Jay-Z, Smartest Person in the World?August 10th, 2012
By Gee King
Whether he’s breaking bread with billionaire investor Warren Buffet or being interviewed by political pundit Bill Maher, Jay-Z always gives the impression that he is the smartest person in the room. In spite, or maybe because, of his quiet, measured demeanor, Hov effortlessly commands all attention when he speaks and leads a conversation like few else. The more we see of Jay away from the mic and stage, the clearer the extent of his mental prowess becomes. But is it possible that he’s more than just one of the brightest minds in music? Relatively speaking, when you consider the obstacles he’s overcome, the fact that he is a true master of his craft and the raw intelligence he’s applied successfully across multiple fields, could the argument be made that Jay-Z is one of the smartest people in the world?
Smarts are relative, but for the most part, we all agree on traits that indicate intelligence. We can talk book intelligence and IQ scores, but Jay-Z’s first and most extraordinary feat was surviving poverty, the projects and the dangers of the crack game until he was 28 years old. Looking back, it’s clear that those high-stress years molded him into the ultra-calculated businessman that we know today. No business school in America could be as challenging a proving ground when the difference between right and wrong for Jay once meant life or death.
But his survival is no surprise now that we’ve seen him thrive in the music industry. From marketing and distribution to artist development and branding, few artists in history have been as involved as he has been in the business side of his art. Even fewer have been as successful — he measures his success against the Beatles and Elvis, and only he has done it while side-stepping industry pitfalls like drugs, fame or loss of self-identity. Jay’s few failures have been massive, because his star is, but in the end, he turns them in his favor. As he promised in 2000 on “Change the Game,” “I will not lose.”
Mr. Carter’s words have rung true in the years since. Owning a basketball franchise, palling with Oprah and Obama and wifing the baddest chick in the game are just some of the shinier Ws on his recent resume. But his most exceptional win is the reason we know his name in the first place. He is one of the few on earth to truly master his craft. How many people in the world are known as the best at what they do? Barbershop arguments about the greatest of all time will rage on forever, but Jay’s place as rap’s king can’t be debated much further anymore.
What can be debated today is his place on a global scale. Recently, activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte recognized Jay’s genius and the cultural power it holds and challenged him to use it to affect positive change across the world. As his face and lyrics become more ubiquitous in commercial settings, the question isn’t what his mind is capable of — he’s already proven that a few hundred million times over — it’s how it got that way and what more he’s capable of accomplishing with it.