Developed and narrated by K.Qhamata for SMAART INCUBATOR, Inc.
Episode Synopsis: JAY-Z partners with Random House, advertising firm Droga5 and Microsoft Bing to release his long-awaited book, Decoded. Drops a joint album with Kanye West, brings the Nets to Brooklyn and helps build a new sports stadium (Barclays).
Full Episode Commentary
In a small home in New Orleans, Louisiana, a small 19 inch Tv is muted. Images of notable celebrities appear in television commercials, while a 34-year rapper is working hard on his next EP, hoping to get discovered. Snares and hi-hats blare as the 34-year old rapper tweaks the drums on a song called "A Million in the Morning". Just when he thinks he has the mix right he pauses and steps away from the mixing console. Taking the TV off of mute, he turns the volume up to listen to rebroadcasting of David Letterman. Normally the rapper wouldn’t have any interest in the show, but this episode is different. This episode Letterman has invited Hip Hop’s best, JAY-Z, onto the show to talk about his upcoming book release, DECODED.
The date is July 25th, 2010. Its two years into the Barack Obama presidency, and three months after a car bomb failed to destroy Times Square. Eminem has just sold 1,000,000 copies of his Recovery in two weeks, Lil Wayne’s is five months away from being released from prison, and Lady Gaga’s latest album “Bad Romance” is killing the billboard 100. It’s an odd year for entertainment, but JAY-Z intends to change that.
DECODED IS RELEASED
Still riding the massive success of the Blueprint 3, JAY-Z enters 2010 prepared to take his fame and fortune to new heights. To accomplish this he partners with the award-winning Advertising firm Droga5, Microsoft’s Bing, Random House, the city of New York and Tokyo, to create the first augmented reality ad campaign in music history. The ad campaign was inspired and organized by the narratives featured in JAY-Z’s first autobiographical book, Decoded. Decoded contained lyrics to thirty-six songs, along with the lyrics, there are annotations and footnotes that JAY-Z writes to explain the history behind his lyrics to fans.
The entire campaign was dreamt up by JAY and Droga5. To execute the perfect AR experience, JAY leveraged his corporate relationships to partner with Bing ( Microsoft’s search engine ). Working with Bing and Droga5, the Decoded ad campaign turned into an artistic expression of history, struggle, and success. Allowing fans to participate in JAY-Z’s Journey out of Marcy projects into stardom - by placing strategic billboards, murals and hidden objects throughout New York, Europe, and Tokyo. Decoded was published by Random House and released November 16, 2010. The book would go on to sell more than 300,000 copies within its first four months of release.
ROC NATION SIGNS JAY ELECTRONICA
Within the same month of releasing Decoded, JAY-Z announces the signing of an up and coming rapper from New Orleans, Jay Electronica.
2011 Watch The Throne Album
After becoming a New York Times bestselling author, and snatching up one of the hottest unsigned talents in Hip Hop (e.g. Jay Electronica), Jay-Z decided it was time to head back to the studio in 2011. Accompanied Kanye West, Jay set out to further extend his legacy and claim to the throne of Hip-Hop music. Released August 8, 2011, as Jay-Z’s second third collaborative album, Watch The Throne debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, exclusively on itunes. The Album featured some of Jay-Z’s and Kanye’s best work, spawning the singles "H•A•M", "Otis", "Lift Off", and "Niggas in Paris”. Selling 436,000 copies in its first week, Watch The Throne would eventually add another platinum plaque to Hova’s wall, but it wouldn’t be without controversy.
Jay-Z VS Record Stores
A week before the release of Watch The Throne, 200 independent record stores banded together to send an open letter to Jay, criticizing his exclusive distribution deals with itunes and Best Buy. The independent record stores stated the exclusivity deals would stifle sales for their stores in their communities. The open letter was sent to the New York Times and quickly became national news everywhere. Feeling the media pressure, and not wanting to look like another rich black entrepreneur who forgot where he started, Jay-Z addressed the issue head on in an interview with Angie Martinez on Hot. 97 fm. Acknowledging the issues raised by the open letter, but reaffirming his responsibility as a businessman and artist, Jay went on the defensive saying,
“ We made this album and it took us eight months” he said, “we should be able to release it the way we like, without everybody being up in arms”.
Ultimately, the true reason why Jay-Z had procured exclusivity deals with itunes and Best Buy, had to do with avoiding album leaks and increasing sales. According to a later article reported by Rolling Stone, JAY-Z revealed the strategy behind exclusivity:
”Many leaks happen because CDs are lifted from the manufacturing plant, or during shipping. Since the Best Buy exclusive deal limited the supply chain, it may have been easier for Def Jam to know when a leak would be inevitable and fast-track the release to the iTunes store.”
With or without the full support of independent record stores, Watch The Throne became of one of the biggest albums of 2011, and a memorable event for hip-hop fans everywhere.
2012 Barclays Arena (Brooklyn Nets)
In 2012 Jay-Z embarked on a new venture that would cement his legacy in his hometown of Brooklyn. After purchasing the New Jersey Nets in 2005 for $1 million, Jay-Z had been quietly using his fame to influence other Nets owners to move the franchise to Brooklyn. Finally, in April of 2012 Hov’s persistence paid off. After 35 years in NJ, the Nets announced they were moving to Brooklyn and would henceforth be known in the NBA as the Brooklyn Nets. The announcement imbued excitement across New York, the NBA, and Hip Hop, but Jay-Z wasn’t done. A few weeks after the move was announced, a press release hit news outlets everywhere, informing the world that Jay-Z would be spearheading the development of a new Stadium called the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Not everyone was in favor of the JAY’s powerplay. Councilwoman, Letitia James, heavily criticized the development and fear it would be another example of a rich white corporation, swooping in to gentrify a poor neighborhood and displace thousands. In August she was quoted in the New York Times, saying of Jay-Z's investment, "Bringing in someone who grew up in public housing, with a rags-to-riches story, who could identify with Brooklyn and African-Americans, that was slick." Protests led by James and local activists continued to make noise but felled to dissuaded native New Yorkers and hardcore JAY-Z fans from supporting the project.
On September 28th, 2012, one week after it’s official opening, JAY-Z christened the new arena by holding an epic concert in Brooklyn. The concert would go down in History as the first event ever held at the new arena, and would propel JAY-Z into the sports world’s upper echelon.
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.