Jay-Z: da Maestro of Branding


Jay-Z performs at the Meadows Music And Arts Festival in New York
Jay-Z performs onstage during day one of the Meadows Music And Arts Festival at Citi Field on Sept. 15, 2017, in New York City. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

What else is there to say about Mr. Shawn Corey Carter, aka Jiggaman, aka HOVA, Young Hov, Iceberg slim, Jigga. I mean honestly, take a second to think about it (*cue Jeopardy theme music) — what more needs to be said about to Jay-Z's legacy?! The man has more accolades than he can count: he is the husband of Queen Bey, the father of Blue Ivy and twins Rumi and Sir, the former partial owner of the Brooklyn Nets (which, by the way, he helped move to Brooklyn; sorry, Jersey), he is the CEO and founder of Roc Nation, founder of Tidal, and the first rapper EVER to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

This list could go on and on, and frankly, he's not slowing down anytime soon. While Jigga has done so much for the culture, perhaps his most undervalued accomplishment is his successful marketing and branding, while also orchestrating a pipeline between big-time advertising and marketing companies and the most popular genre in the U.S. and the world, Hip-Hop. Think about all the sponsors your favorite artist has right now; none of that would happen without Hov. Before him, it was Run DMC, but HOV took branding to a whole 'nother stratosphere.

Jay-Z was always a smooth spitta, who stood out from other artists for his innate freestyling talent and an unparalleled cool he exuberated onto any track. In the early '90s, when HOV was hustling in the streets as well as in the studio — grinding to become the man that he has become — Jay-Z quickly grasped the power that an artist wields on the crowd. He understood the untapped buying potential of his fans. This showed in the transformation of his image as he grew into a household name.

DJ Clark, who produced several songs off Hov's debut album, Reasonable Doubt, joins Rap Radar's Brian "B.dot" Miller to discuss Jay-Z and how he became the branding legend that he is today:

Basically, DJ Clark says he's "not surprised" about Jay-Z's success in branding because hustling is in his genes, he's a "super hustler."

When HOV wore a gold necklace, you wanted to wear a gold necklace. When he wore the fresh Adidas sneakers (in the '90s, Adidas was the No. 1 shoe company at the time), you wanted to rock the latest sneakers. When Jigga rapped about Rolex watches and driving all-black Mercedes Benzes, you started saving money in your piggy bank, because you wanted to live that lifestyle. Jay-Z was cool, and cool was Jay-Z.

Jay-Z was a barbershop's dream come true: when Hov rapped about having a fresh fade and looking clean, best believe men and boys alike were running to their barber to get that fresh lineup — that was the power of Jiggaman. He just knew how to get people to buy into things they never knew they needed and probably didn't need at all. If you don't believe me, ask any old head (older Hip-Hop listener) about growing up as a Jay-Z fan and they'll tell you some wild story about how they saved up money just to replicate Jay-Z's swagger.

Hov had the juice and he still does. His swagger is untouchable. Look no further than his last album, 4:44, to confirm that. But it's not just his branding at his shows, or the couple of lines he spits on his tracks, it's also his media appearances; more specifically, how selective he is about making an appearance. Jay-Z is the maestro of branding, so if he makes an appearance, it is strategic — there's something to gain from it.

Bus in NYC with advertisement for Jay-Z's latest album
A New York City bus with an advertisement for Jay-Z's latest album "4:44" turns a corner in midtown Manhattan. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

On Saturday, Sept. 30, Jay-Z will be performing on Saturday Night Live for the first time in seven years. Considering he has performed on SNL several times before, there's something to be said about his absence. Take this into consideration: Jay-Z appears in the A&E documentary, Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G., which aired September 4, and he's about to embark on his North American Tour, which debuts in Anaheim, Calif., on October 27. Keep in mind that Jay-Z, low-key, has always been vocal about racism, and on 4:44, he raps at length about the harm that systemic racism has on black people in America. In other words, there's a lot to gain by performing on one of the longest-running comedy shows in the industry.

Food for thought: Jay-Z was the NFL's first choice to headline at the Super Bowl this year in Minnesota (remember Beyoncé performed at it two years ago), but the maestro of branding declined. Performing at the Super Bowl is one of the highest achievements for an artist, and Hov, despite all his accolades, has never performed at the Super Bowl. Why decline the Super Bowl when there is seemingly so much to gain?

Think that through and get back to me on Twitter @JefeThaNomad. A li'l hint if you need it: It's all in the brand.

Jeffrey Bissoy-Mattis is a researcher at APM Reports. He's a Twin Cities native by way of Yaoundé, Cameroon. When he's not in the zone researching, you can find him binge-watching Master of None, perfecting Spanish, or working on his podcast, Maintainin', which debuts this summer. Follow him on Twitter @JefeThaNomad.


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