How Jay-Z Became The First Billionaire Musician Of Our Time.

American RnB/Pop artist Bruno Mars and most recently Nigerian singer Teni have both coined great aspirational songs titled Billionaire that were relatable enough to become generally acceptable to the average Nigerian listener. While Bruno Mars delivered the unforgettable “I wanna be a Billionaire so freakin’ bad, buy all of the things I never had” as a featured artist on a memorable chorus, Teni owned hers from top to bottom and insinuated that if Nigerian business moguls; Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola can achieve Billionaire status, then so can she. While a long list of artists desire the ten figures, nine zeros financial position in life, only two have been able to achieve this. One of them being a hip hop artist / rapper from Brooklyn New York – Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter


Joining Paul McCartney (age 77) on the elite list of Musician Billionaires Jay-Z (age 49) has come a long way from his humble beginnings on the streets to boards rooms, from throwback jerseys to tailored suits, from the Marcy housing projects to the world, Jay-Z’s climb to fame and fortune is the rags to riches – grass to grace story most people love to hear as a source of inspiration and a beacon of hope.


“Financial freedom my only hope” Jay rapped on his most recent solo album 4:44. Proving to be a man of his words or lyrics in this instance, Jay-Z has attained the level of financial freedom that translates into generational wealth and his wife Beyonce alluded to this on their joint album Everything Is Love when she said “my great-great-grandchildren already rich”. 


Before going further, having a clearer understanding of the concept of financial freedom and it’s entailment is imperative. This is important as it enables us to appreciate the reality in making $1million a thousand times over and the fundamentals of not just wealth creation but sustainment also. 


“What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes.” — Macus Tullius Cicero (Roman Statesman 103BC – 43BC). Since freedom can literally be viewed as “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved” this gives many a sense of peace and control. However most Nigerians have mini panic attacks when a new school term is approaching and it’s almost school fees period, when their spouse hints at a vacation or couples retreat, when December is on the horizon and Christmas bells start sounding synonymous to debit alerts. That is not freedom. While you might be physically free and still have your fundamental human rights intact, financial freedom is also of utmost importance. Schools test our Intelligence Quotient, however life focuses more on our Emotional Intelligence, Creative Intelligence and Financial Intelligence. Financial freedom goes way beyond just having money. It is the ability to be who you really are and do what you really want in life without being hindered by your bank account. Hence financial freedom can be deemed dynamic, as it is not a one-size-fits-all or in the case certain-amount-pays-all. Financial Intelligence is a necessary ingredient to attaining financial freedom. This requires a lot of study, patience and discipline. We cannot fully appreciate Mr Carter’s achievement without knowing the underlying process to acquiring his position. 


Born and raised in the rough Brooklyn neighborhood by a single mother, Jay-Z has gone on to win 22 Grammy Awards, release 13 solo albums, have a direct impact and involvement on the music careers of several world renowned artists including Rihanna, Kanye West, J. Cole and Beyonce. The latter of which now bears his last name. Overtime Jay-Z has been able to carefully reshape how rappers are viewed by the media and general public. He proved musicians can be seen as more than parties and fun, but can also sit on tables with presidents, on boards with executives and be accorded a higher level of respect when earned. 


“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” Jay-Z famously rapped on Diamonds From Sierra Leone and this has reflected from the onset of his career as a music artist to his development into a diverse investor. Jay’s determination to make it out of the rough Brooklyn neighborhood was unshaken by his inability to get a record deal as his genre of music was not “marketable” at that time. Jay-Z sold CDs out of his car and overtime accumulated enough money to start an independent record label in 1995 alongside two of his business partners Damon Dash and Kareem Burke. This label was called Rock-A-Fella Records and it housed Jay’s debut album a Reasonable Doubt which caught the attention of executives of bigger labels who now wanted to sign the earlier rejected artist. Jay and his partners opted to sell 50% of the company’s shares to Def Jam Records in 1997 for $1.5 million. Seven years later, Def Jam bought the other half of Roc-A-Fella for $10 million. This can be seen as the beginning of his journey to $1 billion. 


Despite having been in music for over 20 years, only 7.5% of Jay’s fortune comes from music with his music catalogue being worth $75 million according to Forbes. 


On the song Story of OJ, Jay-Z rapped about his investment in art with the lyrics “I bought some artwork for 1 million, two years later that _ worth 2 million. Three years later that _ worth 8 million. I can’t wait to give this _ to my children”. For over a decade, Jay-Z has been collecting art masterpieces like Basquiat’s “Mecca” purchased in 2013 for a reported $4.5 million. Forbes places the worth of Jay’s art collection at $70 million. 


In 2015, Jay-Z purchased a streaming platform for $56 million from it’s parent company Aspiro and renamed it Tidal. Today his shares in the company is valued at $100 million


In a joint venture with popular concert and tour organizers Live Nation, Jay-Z established Roc Nation over a decade ago. As a full-service entertainment company which houses a record label, talent agency, touring and concert production company, music, film, philanthropy and other business activities Roc Nation has been able to represent several superstars in sports and music like Kevin Durant and Rihanna. Jay-Z has made $75 million from this business venture. 


Jay-Z who to some degree can be deemed a dark horse seems to equally be drawn to underdog investments. In 2003, instead of pursuing a sneaker deal with industry-leader Nike, he entered a four-year partnership with Reebok. The company reportedly sold about 10,000 pairs of his sneakers, priced at $150 each, within the first hour of their release. Jay-Z also made an early investment in Uber before it became as ubiquitous as it is today with an initial investment of $2 million in 2013. Jay then wired another $5 million in an attempt to increase his holdings, but was this was not approved by the founder of the shared riding platform, Travis Kalanick. In 1999 Jay-Z started a clothing line with his business partner Damon Dash, which he later sold in 2007 for $204 million cash. As at 2019, Jay’s total cash and investments sits at $220 million according to Forbes. 


Jay-Z has several investments in beverage lines and liquor brands. One of his first ventures into the line of alcohol was when he became owner of the 40/40 club – a chain of high end sport bars and multiple lounges started in New York City in the year 2003. Moving forward he went on to develop his own Cognac, D’usse which he jointly owns with alcohol giant Barcardi. D’usse has earned Jay-Z $100 million and continues to grow at a rapid pace, moving over 200,000 cases annually. 


At $50 million, real estate ranks lowest amongst Jay’s investment and in pole position at at staggering figure of $310 million Armand de Brignac, colloquially known as the “Ace of Spades” after its logo, is Jay’s most profitable investment venture. Prior to the launch of the brand, the now popular cognac made an appearance in Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got” video. The $300 gold bottle is sold at N142,000 on popular Nigerian E-Commerce platform Jumia. 


“Take what the Forbes figured, then figure more /’Cause they forgot to account what I did with the raw” Jay-Z rapped in 2007 on his song Roc Boys after ranking in top place on Forbes first ever hip hop cash kings list which was published in 2006. Those lyrics or bars as they are called in the world of hiphop were to serve as a reminder that no matter what is published as Jay’s net worth, he is most likely worth more. 

Seyi Xodus

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