing this simple knowledge, Jay applies it in a big way, he keeps a sense of mystery to not only his lyrics (which usually include double meanings, and intellectual sayings) but also in himself. Even in the Twitter world, he is known to only post a few times yearly, however, those few tweets ALWAYS get huge coverage by media giants. Since he keeps his words exclusive, everyone wants to know what he’s going to say, and do next. His exclusivity further presents itself in the media as he has a knack for staying out of the tabloids and only making appearances when he has something to say. In other words, there’s very little gossip about Jay because he only speaks when he wants others to listen.
4) Recruited Soldiers: “Recruited lutenants with ludicrous dreams of getting cream, let’s do this”
When Jay Z was first entering the rap hustle, he had his own nation of people including Memphis Bleek, Beanie Segal and more, as he gained more success, hit artists such as Notorious BIG, Mary J Blige, and Foxy Brown worked with him. Finally, as he earned his spot in the hiphop game, he began to build his own team, and now he’s known for building his record label, Roc Nation into a one of the most successful labels in the industry with hit artists including Rihanna, Kanye West, and J Cole. He doesn’t just hire anyone, if you’re apart of Jay Z’s team, you’re a part of the elite. Like the lyrics state, he recruits lutenants!
5) Forever Evolving: “I used to cruise the used car lot, put chrome on the truck, Baby boy, now I’m all grown up”
Many people may hate on the fact that he’s not the “old Jay Z” but in business, as with life, you need to keep evolving, and Jigga knows this well. He gets with the times, reads the market, and strikes when the irons hot. As Jay Z grows up, so does his fan base, and as his fan base watches Jay grow up, they almost become emotionally attached to the business mogul which makes them adapt to any of his new latest and greatest hits.
6) A Dynasty Created In His Own Image: “Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself.”
Jay created his own record label, Roc-A-Fella (later Roc Nation) because he didn’t want to wait to release his album. Instead of getting signed, he created his own way, and by doing so, created his own dynasty which later recuperated into Roc Nation. He was focused on the big picture, and not focused on just making a quick buck, In other words, he was”trying to get them M’s while others were trying to get them 1′s”. Jay Z had no intention of living an average life, he had big dreams of becoming a successful rap-star.
7) Self-Worth Of A Living Legend: “I’m your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper”
Call it cocky, or call it confident, but whatever you call it, Hov has it! He’s got the confidence to persuade people into his frame of mind, and the charisma to keep people coming back. This all comes from his self-worth he truly believes that he deserves to be successful, and therefore attracts more success. An example of this self worth is evident in his hit single “What More Can I Say” when he raps the following lyrics, “But the real shit you get when you bust down my lines; Add that to the fact I went plat’ a bunch of times; Times that by my influence on pop culture; I’m supposed to be number one on everybody list; We’ll see what happens when I no longer exist; Man, fuck this.” Another great line that proves this in his song “Never Let You Down” – “Hov’s a living legend, I’ll tell you why, everybody wanna be hov and hov’s still alive.”
8) Common Sense: “I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars”
Jay Z uses simplicity to appeal to the masses, he utilizes the famous business principle of KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid so that everyone can relate. He makes “cents” out of common sense but does it in a clever way that even the people that want to delve deeper into his music will still be able to learn about his double entendres. “When your sense got that much in common; And you been hustling since your inception; Fuck perception, Go with what makes sense”
9) Knowledge Of A Genius: “I’m so far ahead of my time; I’m bout to start another life, Look behind you, I’m bout to pass you twice.”
Simply put, Hova is one smart motherf***er and it shows in just about every song he has. It’s hard to find a song of his that doesn’t have double entendres, or something you need to Google to find out, but he wasn’t just born with all this knowledge, he credits reading as a big source of where his genius comes from. He states “I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.”
There’s a long list of books Jay credits for his success, these include the following (click each to read more):
10) Passion For The Game: “Nine to five is how to survive, I ain’t trying to survive. I’m tryna live it to the limit and love it a lot.”
Take the following 3 events that occurred in Jay’s life, and you can see where he gets his never-ending passion to always be hustling to make legendary music:
- When Hov was young and in high school, he was inspired by his English teacher because she taught him how to use words in different ways. He learned the basic different types of poetic literacy one can apply to be creative in different ways, such as using puns and metaphors to paint pictures.
- Jay Z’s Mom: “Shawn use to be in the kitchen beating on the table and rapping and um, until the wee hours of the morning and then i bought him a boom box and his sisters and brothers said he would drive them nuts but that was my way to keep him close to me and out of trouble.” In other words, he began to become so indulged in music that a burning desire sparked inside him.
- In his late teens and early 20′s, Jay Z starts to hustle in Marcy Projects to make big bucks because he no longer wants to live a below-average lifestyle. He begins to see the trials and tribulations people go through on a day-to-day basis to survive in a poverty struck neighborhood. He quits dealing and resorts to what he had always loved, music.
Those 3 events led to his craving passion for always wanting to one-up himself. Every time he releases a hit, he’s focused on making another, and this kind of drive is what makes him stand out from the rest. What gets him labels such as “The King Of Hip Hop” is all to do with the passion he had for music as a kid, and still has to this date.
Image Source: Flickr PJayOfficial