“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” may very well be the most accurate Jay-Z lyric at describing himself as not just a rapper and entertainer, but rather a true mogul. Jay-Z never thought of rapping as his career but merely another business venture. After coming up through the underground scene in Brooklyn, New York while selling CDs out of his car, he and his friends formed Roc-a-Fella Records in 1995 and released his debut album Reasonable Doubt the following year. The album was a critically acclaimed hit and Jay-Z soon struck a deal with Sean “P Diddy” Combs to have him help with the production on his follow-up album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. This album was another hit, as it peaked at third on the Billboard Hot 200. Jay-Z had made his name in the rap scene, and every studio album since In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 has reached the top spot on the Billboard 200, a total of 11 solo albums spanning 19 years.
Although Jay-Z is already regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, he has another goal to truly put him above the rest: to become rap’s first billionaire. Three prominent names in rap have an unspoken competition to become the first billionaire: P Diddy, Jay-Z, and Dr. Dre. P Diddy currently sits in first, with $820 million to his name, with Jay-Z not far behind at $810 million and Dr. Dre trailing behind with $740 million. What makes Jay-Z’s amount so impressive is the wide range of industries he has invested in. He invested early in Uber, formed the clothing company Rocawear which he then sold for $204 million in 2007, and invested in the Carol’s Daughter cosmetics company among dozens of other diverse investments. Jay-Z understands multiple industries and has a keen sense for making smart investments.
With his latest album release, 4:44, Jay-Z once again demonstrated how successful he is as a businessman. Jay-Z is a majority owner in Tidal, a streaming service managed by artists rather than by executives. His $56 million dollar purchase in 2015 has already paid off tenfold, as the company is now valued at $600 million dollars. This is due to Sprint’s $200 million dollar investment in Tidal for a 33% share of the streaming service. There was never a clear idea as to why Sprint wanted shares in Tidal, but Jay-Z’s last album release could show the new plan of action for Tidal. In the weeks before the album’s release, Jay-Z and Sprint made it clear that you must have either have a Tidal account before June 26th or must be a Sprint customer to be able to stream his first studio album since 2013. This upset many but was a smart decision that would lead to many more subscribers for the streaming service. The exclusivity of his album’s release didn’t hinder its popularity, as 4:44 was certified platinum in just five days, one of the fastest albums to ever receive the distinction. Jay-Z expertly used Sprint customers and Tidal to have his album reach millions of people in such a short period of time. However, after continually stating that 4:44 would be a Tidal and Sprint exclusive, the album was then made available for purchase or streaming on Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Amazon Music just two days after it was certified platinum. Jay-Z skillfully marketed his album and utilized his new Sprint partnership to gain more Tidal subscribers all while having his album reach millions of non-subscribers.
On “U Don’t Know” Jay-Z boasts about his expertise in making deals: “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I am a hustler, baby, I’ll sell water to a well.” Jay-Z still has a long way to becoming the first billionaire in rap, but with his knowledge of various markets and his ability for finding smart investments, he may very well accomplish this feat in the near future. His 4:44 tour should net the rapper millions of dollars to bring him even closer to the prestigious three-comma club. “Put me anywhere on God’s green Earth, I’ll triple my worth” raps Jay-Z, showing that he will succeed no matter the circumstances; it is just a matter of time for this skilled businessman to be worth one billion dollars.