About this Jay Z / Harry Belafonte thing..One of the ways people look at this scenario is by noting that if the community supports a celebratory/ entertainer, that celebratory/ entertainer should ideally support the community… Hence when Jay Z remarked that his presence is charity feel like it’s a lopsided equation because in reality our collective presence in the form of concert tickets, albums sales and clothing purchases is what puts Jigga on the social and financial map.
The other thing we should not forget, that the Black community is still for the most part a trendsetter and validator of trends.. Meaning that sales of Roc-A-Wear or the sale of Jay-Z the artist would’ve gone no where in the world of cross over if Black folks didn’t co-sign Jay Z when nobody was checking for him..
This applies to a whole lot of businesses and so in looking at this from a wider lens we should ideally understand our true value from top to bottom in the marketplace. In short lots of institutions are eating off what we as Black people create, make popular, remix & rework etc..
So while its important that an artist like Jay-Z give back to the community, we should also note that the institutions that he was on Def Jam/ Universal ..Live Nation etc should also be supporting the community as well. Whatever Jay Z makes pales in comparison to the money some of these outlets made off a Jay and by default us..
Now of course we know that corporations are not about the business of helping folks they exploit get free of their grips..But one should push, demand, kick up dust anyway while always keeping in the forefront of our minds the worth we bring to the table..
The name of the game for corporations is to make it seem like they did us a favor..Long before Jigga uttered those words about his presence being charity, major corporations have not only made that same claim, but took it a step further by insisting you pay them for the honor, which many of us have gladly done..If you don’t believe me look at all the labels we flaunt .. Look at all the brands we highlight..From Cristal to Nike to Tom Ford whose name and brand was made into an anthem on Jay Z’s latest album..
Ideally we should return to the days where we stop name checking institutions and companies who bank off us for billions and never give back..I yearn for the days when we made our own labels and brands that we stuck on clothes and big upped in songs..
Also while we ask Jay-Z to do more, let that burden not be his alone, lets find ways for us all to do more.. Maybe its money, maybe its time that we give.. maybe its us opening doors and supporting those who do the hard work.. There is no one way and there should be no limit.. What we should be striving for is investing back into ourselves and the community with the goal of establishing long-term wealth and long-lasting institutions.
So is Jay Z’s presence charity? I’m not sure.. But if he wants to look at things from that lens, then we can be sure of this: over the past 17 years, my presence has meant a few dollars in Jay-Z’s pocket.. The air play I gave him was a few more dollars. The joints I played at nightclubs padded him up a little more.. The articles he was mentioned in good and bad was still some more dollars.. The Roc-A-Wear gear we purchased over the years was money still and I paid for a couple of concerts.. Multiply that by several million folks who have done the same or similar things and you get the picture..
I’m clear I made an investment in the ‘business’ called Jay-Z.. I made the investment in the dope dealer trying to go good..I showed up time and time again..Was the songs I got and the clothing I wore a good return on the investment?? Maybe.. Maybe not.. My point being is this is not a one way street.. I wasn’t ‘blessed by Hov..if anything, I along with millions of fans and the community at large, blessed him.. I sincerely hope him and Harry Belafonte have a sit down..Jay Z can do so much better.
Some food for thought..
Below is a historic panel discussion on the Civil Rights Movement.. This is the level of discourse, political awareness and involvement that today’s artists should ideally have…