Happy Birthday my dude, welcome to your 44th year on today. It was June 25, 2006 when I, along with my crew at Morgan State University were first in line to get your album Reasonable Doubt. We were die hard New Yorker’s, teens who never lived anywhere outside of the Empire State, grouped together 3 hours away from home to get a higher education in Baltimore, Md. We had everything in common, clothes, slang, accent, and music. Girls and boys alike, we all dressed in baggy clothes, rockin’ Tommy, butta’s (Timberland’s), Uptowns/Harlems (Air Force 1’s), Avirex jackets, Triple Fat Goose, etc. Most of the campus was from “Up Top” so it wasn’t hard to spot us. Biggie’s Ready to Die album stayed on blast, Nas, Redman, Method Man, Busta Rhymes, AZ, Foxy, Lil’ Kim, Ghostface Killa and of course All Eyez on Me was on heavy rotation during this time.
“I’m taking out this time
To give you a piece of my mind
Cause you can’t knock the hustle
Who do you think you are
Baby one day you’ll be a star”
~Can’t Knock the Hustle
We heard Dead Presidents and couldn’t wait to add Jay to the rotation. We didn’t follow charts and all that back then. We would’ve never known Reasonable Doubt wasn’t the #1 album world-wide because it was #1 in our circle. We couldn’t take a road trip without listening to it, we knew all the words like the back of our hands. Reasonable Doubt took the streets of New York and intertwined it with the glorified aspects of the mob, threw some hot lyrics over hot beats that told us Jay was a BOSS, and we believed him. He created this “Mafioso” masterpiece that we became addicted to. One of my homeboys and I would communicate in rap lyrics. Call us corny. Or call us fans. Jay erected from the streets, he was the streets.
He was a Boss.
“I got the Godfather flow The Don Juan DeMarco” ~Can’t Knock the Hustle
New Yorkers already think they are the best because being from NY often creates this state of mind. New York is more like a country of its own, something internal, versus being just a city. We think we’re hot just because. Jay took this NY swag and mixed with his hunger for success and declared himself the best, even before he really was. He proclaimed his influence on the city and rap back in 1996 in his song Feelin’ It: “Got the city drinking Cristal, re-up the fee, Rappers going broke, tryin’ keep up with me” he also told everyone to watch him and follow his lead, “I hope you fools choose to listen, I drop jewels, bust it/These are the rules I follow in my life, you gotta love it” in the same song. He’s always said he was the best. And here we are 17 years later; it’s not just some kids from NY who think so.
“There’s never been a n***a this good for this long
This hood” ~ What More Can I Say?
People say that he’s the classic “Rags to Riches” case. I think that’s a corny way of putting it. I think he’s a dude that was born smart, no different than most people. Being smart is underrated because people hear smart and think books, college, good in math or science. In reality, smart means you apply yourself, and you know how to do something that you’re insanely good at and make it work for you by hustling it. It means revenue, identifying how to create residual from your craft. Smart means not being stupid. Smart people survive and make a mark on the world in a large way or a small way but they are influential none-the-less.
So what is the case of Jay-Z? He knows how to makes the best out of a situation and when he gets a win, he doesn’t blow it. He doubles it. He takes from the win and flips it, and from that he stacks and starts the cycle all over again. Being smart is a cycle, it’s a grind, its a hustle and it doesn’t let up. There is no stop sign after one win, you build constantly and climb daily. Anyone can be smart. You just need the right ingredients; find out what you’re good at, own it, and make it blow.
“That’s another difference that’s between me and them
I smarten up, open the market up
One million, two million, three million, four
In eighteen months, eighty million more
Now add that number up with the one I said before
You are now lookin’ at one smart black boy
Momma ain’t raised no fool
Put me anywhere on God’s green earth, I’ll triple my worth
M*****F*****a- I, will, not, lose” ~U Don’t Know
No matter where he is right now, Jay always brings it back to the streets of Brooklyn where he grew up. Everyone’s childhood experiences influence the person they eventually become. It doesn’t matter what the experience is; you can either use it as an elevator or as a crutch, a reason to succeed or a reason not to. Either way the choice is yours. “We used to fight for building blocks/ Now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin'” Jay states in D’Evils’. And where is he from? Marcy. I’ve been to Marcy NYC Housing Project before and it’s real out there. Ain’t nothing nice.
“I’m from where the beef is inevitable, summertime’s unforgettable
Boosters in abundance, buy a half-price sweater new
Your word was everything, so everything you said you’d do
You did it, couldn’t talk about it if you ain’t lived it
….I’m from where they ball and breed rhyme stars
I’m from Marcy son, just thought I’d remind y’all” ~ Where I’m From
Favorite Rapper “Best Rapper Alive”
Jay’s swag and grind has always been done with a shiny finesse filled with incredible energy. People ask why is he my favorite rapper after all these years. Honestly, I can’t say that he’s still my favorite rapper (well, maybe I can) but its what lies behind the genius lyrics and the way he approaches the world that keeps me engaged. It’s energetic to hear him rhyme, or to be at his concert, etc. but truth be told, even at 44, he’s still relevant.
On a more personal note, when I was sick and on dialysis 14 years ago, I had Jay’s lyrics on blast. I had to leave Morgan State and go live with my parents and three younger siblings because I was sick with Lupus and was in end-stage renal failure. I had the whole house listening to Jay-Z and I had posters of him all over my wall. Why? His lyrics had gusto, they gave me focus and fed into my mentals and gave strength to keep my mind from matching up with my physical circumstance. It was an escape from all the dialysis treatments and being a sick teenager who was brushing off death. Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) was my theme song. It was sometimes lonely, it was sometimes hell. But I wasn’t gonna lose.
From nightmares of a lonely cell, my only hell
But since when y’all n****s know me to fail? F**k naw ~ Hard Knock Life
So yeah, 17 years later I’m still a fan. I’m still going to concerts. But it’s from a different perspective now, we grown. We have evolved where some others have remained stuck. Jay is still producing and moving product. H’es married and a father now. He’s got clothes and arenas and clubs. His money has grown up; and its not all a residual of rap. He’s still the same smart boy from Marcy, but tripled (its much more than triple but I like the way that sounds) his worth, he smartened up, opened the market up. He has done what not many others have even come close to doing in his lane. Why not celebrate it? He’s still relevant, far beyond the streets of New York. What’s even more interesting is that he’s still real. I saw him this summer in Baltimore after the “Legends of Summer” Tour with Justin Timberlake, and he was chillin’ in the club, on the floor with us, not even in VIP. Posted up in front of the bar rhyming and smiling with the locals. He was accessible, just like his life. It’s all relevant. Being successful is not a secret. It’s a mentality. It’s focus without a reasonable doubt.
Happy Birthday Jay-Z! StyleStamped celebrates your accomplishments, success, and another year of life!
“Allow me to re-introduce myself
My name is Hov! OH, H-to-the-O-V
I used to move snowflakes by the O-Z
I guess even back then you can call me
CEO of the R-O-C, Hov’!”
~Public Service Announcement
“You gotta pardon Jay, for selling out the Garden in a day
I’m like a young Marvin in his hey’
I’m a hustler homie, you a customer crony
Got some dirt on my shoulder; could you brush it off for me?” ~ Dirt Off Your Shoulder
“Jay-Z, Big’ Smalls, n***a shit your drawers
Brooklyn represent y’all, hit you fold
You crazy, think your little bit of rhymes can play me?
I’m from Marcy, I’m varsity, chump, you’re J.V”
“Meanwhile I had Oprah chillin in the projects
Had her out in Bed-Stuy, chillin on the steps”
~ On to the Next One
“M.J. at Summer Jam, Obama on the text
Y’all should be afraid of what I’m gon’ do next
~On to the Next One”
“I’m, young enough to know the right car to buy yet grown enough not to put rims on it
I got that six-duce with curtains so you can’t see me and I didn’t even have to put tints on it
I don’t got the bright watch, I got the right watch
I don’t buy out the bar, I bought the night spot
I got the right stock
I … got … stockbrokers that’s movin’ it like white tops
I know you like f**k, this is child abuse
call D.Y.F.S., I might just be gettin’ nicer
them young boys ain’t ready for real
30’s the new 20 n****a I’m so hot still” ~30’s The New 20
“Your dude is back, the Maybach Coupe is back
Tell the whole world the truth is back
You ain’t gotta argue about who can rap
Cause the proof is back, just go through my raps
New York, New York! Yeah, where my troopers at?”
(Change clothes, and go)
You know I stay fresh to death, a boy from the projects
And I’mma take you to the top of the globe, so let’s go”
“Ex-D-boy, used to park my Beamer
Now look at me, I can park in my own arena
I only love her if her weave new
I’m still a hood n***a, what you want me to do?”
“The most amazing feeling I feel
Words can’t describe the feeling, for real
Baby, I paint the sky blue
My greatest creation was you, you: Glory”
“Flyer/flier than a piece of paper bearin my name
Got the hottest chick in the game wearin my chain, that’s right”
~Public Service Announcement