If you didn’t hear the news, Jay-Z recently announced a partnership with the NFL where Jay’s Roc Nation company will produce and source acts for the Super Bowl (aka the biggest performing gig any musician could possibly book) and participate in the NFL’s ongoing efforts for promotion of social justice.
On its surface, this isn’t that big of a deal. A famous and successful entertainer who also owns a successful entertainment company enters a partnership in which said artist and company can do more of what they’re good at — and help “the people” out in the process.
Cool. So what.
But, this deal gets special attention because of the people involved and the optics of it all.
Colin Kaepernick kneeled his way out of the NFL a few years ago, citing police brutality and America’s oppression of people of color as his reasons for the protest.
This, you know about.
Whether you agree or not — with the act of kneeling; the reasoning Kap gave for the kneeling; how politicians and others co-opted the kneel for the own purposes (positive and negative); whether kneeling was disrespectful of the flag or the USA or not — doesn’t really matter. At least not for this post.
What matters: Jay-Z supported Kap.
Jay wore a Kap jersey during performances. He made public statements supporting Kap’s actions and the explanations behind them.
Jay urged fellow artist Travis Scott to turn down the opportunity to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl after Jay, Rihanna and others in the “woke” camp had declined the NFL’s offer (Scott accepted anyway, and performed) in a show of solidarity and support of Kaepernick, who’s been effectively blackballed by the NFL.
In 2018 Jay rapped, regarding the NFL, “you need me — I don’t need you.”
The general consensus of Jay, Rihanna (who Jay signed to her first record deal), their supporters and fans was, “NFL: we’re not dealing with you in any way because of what you did for Colin Kaepernick.”
Cool. Their choice.
So, for Jay to come out and do a business deal with the same NFL that he just last year claimed to not need looks questionable — mostly because Kaepernick is in no way involved. Jay hasn’t even spoken to Kap through this months-long process of negotiating with the NFL.
When asked about Kap’s kneeling during his press conference announcing the NFL deal, Jay said, “I think we’re past kneeling… it’s time to move on to action.”
I did a whole tweet thread (@DreAllDay) Thursday morning with my thoughts on all of that.
What I’ve heard many people — about half of the population who cares — say about the whole thing is that Jay-Z is looking like a sellout right now.
Well, here’s the thing: Jay-Z IS a sellout.
He’s been a sellout for his whole career.
BUT, not the kind of sellout you’re thinking of. Not the kind that people who disagree with his NFL deal are saying.
Urban Dictionary defines sellout as, “Anyone who sacrifices artistic integrity in an effort to become more successful or popular (generally in music); someone who forgets their roots.”
Merriam-Webster defines sellout as, “something sold out, especially : something (such as a concert or contest) for which all tickets are sold.”
Jay-Z is the second kind of sellout; the proper kind.
This is neither good nor bad; it’s just what is. And Jay-Z has the business results to prove that it’s true.
Jay once famously rapped, “I’m not a businessman — I’m a BUSINESS, MAN!!”
He also, in 1999, dissed an up-and-coming,
soon-to-be-famous fellow rapper by rhyming, “I’m about a dollar — what the fuck is 50 Cents?”
He wasn’t lying.
Jay-Z is about business. He’s about money. He’s a capitalist in the truest sense. America was built — and continues to grow, gentrify, and revolve (for better or worse) — on Capitalism.
Hate it or love it, but don’t deny it.
Jay-Z cares more about the business he can create, and the power he stands to wield, through this NFL deal than he cares about any possible relationship with Colin Kaepernick and/or the opinions of the Kap support system on social media. Jay-Z doesn’t even have social media accounts.
Jay-Z is a power player.
Money is power.
Connections and relationships are power. Aligning with a billion-dollar conglomerate like the NFL is a power move.
Social media followers and public sentiment are not power.
Regardless of how you feel about him, objectively, Colin Kaepernick is a relatively powerless guy right now.
He’s no longer doing the thing that brought him power (playing football), and, as far as I know, he’s neither knowledgeable nor connected enough to have power in doing anything else.
Kap has achieved martyrdom. I don’t know if he knew that’s how this would turn out. Maybe he did.
My favorite book, The 48 Laws Of Power, suggests that anyone angling for power avoid such individuals (the unhappy and the unlucky). Jay-Z is following the rules of the power game.
Just the truth.
So, is Jay-Z, my #1 all-time rapper, a sellout?
YES!!! Jay-Z has been selling out for a long time.
It’s how he went from unwanted and unsigned rapper to starting his own record company and selling part of said company just a year later to Def Jam for millions of dollars.
Selling out is why Jay-Z essentially ran rap music from 1998-2003 — when streaming didn’t exist and the only way to acquire Jay’s music was to go to the stores and… BUY it.
Selling out is why Jay-Z still tours and performs to this day: because he can, and, more importantly, because it still sells.
Jay-Z is a sellout. Being a sellout is a mentality that a lot of people could learn from, actually.
Jay-Z doesn’t work for free.
He doesn’t do things that don’t make him money.
Jay may very well “love the game,” but he makes sure to get paid for his love at the same time.
Jay-Z is about the almighty dollar.
From his drug-dealing past, through a successful rap career, and now with the NFL, Jay has taken capitalism to its extreme — and he’s been paid handsomely for it.
If you’re in business, maybe being a “sellout” isn’t so bad.
I wrote a book about selling, it’s called The Seller’s Mindset. You can get it here: http://WorkOnMyGame.com/Sell