Jay-Z by Michael Eric Dyson

After finishing Rick Ross’s memoir, this was a book that I really wanted to learn from and I saw that it had just been released. Actually, I purchased it before it was even released on Audible. Jay-Z is someone I have always admired and looked up to for many reasons. He has a great work ethic, is innovative, and continues to create success. Something he said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,” has always been in the front of mind also and has helped me focus on who I am becoming and who I strive to become.

This was the first thing that I noted in the book simply because it emphasized for me just how incredible his reach has been throughout his career. Not only has he made his mark on the rap game as one of the all-time greats, he’s consistently shown himself to be business savvy and make great investments in a broad range of markets.

Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) has been an activist and major influence in many areas. His songs often allude to or outwardly state what he is focused on.

Love this. The group of people that are part of this organization are all impactful and wonderful people and the mission of this alliance is important. I think that this group is perfectly situated to effectively execute and get it done. They have experienced the system or witnessed it second-hand and know the effects that it has on people. Along with that, I believe they all have an understanding of what the criminal justice system could and should be.

Jay-Z joined with Meek Mill, Michael Rubin, Robert Kraft, Clara Wu Tsai, Robert F Smith, and Van Jones as CEO to create the Reform Alliance. They strive to advance, “criminal justice reform and eliminate outdated laws that perpetuate injustice starting with probation and parole.”

“As Jay has done throughout his career, he continues to move from the artistic to the political.”

This was the biggest takeaway for me. Jay is approaching 50 yet he continues to empathize and truly connect with his roots. He knows where he came from and he’s always remained passionate about what could be and all the potential that people have. Jay overcame a lot and from his art, the way he moves, and the things that he says and does, he operates out of a frame of hard work; not cockiness. He knows what God has allowed him to create and do and because he’s aware of his humanness, I see him continually striving to lead others to accomplishment through their hard work also.

Photo by Rick Tap on Unsplash

Jay continually aligns himself with the continued struggles of many black subjects who follow him aspiring to rise above their social conditions and attain the wealth and success he models throughout his career.

This was a great comparison and after thinking more about the history, I can see how the tension between Malcolm X and MLK Jr. parallels that of Colin Kaepernick and Jay-Z. After the author explained Jay’s actions and compared them to the model of social protest forged by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, I developed a greater understanding of his actions. Everything has been planned out, he knew what needed to get done and now it’s time for further execution; I hope that he’s continuously successful in this area also.

The author compared the tension between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Jr. to that of Colin Kaepernick and Jay-Z. He wrote, “Those pairs reflect an eternal tension between the outside agitators who apply pressure and the inside activators who patrol the halls of power bringing knowledge and wisdom.”

The actions that Jay-Z took fit into a tradition of social protest forged by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. First, protest a company for unjust practices then force those involved to acknowledge the error of their ways and then negotiate for better terms of engagement and interact with those you once protested against in the name of progress.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Jay is someone I have admired for a while now but as he continues to use his influence, his power, and his experience for continued positive impact, I admire him more and more. I don’t believe that we can ever love 100% of the things that a human encompasses, and that goes for Jay also, but I respect his views and beliefs and have a great respect for his endless hard work. I enjoyed learning more about where he came from, where he has been, and where he is going. This book was, I believe, very timely and I am glad that I worked through this book when I did.

I gave this book a 3.5/5

To read this book, get it here

Read this article on Medium.com

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published