What Jay-Z’s Vol. 2 Album Teaches About Stepping It Up

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In my opinion, Jay-Z is the Greatest Rapper of All Time. There are many reasons I can give to support this argument, but that’s not the topic of this post. I want to talk about the album pictured here. I want to share with you what you can take from this album to step things up in your own life and career.

Jay-Z released Reasonable Doubt to critical acclaim in 1996, then In My Lifetime Vol. 1 in ’97 (to less acclaim, but still solid). At the time of the second album, Bad Boy – Puffy, Ma$e, Notorious B.I.G. – were running rap music and hip-hop culture as a whole. Jay-Z later admitted to trying too hard to match what Bad Boy was doing on Vol. 1.

Puffy (or Puff Daddy or Diddy as we now know him) became the biggest start in rap after B.I.G. passed. Puff introduced the shiny suit, champagne drinking, all-about-the-Benjamins era of hiphop culture. With this growing popularity, Puff and his Bad Boy Family went on the No Way Out (Puff’s debut album) tour in 1997.

Many may not recall that Jay-Z was an opening act on the No Way Out tour. But he didn’t last as the opening act. After a show in their hometown of New York, Jay had a conversation with Puff and left the No Way Out tour. In a subsequent interview, Jay let on that his plans were to “get in that office” and start building a business. Jay wanted to help rappers get their business together the way Jay-Z himself had in starting his own company. I read somewhere else that Jay felt he was “selling himself short” by being an opening act on Puff’s tour.

Maybe he was inspired by what Puff was doing. Perhaps Jay was frustrated. Maybe he knew he could do it himself. Either way, the result was a blessing all music fans.

Jay-Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life came out in 1998. Powered by the hit song “Hard Knock Life,” the sales of the album surpassed of both Jay’z previous albums combined. The song/album propelled Jay-Z from being a mere rap star to a music and entertainment star, period.

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Maybe you knew all of this. Maybe you didn’t. Either way, what does any of this teach us about stepping up in life? I’ll tell you.

  1. Taking yourself from star to SUPERSTAR is an intentional job. Jay-Z was already a highly respected rap star. He had a few hit songs to his name, was running his own company before it was cool and was a certified lyricist. He didn’t need Vol. 2 to have been a “success” at music. He wanted Vol. 2. [shareable cite “@dreallday”] Taking yourself from star to superstar is an *intentional* job. [/shareable] 

    No one sells 5 million albums, becomes the best player on their team, or leads a thriving business organization by accident. If they do get there by chance, they damn sure wont stay there long. If you’re going to take things to the next level from good to great, it must be part of your plan.

  2. Always question if you’re getting too comfortable with what’s easy to do. Jay-Z could’ve stayed under Puffy’s shadow – after all, Puff was the biggest thing in the game. The money and attention was flowing to Puff and anyone standing next to Puff. Jay-Z could have stayed as Puff’s opening act, remained a good, solid rap star and loved happily ever after. A lot of rappers do just that for an entire career. [shareable cite =”@DreAllDay”] Always question if you’re getting too comfortable with what’s easy to do. [/shareable]Jay questioned himself: I felt like I was selling myself short. He knew there was another level. And he was intentional about getting there.
  3. Your success has earned you many silent supporters who would love to follow your lead – IF you would start leading. When Jay-Z came out in rap, no one was interested in singing him to a label. So he started his own company with two partners (who did not rap). Even though Jay-Z wasn’t the superstar just yet, many artists admired what Jay had done in putting himself on. So when Jay-Z decided to start signing artists himself and become the label, rappers were eager to join up.  [shareable cite =”@DreAllDay”] People will follow your lead – IF you start leading. [/shareable]There are people who have watched your rise silently. Meaning, they’ve never email or snapped you, but they know your story and respect what your doing. And those people would gladly become part of your movement right now if you had a spot for them.But a movement has to move. And when the movement moves, it needs somewhere to go. Usually the movement is following a leader. Is it you?

    [shareable cite =”@DreAllDay”] A movement has to MOVE. [/shareable]

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