“I’m From Rags To Riches”: The Death of Jay-Z

I totally agree with the authors perspective of Jay-Z portraying a certain image in his videos to transition himself from “the game” to becoming a corporate citizen.  Jay-Z displayed his new identity when he promoted in his Black Album that he doesn’t wear jersey but instead crisp jeans with button-ups.  I believe Jay-Z knows that in Hip-Hop artist are rarely granted distances from the roles they play in their music videos or even Hip-Hop performances.  Usually, if you act like a thug in a video it is because you want to show that you are a thug.  Jay-Z knew that whatever character he portrayed in his music video is how the public would perceive him.

If you date back to 1998 and his famous “Hard Knock Life” record, the music video portrays a community where people knew and understood one another.  Some examples would be people riding bikes, shooting craps, chatting on stoops and posting in the hood in Jigga mans fine ride.  Jay-Z claims to stretch out the game and put Jigga on top.  This sets him up to show the audience that he can do anything he puts his mind to or “change the game”.

Another form of transformation is the several names he chose- Jigga, Hova, Izzo and Sean Carter.  This is a clear display of his evaluation of growth and maturity.  He is transitioning to a corporate business man from a street thug while bringing his fans along with him.  A prime example of this is shown in the next album after “Can I Get A…”, it displays that their has been a metaphorical murder of Jay-Z and the return of Sean Carter. He is trying to show that the gangster may have retired but the hustler will last forever.  Change is not always something that we can control.

In his last videos Jay-Z looks at Hip-Hop as a tool and politics.  He pushes it forward by saying “no chrome on the wheels I’m a grownup for real”.  He knows his identity and so does the public.  He shows himself in his limo and all the pretty girls from the community join him.  He snaps his fingers and the city lights go out.  He introduces his fiancé as “the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain”.  Jay-Z displays that he went from rags to riches in his lyrics and his music videos.  He slowly makes this progressional transition into corporate and begins a new trend for other rappers.  I believe this was a stratigic move for Sean Carter because he knew the street life image could only go so far in corporate america.  He was able to notice this and capitalize on it.

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3 Responses to “I’m From Rags To Riches”: The Death of Jay-Z

  1. Debbie says:

    I definitely agree that he was able to capitalize on knowing that the “thug” image couldn’t go very far, like the professor mentioned before, he and Beyonce are amazing at marketing and business. So the fact that he could’ve noticed this early on and use it to his advantage is pretty interesting. Maybe the way black people are perceived in the media helped him realize this? General’y the media is stereotypical and loves to call black men thugs for having this “street image,” maybe that’s part of the reason he changed his image? I feel that by changing his image in this way he was able to appeal to a broader audience. I just never thought of it as a maturity thing, so I think that’s an interesting observation.

  2. Ofir Yakobowicz says:

    While I agree with most of what you said, I feel that he still trys to maintain his “bad boy” appearance, and thats mostly to prove to his fans that he’s authentic (which he probably hasn’t been a real bad boy since he started making millions of dollars). I wouldn’t go as far to say that the public knows his identity because I’m sure there is much more to Sean Carter than his music that the public just doesn’t hear about. Its probably more difficult now to find out who he is because he has much, much less to prove to people.

  3. Allen Sharma says:

    I consider Jay-Z to be a very smart businessman which is why I feel like him and Kanye are no longer on good terms. Sad as it is to say Kanye was just a profitable business investment made by Jay-Z. Jay-Z only went on theWatch The Throne Tour with Kanye because he foresaw how profitable it was. Jay-Z only hung around Kanye when it was beneficial and convenient to him and it’s sad to see because Kanye looks up to him like a big brother. Real friends huh, how many of em?

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