About two weeks ago, Jay-Z released his anticipated 13th album “4:44″ on his music streaming service, Tidal, and the Sprint mobile platform. (And yes, I was one of those people who re-downloaded TIDAL to use the free trial. Don’t judge me…I helped him go platinum.) I listened to this 30 minute hip-hop masterpiece and was immediately enthralled by the arc of his story. Of course the big media tagline seemed to be “Jay-Z cheats on gorgeously fabulous superstar wife, repents, and atones”…but I felt there was more. I knew that writing a thinkpiece out of the burning excitement of it all would be shallow commentary and a waste of your time. So I took a bit to let it marinate and thought of some real takeaways for myself.

Jay-Z Taught Me:

  • Never be afraid to evolve
  • Allow yourself to think outside of the box financially
  • Don’t let anyone condition you to accept their bad behavior
  • Never let anything come between you and the people you love

Never be afraid to evolve

[su_quote cite=”Cry Jay Z. We know the pain is real but you can’t heal what you’ve never revealed.”][/su_quote]

Jay-Z with or without the hyphen…With or without the space? Who knows, but it obviously means something to him. We’ve seen this guy bare his soul with slick lyrics over hot beats for decades at this point. He’s gone from a chauvinistic, drug-dealing hustler to a reformed, grown man working to be financially sound and loyal to his family. If you’ve paid any attention to his career you would know he’s always put various versions of himself all out there for the world to see. He’s admitted to dealing (drugs) and not knowing the power of his dollar, sucking at love, mindlessly blowing his money, being the father he wished he had and practically ruining his life for nekkid Virginia (you’ll catch that later). He’s been honest about his humble beginnings from Marcy and his journey to becoming a billionaire. This guy is never afraid to shed old skin, old habits, or old friendships and he continuously reveals his evolution in his work. He shares his growth as an artist, business man and (now) family man throughout his body of work. He takes risks on himself and makes no apologies for it. We should all be unapologetic in our growth and embrace our evolution.

Allow yourself to think outside of the box financially

[su_quote cite=”Financial freedom my only hope. F**** living rich, but dying broke.”][/su_quote]

Many of us have been singing this same song of financial freedom for quite some time now but it was pretty cool to hear an artist of his caliber candidly take on the subject. His no hold barred verses called out colleagues, industry peers, and his fans on the the reckless mentality we’ve held in relation to the dollar. How is it that we’re deciding to monetize our work? How is it that we’re deciding to invest in ourselves and build our communities? How is it that we live rich and die wealthy? “The Story of OJ”, “Caught Their Eyes” and “Legacy” really emphasize the importance of generational wealth and financial empowerment. I’m just now getting to a place in my life where I’m working towards generational wealth. I realized it’s not too late and will continue to invest in myself so that I can make a larger impact in the economy. It’s inspiring to see artists changing the relationship they have with money and helping their fans become more financially literate. It’s high time we start discussing stock options, bonds and other forms of investment.

Don’t let anyone condition you to accept their bad behavior

[su_quote cite=”You egged Solange on, knowing all along all you had to say (is) you was wrong..”][/su_quote]

In Jay’s opening (“Kill Jay Z”), I think Solange taught me this lesson. She obviously takes no crap and I love it. I joke with my friends all the time and say “Solange is the sibling you want in your family.” She’s definitely the opinionated, keep it real type who you don’t want to eff with. I know you should never put your hands on anyone but I really admire her no nonsense, I might just put these paws on you if you act up, attitude.

Mr. Z and Ms. Yoncé have been together for quite some time, and it’s been speculated that he ultimately conditioned his young tender to deal with his bologna. What he probably didn’t realize was that she’d actually snap out of it and had a tribe of ride-or-dies who wouldn’t let it go on for much longer. In the title track, “4:44″, he finally reveals coming to a sobering realization. This is all supposition of course, but ladies you know how we are. A good girlfriend/sister will never let you, or anyone else, make a fool out of you. She got to the point where she played “the fool no more” and I definitely think Solange had something to do with that. Sometimes that’s all we need. Sometimes we need that person closest to us to help us stick up for ourselves. Bad behavior is unacceptable. We have to fight for ourselves and never be blinded by whatever it is to the point where we let people mistreat us. Even if we love them. And if by any chance these bad behaved weasels slip through the cracks, find your Solange.

Never let anything come between you and the people you love

[su_quote cite=”Let me alone Becky.”][/su_quote]

This guy legit rebukes everything that attempts to come between him and his family, and I’m not mad at it. He’s openly going to the mattresses for his village. To me this is deeper than his relationship with Beyoncé – it’s about everyone around him who lifts him up. He doesn’t want to disappoint the people who have helped him become the person he is. He cares about his family honor. He of course references the strength of his wife, the loyalty of his best friend, the courage of his mother coming out, his children…he knows he has a lot to lose if he doesn’t continue to strive for greatness as a man. I think that’s huge.

I stay inside of my head a lot and sometimes forget about the feelings of the people I love. I forget how much they love me and want to see me win. I forget how much I’ve appreciated them during my darkest times but I want to make sure to become more mindful not take any of them for granted. It’s easy to do with this world we live in. We’re all so used to the thought of people being around that we don’t frequently acknowledge how integral they are to who we’ve become. In this new age of digital communication, we don’t connect as genuinely as we used to and we stay distracted with both superficial and self-serving things. It’s time to free ourselves of those diversions (whatever your Becky is) and focus in what’s important – the people you love and the work that brings you fulfillment.

Never let a “Becky” come between you and your true happiness. <3