Jay-Z @ Billion Episode 02 - The Dynasty: Roc-A-Wear & The Building of Roc-la-familia

Jay-Z @ Billion Episode 02 - The Dynasty: Roc-A-Wear & The Building of Roc-la-familia

Developed and narrated by K. Qhamata for SMAART INCUBATOR, Inc.

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Episode synopsis: Fresh off of the success of his debut and sophomore albums, Jay-Z seeks to cement his legacy in Hip Hop by signing Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, DJ Clue and Amil to form the Dynasty (or Roc-la-Familia). Uses his new fame and wealth to found Rocawear Clothing, and Jay releases two back to back number #1 albums within 18 months. Entering the new millennium worth more than $40 million after selling more than 14 million records in just five years.


Full Commentary

1998 Jay-Z Builds A Legacy

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In September of 1998, Bill Clinton was a lame duck in his last term, and Hip Hop was still mourning the loss of Tupac and Biggie. But Jay-Z with his partners Damon Dash and Biggs Burke were mastering the art of A&R and building team Roc. Signing up and coming artists like Beanie Sigel from philly, A-million (aka Amil), DJ Clue and Marcy natives Sauce Money and  Memphis Bleek. These signings were critical to the development of the Roc-a-fella brand, image and prestige.
 
To solidify his place as among top 5 greatest of all time, Jay feels he needs to innovate and change his sound. Breaks creative ties with Clark Kent, Ski and DJ Premiere, the producers responsible for the success of his debut and sophomore Albums - Reasonable doubt and In My Lifetime Vol 1. His new production team, composed of young upstart Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Irv Gotti, 45 King and Jermaine Dupri, stepped up to begin work on Jay-Z’s most commercially successful album today, In My Lifetime...Hard Knock Life.

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“In My Lifetime Vol. 2…..Hard Knock Life”, would go on to sell a total of five million records domestically (within the U.S.) between 1998 and 1999, selling over 350,000 copies in its first week alone. This moment is special not just because of the massive success of Hard Knock Life, but because of the subtle changes in Jay-Z demeanor and name. This becomes most noticeable on the title track “Hard Knock Life”, where he adopts the new alias Jigga and raps;
 
“I gave you prophecy on my first joint, and y'all lamed out / Didn't really appreciate it, til the second one came out/ So I stretched the game out, X'ed your name out /Put Jigga on top, and drop albums non-stop for ya,”
 
By perfecting his vision first approach to producing, promoting and distributing music, Jay-Z (aka Jigga) begins to dominate Hip Hop music. To guarantee that everyone signed to Roc-a-fella tastes success. He begins aiding Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and Amil in producing songs, picking singles and in some cases even ghostwriting (see Amil’s first Album writing credits).

Unselfishly Jay-Z gave hit singles from his albums throughout his career to help his team climb the charts with him. The later singles "Anything", "Is that Your Chick", "4 Da Fam", and" I Got That" were all originally part of the albums In My Life Vol. 2 and In My Lifetime Vol 3. 

1999 Rocawear Hits Stores

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Entering 1999, Jay-Z aka Jigga, began his first experiment in diversifying the Roc-a-fella brand. In the late 1990s Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter grew fond of an Italian knitwear designer by the name of Iceberg. When he started singing the brand’s praises in verse, sales skyrocketed. Sensing an opportunity, he and Roc-a-Fella co-founder Damon Dash approached Iceberg’s management about a possible endorsement deal. They were turned down. So in 1999 Jay-Z and Dash started their own clothing line, Rocawear. Eight years later Rocawear would be sold for $204 million to Iconix Brand Group (Corporate Parent to Marc Ecko, Ecko unltd, Starter and London Fog).

Enter Hova The God ( Vol. 3 Life and times of Shawn Carter )

Still riding the success of 1998’s “In My Life Vol. 2 Hard Knock Life”, Jay-Z carves out his place in history for becoming the first Hip Hop artist to release a number one album at the turn of millennium. In my Lifetime Vol. 3...The Life and Times of Shawn Carter was released on December 28th, 1999. The album sold  sold 462,000 copies in its first week, while debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. The sales week was thirty-percent more than the first-week sales of Jay-Z's previous album, Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life (1998).  In 2009, the album reached sales of 3,093,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

[ Milestone moment: In the third quarter of 1999, Jay-Z and company re-release Jay's debut album Reasonable Doubt. Adding a new version of the street single "Dead Presidents" . The reissue goes platinum ( 1 million records sold) before the December 28th release of Vol. 3...The life and times of Shawn Carter.]

2000 Roc-la-Familia (The Dynasty)

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In 2000 Jay-Z makes the business decision to scrap his production team. Rather than using big-name producers such as Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who had featured prominently on Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, Jay Z decides to team up up-and-coming producers for his fifth album, “The Dynasty: Roc-la-familia”. On Dynasty hip hop fans are introduced to future super producers Just Blaze, Kanye West, Young Guru, Bink! and The Neptunes. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with 557,789 copies sold in its first week and more than 2.3 million copies sold to date.
 
Five chart topping albums, and three gold albums by Roc-a-fella artists Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel and DJ Clue. Jay-Z and Roc-a-fella were unstoppable. But he and his partners (Dame, and Biggs) still saw growth opportunities. Early 2000 Jay-Z signed philly native Freeway, the second signing of a rapper from philadelphia in less than a two years. The move broke the tradition of New York record Labels only signing New York rappers. Freeway, along with Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek and A-million would all be featured on the Dynasty Album. Helping Jay-Z to cement his legacy as an entrepreneurial crusader for hip hop and black culture.


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.