One Billion Reasons with Jay-Z

We dive down into the brilliant mind of Jay-Z, uncovering some of the creators simple secrets of success.

By Dylan Korver

Born 1969 into one of the most dangerous areas in the USA, Jay-Z (Real name Shawn Carter) was raised by his mother from the age of 11 after his father left as crack cocaine began to destroy his neighborhood. Eventually he was recruited and sold on the street to help his mother meet living costs. Despite this “hard-knock” life positive influence from his educators sparked an interest in understanding the English language which led him to the art of rapping. His love for hip hop was greater than any wad of cash and with some luck thrown in along the way he found his new life in the recording studio and onstage in a big way after his 1996 debut album.

An incredible rise but just a precursor to a long career as an entrepreneur after “quitting” the rap game and becoming a Billionaire in 2019 two years after being inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame (the first rapper in history to obtain the award). So, what is driving this highly successful creative to heights unseen, a few points below…

Do what you can with what you have.

In these current times artists exist amidst a rising tide of new; new tools, new technologies and new products. For Jay-Z this was not the case and he was either left empty handed or with old.

This environmental restriction on available assets was of course itself pivotal in birthing the hip hop genre but certainly for Jay-Z who, uninfluenced by the fact the records were left by his father along with himself, took them and developed skills around them which would go onto become the cornerstone of his now global empire.

This attitude of making use of what is available versus stalling work waiting for perfect conditions or tools is key to making progress!

Don’t rely on your memory, as good as it may be.

Even for a seasoned MC such as Jay-Z who spent years with his head in dictionaries after first finding his love for boundless vocabulary as a sixth grader, the need to take notes has shown itself in time to be invaluable. If you’ve read a little about the now billionaire you wil know that he himself once sold crack cocaine on his corner, something that taught him his business acumen but also forced him to be able to commit his rhymes (and his deals) to memory.

The crack selling business was not one that encouraged record keeping nor was it a line of work leaving hands and pockets available for notepads and pens, so whilst for a time as a young rapper he managed to publish many works without religiously making use of a notepad, looking back he “wouldn’t advise it to anyone. I’ve lost a couple albums’ worth of great material!”

Easiest tip you will ever get from a billionaire; keep a notepad, smartphone, something available at all times and ALWAYS write down, sketch or record your ideas as they come!

In the beginning of the series we looked at the creative process of superstar Sia – from her words the message was clear, “Ignore the critics”.

Her experience came more so from critics in the media, the message although very similar from Jay-z was more so motivated by a danger far more real in the beginning of a creative’s journey, that danger being the people who love you most.