Rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, sports agent, creator of a clothing line, club owner, millionaire, husband and father.
These are the pick of titles by which Jay-Z is known, but it was an altogether different designation that defined him back in the day: crack cocaine dealer.
To those who are familiar with and have followed the tycoon’s rise to superstardom, the full disclosure of his druggie past during an interview for next month’s issue of Vanity Fair is hardly the stuff of shock and surprise.
For the uninitiated (or uninterested) non-hip-hop-heads, however, that a former drug dealer is now a major funder of the world’s most powerful president is likely to send their distress signals into overdrive. Not least because his rap (pun intended) sheet also includes such distinguished entries as that of having popped a bullet into his own brother and stabbing a record producer during a 1999 altercation.
Whether it’s simply because it has been a slow news week, or the intended result of good ol’ fashioned clever politicking (read: publicity) on the part of the music mogul, the pre-emptive reaction to the story has been nothing short of ferocious – be it for or against Jay-Z.
Even the industry’s long-standing poster child for bad behaviour, Chris Brown, has seen fit to get in on the act, declaring: “No disrespect, because I’m a fan, but (why) does he get a free pass?” Of course, given his own on-going douchebag deeds, one is inclined to tell Brownie boy to hush, but I digress.
Accusations have already been levelled against Jay-Z regarding the legitimacy of his “poor boy from the projects” justifications, with some from his childhood Bedford-Stuyvesant ’hood declaring outright: “He’s a liar. He was never that hard up. He took to selling drugs because he wanted the good things in life.”
And Jay isn’t exactly helping his cause with excerpts from the interview that include statements such as: “It was things like you didn’t want to be embarrassed when you went to school; you didn’t want to have dirty sneakers or wear the same clothes over again…”
Because heaven forbid a child should actually have to clean his shoes or – gasp! – that anyone should be forced to endure the cruelty of having to don an item of clothing more than once.
Others have even gone so far as to question the means by which he earned the initial capital to build his empire, with not-so-subtle suggestions that it was the same drugs-changing-hands livelihood that gave him his leg-up.
The fundamental concern at the core of the matter, though, is whether, in so brazenly attributing his business savvy to his dealer past (which he also does in the article), Jay-Z is effectively suggesting (even if inadvertently) that the whole drugs-guns-and-gangster lifestyle can be a fast-track to financial success?
Preposterous? Possibly. Perhaps, as someone once said, it could very well just be a case of too many fools thinking their views are facts.
LARA DE MATOS