When I think about Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail, there’s one lyric that won’t stop bouncing around my brain. It’s eight years old: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” I mean, how else could Jay sell a million records before anyone even knew the album existed?
MCHG was announced in conjunction with a $5 million deal with Samsung that allowed one million of its smartphone users to download the album for free five days before its official release. It’s a testament to Jay-Z The Musician’s immense popularity that Jay-Z The Businessman (or Business, Man) could even make such a deal, but it’s also the epitome of “selling out.” And therein lies the problem with Jay-Z: I love him as a musician. I’m impressed by the way he has progressed from the gangster braggadocio of Reasonable Doubt to the King of the Rap Game braggadocio of Watch the Throne, and everything he’s done in between. I love how he proves you don’t need an MBA to be a brilliant business man. But can he continue play both roles?
A lot has changed for Jay-Z since 2011’s Watch the Throne, which serves as social commentary from the top wrapped in a luxury item inventory. His empire has grown tentacles, his influence growing almost on a daily basis. The Brooklyn Nets opened their home at the Barclays Center. Then, he sold his share of the team so he could represent athletes with Roc Nation. Even Magna Carta Holy Grail is a record that is more business than personal. The marketing scheme surrounding the album was based on an app which only Samsung Galaxy owners could download on Independence Day – all others had to wait until July 9th. This is Jay-Z cementing his brand while increasing his bottom line. But, all is not golden at the top of the world.