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Jay Z In 1997: Only “Three-To-Five Percent Of Artists Have A Successful Career.”

By / 03.08.14

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“A CEO’s mind, that marketing plan was me…”

The Jay Z seen dry humping his wife on stages nowadays performing “Drunk In Love” is strikingly different from the Jay Z of 1997. His debut LP Reasonable Doubt, in his mind, “should’ve went triple.” His best friend in Biggie Smalls fell victim to rap’s second earth-shattering murder in less than a year. And the direction of his own career was far from being deemed Hall of Fame-worthy at that point.

Such outside haymakers, nonetheless, did not mean Jay failed to see rap for the bigger picture. Captain Obvious has preached for decades the music industry is littered with snakes, shady business practices and dead-end routes – a plethora of the same darts thrown Jay’s way over the years as his own wheelings and dealings occasionally came under fire.

Seventeen years ago, an already corporate savvy-Jay sat down in Rocafella’s offices for an interview that could probably be shown in ECON 101 classes across the country. As an artist then with a critically acclaimed project under his belt, his acknowledgement that making it in rap comes with not only its own set of risks, but also with a magnificently low success rate was revealing in part because he was referring to himself. Jay had a lot on his plate in 1997. Placing Frank White’s war-torn crown on his head as the new “King of New York” was an insomnia-inducing obsession.

“What the deal playboy, just rest your soul
I be holding it down yo, still love the dough
Got these ladies on the cock now you know how we go
Got the whole world on lock down you know how we flow
Don’t worry about Brooklyn I continue to flame
Therefore a world with amnesia won’t forget your name
You held it down long enough, let me take those reigns
And just like your spirit the commission remains…”

– Jay Z, “City Is Mine” (from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1)

On the same playing field of importance, ensuring he, Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke’s label generated profit while carving its own undeniable crater in Hip-Hop ranked high on the list of priorities, too. For all Jay or anyone knew, there wasn’t a guarantee he or Rocafella would be relevant by 2002, much less a decade later.

The clip provides for quite the entertaining glimpse back in time – his take on rap remaining close to its street roots is noteworthy, too – and one Jay may not even remember given how much has transpired in a career producing thousands of its kind since. The lesson remains intact three decades later, however.

Rap prides itself on its a dog-eat-dog image, probably more so now. Understand the specifics, know 99.9% of suits do not give a single f*ck about your best interests if it fails to benefit their wallet and bottom line, weight the pros and cons and realize one man’s blueprint isn’t a road map to success.

It’s more so a means of inspiration for creating your own.


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Previously: Beyonce Ft. Jay Z, Kanye West – “Drunk In Love (Remix)” | Entrepreneur Sues Jay-Z For More Than His Net Worth Over “Brooklyn Nets” Trademark | And This Is What The Original Tracklist To Jay Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ Looked Like | “I Don’t Think I’ll Buy Anything Jay Z Sells Any More…”


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