Rapper Jay-Z's Business Empire Thrives on Perpetuating Thug Culture
In a Vanity Fair cover story, rap star Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) puts a positive spin on his skill at getting people hooked on crack while he was still a teenager. The experience taught him the basics when it comes to managing money.
If inner cities from Oakland to Detroit to Chicago to Philadelphia were not ravaged by crime, drugs, and neglected kids, Carter's comments wouldn't be worth a look. But in my job, when I see the devastation of Jay-Z's glorification of the thug lifestyle, nobody can tell me his business intellect excuses his product. Day after day, while the rapper's music plays in the background, gang members with stab wounds in their tattooed necks show up in the ER.
From Vanity Fair:
I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer...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.
The former dealer told VF he never used drugs himself. Being an astute businessman, he knew that such would have cut into his profits. Jay-Z got a higher rate of return pumping the poison into neighborhood kids, baby-mamas, and their various sperm donors. The blood money he reaped from selling dope was no big deal. "I'm telling you, it was normal," he said.
The high school dropout said his mother knew he was dealing, "but we never really had those conversations...but she knew...all the mothers knew."
Jay-Z admitted he felt no guilt when he was actually dealing drugs, but later on, when he saw the effects of the crack epidemic on the black community, he thought about it. How repentant is Jay-Z about the addicts he left behind?
Well, the fact that his so-called music inspired a whole new generation of violent drug dealers gives us a clue on how deep his remorse runs. Jay-Z's rap not only glamorizes thug life (in the interview, he says his wife, Beyoncé, after marrying him, went from being a good girl to a "gangsta"), it has allowed him to make $500 million looking the other way. Just like his mother Gloria did.
But in the meantime, the rapid breeders and gang members who buy his wares continue to shoot 3-year-olds.
And when Jay-Z defenders lambaste critics who blame the rapper for contributing to the violence and sexual promiscuity happening in the killing fields of urban America, they usually point to his Shawn Carter Scholarship Foundation. The non-profit has doled out $1.3 million in scholarships to 750 high school students since its inception in 2003. That's pennies to the guy who told VF he doesn't know how much he's worth when asked if he was in the $500-million range.
I'm not motivated by that. ... I don't sit around with my friends and talk about money, ever. On a record, that's different.
That's right -- Jay-Z saves the rags-to-riches stuff for his fans. His lyrics often include what it's like going from "government cheese" to estates and steak, at the same time graphically extolling the joys of rape, sexual assault, gun violence, and "f---ing up" the white man's world.
The Horatio Alger theme mixed with violent, pornographic vernacular doesn't seem to bother the unrepentant Carter. A writer for The Guardian put it this way: "the heart of his music has always been capitalism and economic success by any means."
After two decades of Jay-Z's gangsta hip-hop/rap, many of his black listeners, excepting Barack Obama, are unemployed, fatherless, dealers themselves, single mothers, or in jail, but you'd never know it from the tripe written about him. Apparently, he has "inspired young Americans with his business acumen and marketing skills."
In one of his "songs," the same guy arrested for felony assault after allegedly stabbing a music executive in 1999 raps that he's not a businessman; he's a "business, man."
Carter's more than "a business"; he's a regular visitor to the White House at the same time his pal Barack has barred American tourists.
In truth, he's as bad as any video game that's blamed for inciting violent murder sprees. And worse, he has to know that without two-parent families as their first line of defense, black kids substitute "successful rappers" as their role models -- guys like himself who used to push drugs, but now get rich pushing sex and violence on kids still in the cradle.
Jay-Z even told VF he lets his 18-month-old listen to his album while she watches her mother's performances on video. How cute, and how deceptive. I guess it's okay because his little Blue Ivy is far away from the other toddlers getting shot in the face by the same killers who buy the new drug he's peddling.