First let me say that you can ask anyone who my favorite hip hop artist of all time is and people will tell you Jay-Z. I have not listened to his albums in a while and was not planning on listening to this one, but that soon changed. Why? It was because people started posting lyrics on social media and said he was talking about financial literacy. If you want to get my attention say the words “financial literacy.” If you really want to make me pay attention say something like “You want to know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a….? Credit.” This sentence made me pay attention and I made the decision to read what people were talking about and see if Shawn was really sharing financial literacy.
Let’s start with the above line which is found in the song “The Story of OJ” and it implies that the reason a certain group of people own everything is because they have “credit”. Those who know my financial philosophy know I am not a fan of promoting credit as a way to prosperity. We will not get into that right now, but do know that in order to have a high credit score you have to continually GO INTO DEBT and pay it back. That is not building wealth. You could have eighty million dollars with no debt and guess what your credit score would be? ZERO, not 800! That’s right a BIG FAT ZERO because you don’t owe money to anyone. You are rich with your eighty million dollars, owe no one, and have a credit score of 0.
You are probably reading this with skepticism right now, but let me go a little further. In the song he speaks of the Jewish community owning everything because of credit. It is not that simple, but it had to be in order to fit on a four minute song. Actually to dispel this myth of credit as a way to get ahead look at the immigrant community. No matter what country they came from they did not get to the United States and all of a sudden have credit! No what they did is that they worked, lived together, and saved their CASH. They then took that CASH and built their businesses. Down the street from my home there is a stretch where there is a grocery store, car dealership, mechanic, and a couple of other specialty stores all owned by hispanics.
When you look at any group of people who have full neighborhoods of businesses they own it had nothing to do with credit. They saved their money and shopped mostly within their own community. That support helped the community to continue to grow. I want to go to an even higher level with this explanation. Do you think a college kid by the name of Mark Zuckerberg had stellar credit when he received millions of dollars from venture capitalists to build Facebook? How about Dorsey, Yancey, Krieger, or Spiegel? Do you think VC’s cared about credit when they seen the goldmines in Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Kickstarter? They didn't care about credit scores, they cared about all the money these young people were about to make them!
Understand that Wu-Tang had it right and CREAM (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) is still king. Add a desirable talent or a money making product to the mix and credit is worthless. Money come to those who can produce. To people who can solve problems.
Mr. Carter also talked a lot about image which I loved. That image talk was really about not caring about what other people think, but instead making moves that create wealth. He spoke about a painting that he bought and it went up significantly in value. He followed it with this line “Y'all think it's bougie, I'm like, it's fine.” This is the key to wealth. Not buying a painting, but not caring about what other people think. So many put their self-worth into what other people think of them. They feel if I don’t drive the nicest car, wear designer clothing, go on the best vacations then I am not living the best life.
Caring about what people think and spending your money to impress people will make sure you have nothing that Jay Z speaks about in the song “Legacy.” “Generational wealth, that's the key” he states after mentioning passing on his stake in ROC Nation, TIDAL, or his other holdings. I used to be one of those people who cared what other people thought of me and I proved that by the clothes I bought. I was doing what Jay Z talked about in “Family Feud” I supported black businesses. I bought Sean John, RocaWear, Baby Phat, Phat Farm, FUBU, and Coogi, along with other brands like Hilfiger, Polo, Coach, Nautica, and it was killing my bank account.
Every time I tried to impress people I didn't have money to contribute to my IRA, or money to put into my emergency fund, or money for the downpayment on a home. Every time I put a dollar towards a new pair of shoes that was one dollar not being used towards me being debt free. Thank goodness a job layoff woke me up and I paid off all $50,000 of debt that I was in. Now I am able to build wealth.
In order to build wealth you have to have money. You need money to invest in mutual funds. You need money to pay the monthly premium on that million dollar life insurance policy. You need money to start that business. You need money to pay the lawyer to draft that “will” so the inheritance you leave goes to the right people.
If you think that you don’t have any money to start your journey to generational wealth take an inventory of your current financial life. Do you have cable? How much does that cost each month? What does your cell phone and internet bill look like at the end of each billing cycle? Did you go on vacation this year? How much money came out of your bank account for that? Do you have a car payment? How often do you purchase new clothes or shoes. Do you get your nails done on a regular? Is there a men’s trip that is a non-negotiable every year?
I could go on and on. Majority of the time the money is there to build wealth. What is not there is the priority to do so. There were other lines that I could go into off the album to teach real financial literacy, but I think I have covered most of it. I seen people taking his lyrics the wrong way and that error could have landed them in thousands of dollars of debt so I could not sit by and let that happen. I travel around the country showing audiences how to live their life without credit and so this article was to help give a deeper explanation than what a song could do.
A special thank you to Jay for shedding a light on what is needed in America. A move away from consumption and a move toward financial growth. Mr. Carter I know you could not deeply explain the meaning of your lyrics, but I hope I have been able to give your fans a path forward to creating generational wealth.
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