By Jacob Rohn
In the November issue of Vanity Fair, Jay Z tells writer Lisa Robinson that the skills he sharpened as a drug dealer (managing budgets, knowing when to re-up), could be applied to help start up a legitimate business. It came off as another chapter in the storied lore of the drug dealer as the anti-hero. This is not the first time Hov has brought up the criminal activities of his past, but since he has transitioned to a business man he has become more of a role model, hanging with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, President Obama and more. So, should he still be talking about selling crack?
The simple argument is (assuming he’s telling the truth) Jay should not only address his past but also celebrate the fact that he “made it out” without doing time or getting killed. But of course, the argument is never that simple. Jay Z has transcended the average level of stardom so the Charles Barkley “I am not a role model” argument is null and void. Jay Z is a role model and even though he did say in the article that young hustlers need an exit strategy, his talk about being a reformed drug dealer comes off as glorification. It seems like he’s actually advocating this path as a stepping stone to other business ventures. Let’s keep it real: When you see the cold hard cash that comes from selling drugs and you see the exponentially larger sums of that cash that your superiors are bringing in, are you really going to want to use your newfound knowledge and street savvy to open up a barbershop or carwash as Jay suggested in the article? Doubtful.
Hands down, Jay Z should be celebrated as one of the greatÂ new American success stories. The Rockefellers and Kennedy’s made initial fortunes illegally–to quote Chris Rock “Bootlegging, which was just a fancy way of saying drug dealing”–selling alchohol during Prohibition. Â So, why then is Shawn Carter the one that’s being called into question? Whether or not Americans want to admit it there are racial undertones, but that’s a different discussion. The real issue is Jay Z remains the standard by which excellence both behind the mic and as the face of your “brand” is set. People have wanted to be like him both personally and professionally. So for Jay to glorify his drug dealing past in any way is detrimental because he really is THAT famous.
As wealthy as he is, Hova still speaks to and for the streets. He also speaks to and for the changing face of the nation and when the two collide it’s important to be cognizant of everything you say. Note to Jay: Responsibility increases when you are the new American dream.