JAY-Z’s new album holds the black community financially accountable

“Financial freedom is my only hope. Forget living rich and dying broke.” - Jay Z.

Kenneth Worles Jr., Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 7/6/2017, 1:12 p.m.
“Financial freedom is my only hope. Forget living rich and dying broke.” - Jay Z.

“Financial freedom is my only hope. Forget living rich and dying broke.”

Like so many others, I spent my morning preparing for work, walking the dog, and listening to those lyrics on JAY-Z’s new audio novel “4:44”. Last night, JAY-Z – 2017’s second richest person in hip-hop with a net worth of $810 million – released his 13th studio album.

Kenneth Worles Jr.

Kenneth Worles Jr.

Some fans have focused on his past infidelity issues with his wife, Beyoncé, and his challenging friendship with fellow artist Kanye West. But be careful not to overlook one of the album’s major themes: financial accountability among the black community.

From explaining collective economics to sharing his input on economic injustice in America, Hov provides the black community with several gems to help pave our roads toward financial freedom. This album is vital listening at a time when it would still take a black family in America 228 years to catch up to the wealth of a white family.

In “The Story of OJ,” JAY-Z shares some of his past investment setbacks, then, lesson learned, provides insight on a successful one.

“I bought every V12 engine. Wish I could take it back to the beginnin’. I coulda bought a place in Dumbo before it was Dumbo, for like 2 million. That same building today is worth 25 million. Guess how I’m feelin’? Dumbo.”

Then:

“I bought some artwork for 1 million. 2 years later, that sh.. worth 2 million. Few years later, that sh.. worth 8 million. I can’t wait to give this sh.. to my children.”

In the uplifting piece “Smile” featuring JAY-Z’s mother, he gives his thoughts on the economic injustice tied up in the rise of the legal marijuana industry.

“Feared for you, bro, we know the system don’t work. Take a young nias freedom over some dirt, yet it’s legal in Colorado. Yeah, we deny Black entrepreneurs, free enterprise.”

According to drug policy expert Amanda Lewis, less than one percent of marijuana dispensaries nationwide are owned by African Americans. Yet in New York, 85 percent of marijuana arrests in 2016 were black and Latino.

In “Family Feud,” Jay discusses supporting black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs within our communities during a time when everyone is looking to see who will become the first hip-hop billionaire.

“We all lose when the family feuds. What’s better than one billionaire? Two. I’ll be damned if I drink some Belvedere, while Puff got CÎROC. Y’all need to stop.”

In the last song on the album “Legacy” – which starts off with Blue Ivy asking her father, “What is a will?” – HOV provides insight on long-term investments and building financial freedom.

“Generational wealth, that’s the key. My parents ain’t have sh.., so that ship started with me. My mom took her money, she bought me bonds. That was the sweetest thing of all time.”

Other lyrics throughout the album seek to provide advice for building our community’s wealth.

From “the Story of O.J.”: “Please don’t die over the neighborhood that ya momma renting.” Basically – don’t risk your life over gang violence in neighborhoods that you likely don’t have ownership in.

Recently, the United State Census Bureau released new statistics showing the average African-American family’s net worth was $9,211 compared to the average white net worth at $132,483.

When you consider those numbers, it’s amazing to see a hip-hop artist using his platform to provide us with a melodic financial literacy novel to move our community in the right direction.

Screw the Grammy’s, give “4:44” a bestseller.

(Kenneth Worles Jr. owns 3i Creative Communications and is the Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. For more, visit: KennethWorlesJr.com.)