Jay-Z, an 810 million dollar recording artist, and entrepreneur, has released his latest album 4:44. With twenty one Grammy awards, and having sold over 100 million copies worldwide, Jay-Z has easily become the face of modern day Black excellence in a society which makes social, economic, and political climb for non whites next to impossible.
4:44 is an album which resonates the most to the black youth. An album which vocalizes the struggles and realities for the masses using raw and genuine lyrics. Lyrics, that make the album so different and unique in that it resonates with reality but offers genuine and uplifting encouragement to see through the suffering. 4:44, in many ways, was an auto biography which tailored to Jay-Z’s mental growth over the years. He reflects on his past and offers a personal sentiment by saying things like “Let go your ego over your right shoulder”, “you can’t heal what you never reveal”, and “ this ‘fuck every body’ attitude ain’t natural” (Jay-Z, 4:44). In addition to reflecting on mental awareness, he acknowledges the racial struggles that culturally exist in the song ‘The Story of O.J.’. Using snippets from renowned recording artist, Nina Simone and O.J. himself, he shows the opposing views on what it means to claim race as a part of one’s identity. His writing also offers financial advice, since he has become a successful entrepreneur himself. His question, “you wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money in a strip club? Credit” specifically targets the youth whom have become influenced by a lifestyle which Jay-Z figures will not lead to financial freedom.
What’s different about 4:44, is the simple fact that it came from Jay-Z. In many ways, Jay-Z is the success story that Black America has been rooting for. Aside, from his successful music career, he also began investing in businesses that have added to his net worth. As a musician turned business man, he is the embodiment of turning rags to riches. Through out his career, Jay-Z has established his own financial freedom. Freedom, which enabled him to rap truthfully, without the pressure from recording labels. He raps to send a message on how to gain financial success from a system which continues to oppress. So, what does his message mean? What does he wish to accomplish? Could his success story potentially cause a revolution?
In a 2016 interview with Dr. Umar Johnson, he stated that “If Jay-Z wanted to, he could probably do more today than Dr. King and Malcom did 40 years ago” simply because of his socioeconomic status. He has the funds and the means to be more influential than Dr. King and Malcom, it’s just a matter of making the sacrifice for the greater good. This begs another question, Could Jay-Z’s success story mark the rebirth of Black Wall Street? The answer, according to Dr. Umar Johnson, would be yes. Again, it boils down to the sacrifice that must be made. Becoming a success story means to become a leader for the youth to follow by example. It means to voice unpopular opinions which the rest of America will constantly degrade. It means to go against the dominating white race and create enemies along the way. It means sacrificing one’s image for the masses to rise.
With all that has been said, Jay-Z’s album 4:44, reinforces what black excellence is in White America. His success story can influence the youth to create their own financial freedom that elevates their socioeconomic status
By Anika Shakir