On July 1st, 2017 SMAART released its first podcast series called JAY-Z @ Billion: A Commentary On 20 Years of Platinum and Startup Success. Within the first few hours of release the podcast attracted 100s of listeners. All eager to discover what makes iconic celebrity business moguls like JAY-Z tick.
We at the Incubator have longed studied figures like JAY-Z. A pop culture anomaly, and manifestation of the best and worst parts of our society here in the United States. What prompted us to launch an entire podcast event around Hova was the need to reinterpret the black success narrative. For far too long black success in America has been limited and typecast to the fields of entertainment and sports. And in cases where we see figures such as JAY-Z diversify and succeed in different mediums such as Technology, our success is downgraded or largely ignored.
JAY-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, sits atop the first and only black owned music streaming service in the world. Tidal, acquired by JAY-Z in 2015 for $56 million (in cash), boasts 2 million subscribers and has had some of the top recording artists in the world participate in its exclusive album/video launches (i.e. Kanye West, Madonna, Lil Wayne, Beyonce, Rihanna etc). But wait....where is the praise and exclusive interviews in Mashable, Techcrunch and Wired? Why hasn't JAY-Z graced the covers of tech magazines and the times to celebrate this new statistical feat?
The true answers rest in exploring the depths and importance of one word, "Narrative". The cultural narrative of JAY-Z's rags to riches entrepreneurial story is lost upon a privileged and disconnected populus. A populous that is unable to connect the experiences of black (African American) entrepreneurs, to more relevant and celebrated experiences of non-black entrepreneurs (i..e Whites, Asians etc) in America.
We celebrate the Steve Jobs and the Zuckerbergs but silently applaud the Diddy's ( Sean Combs ) and JAY-Z's when they achieve similar feats of entrepreneurial greatness. We at SMAART saw this as unacceptable. Inspired to action we created JAY-Z @ Billion, the first of many black funded podcasts and media events to come. It is time we take 100% control over our cultural and entrepreneurial narratives. We can no longer afford to let HBO, Netflix or the History channel tell our stories for us.
We at the SMAART INCUBATOR ask everyone to not only to support the launch of JAY-Z @ Billion, but we ask that you support all black created podcasts, independent films and media projects celebrating our narrative. Working against this problem collectively we're powerful. The impact of our voice in media can't be denied and won't be denied. It's only when we're divided we fail and defeated.
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Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.