Jay-Z has been on top for so long that sometimes it’s hard to remember where he began.
The rapper, who grew up in New York’s Marcy projects, started from the bottom and now he’s chilling with the President. Some people say the Jigga Man has lost touch—it can be hard to see the people when your throne (with Kanye as sidekick) is so tall—but he certainly has built himself up to an impressive degree.
Upon the release of his 12th studio album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” we decided to rank his assets of influence. Here are the Power of Jay-Z Power Rankings.
10. 40/40 Clubs
It’s cute to think of blossoming businessman Jay-Z just 10 years ago opening his very first mega luxury sports bar and lounge; it almost seems like yesterday that he was in those small ponds. Jay popularized his 40/40 Clubs when he dropped the club’s name in “Dirt Off Your Shoulder:” “At the 40/40 Club / ESPN on the screen”—it seemed like a logical investment for the rapper. But it wasn’t popular enough to keep the Las Vegas location from closing in 2008. Some reported that it played too much ESPN on the screen and not enough people watched it.
Rocawear was Jay’s first business endeavor outside of music, and who doesn’t want to buy clothes from this guy? He not only founded the business, but cashed out for $204 million.
8. Curating soundtracks
The high art-meets-hip-hop aesthetic he paired with Baz Luhrmann’s recent “The Great Gatsby” adaptation was like the musical/visual equivalent of Jesus himself rocking a studded Jesus piece. The soundtrack was mostly panned. His soundtrack for the cash-cow video game “NBA 2K13” was a wise move for everyone: He made money, lent them his brand and saved gamers from years of horrendous music in basketball games.
7. Stadium tour with Justin Timberlake
Jay-Z has sold out stadiums, and so has JT, but now they can do it as a crossover superstar pair, the masterstroke for Jay’s dad-rap cred. They appear July 22 at Soldier Field.
6. “Brand manager” for Budweiser
It’s an exciting time for both Budweiser and Jay-Z, combining the crisp, refreshing taste of a mega-corporate American lager with the edge this American icon brings to suburbia. Both have been integral parts of their respective cultures for years, so their alliance is sure to yield some exciting results in this country’s future!™
5. New Jersey Nets
Jay-Z bought a 1/15 percent stake in the New Jersey Nets and moved the NBA team into a massive stadium in Brooklyn. Then he sold his stake of the team. Beside the fact that his influence on the franchise was wildly disproportionate to his actual ownership, the weirdest part of Jay’s days as an NBA owner was how quickly he dumped his share. Sure, he wanted to become an agent, but in retrospect the whole thing seemed like an elaborate ploy on his end to build another 40/40 Club.
4. Roc Nation Sports
Though he’s surely casting for new members of the Illuminati, athletes such as Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant and Geno Smith have all jumped for Hova’s representation under the Roc Nation Sports banner he founded. The agency’s staying power remains to be seen, but hopefully it’s as resilient as his rap career has been—an eventual Drew Rosenhaus/Shawn Carter beef would be amazing.
3. “Magna Carta Holy Grail” on Samsung Galaxy phones
If Hov’s “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man” line didn't ring true before, this is the moment when it manifested itself, ate the real Jay-Z and became him. During Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Jay announced his new album during a three-minute infomercial for Samsung in which he appeared to be working hard in the studio, and definitely not just copy-pasting an album together to pre-sell a million copies to a cell phone company.
Did I mention that Samsung bought a million copies of his album on pre-sale? The company already has paid about $5 million to have initial listening rights, bypassing the listener and any real trust of artistic intent between them.
(The Samsung launch didn't go off quite as planned Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times and other reports. The album download app didn't work for many customers, who vented their frustrations about the technical glitches on Twitter. Not long after the supposedly Samsung-only midnight launch, the album leaked online. Other newspapers reported the app was hacked, with some clone versions including anti-government statements and a picture of President Obama wearing headphones. The album will drop officially for everyone else Tuesday.)
2. Being married to Beyonce
Isn’t it great that one of the most powerful, influential and popular celebrity males in the country can still be outdone by his wife at any moment?
1. Chumming it up with Obama
Barry and Jay’s bromance catches a lot of shade and unnecessary criticism, and Jigga totally embarrassed BO when he rapped about his trip to Cuba on “Open Letter” earlier this year.
But it shows just how far Jay has come, and ironically brings out some old tendencies in him. He’s not the same old Shawn as “Tote guns to the Grammys, pop bottles on the White House lawn,”* but “Sittin next to Hillary, smellin like dank”** is pretty damn close.
*(“So Ghetto, “1999)
**(“[Bleep], Don’t Kill My Vibe Remix,” 2013)
Adam Lukach is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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