Jay-Z: Hip-Hop’s Hustle Man?

The views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com or its employees.

“Well, it might be sad. Or might sound funny but that’s what people do for money.”
Divine Sounds

There is one in every ‘hood, a “hustle man.” Like the dude from the old “Martin” show, “Hustle Man” is the type that would sell vitamin water to his grandma on her deathbed. The type of guy who hawks R.I.P. hoodies outside of funeral homes. The type of person who would use one of the most revolutionary events in modern history to sell T-shirts.

Last week, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter made headlines when he vandalized the Occupy Wall Street movement by creating “Occupy All Streets” T-shirts that are to be sold by his Rocawear Company. Although, it is still being debated whether Jay will go through with it, the fact that he had the cahoonas to attempt it in the first place says a lot about the character of the man.

If you ask the folks from “The Roc” and supporters like Russell Simmons, they will tell you that Jay is just trying to spread the message by launching an Occupy All Streets Movement. If you ask others, he is either trying to make a quick buck ,or worst, trying to dilute the movement by diverting attention away from the economic center of the planet.

What Jay Z is trying to pull off is a textbook example of the Hip Hop Hegelian Dialectic .(thesis, antitheses, syntheses) In this case, create the “problem”, front like your solving the “problem” and then sell the “solution” for $22.

Ask any true Hip Hop head what is the major problem with the art form, today and he will say, without hesitation, “commercial exploitation” However, this is not limited to Hip Hop alone, as commercialism has invaded every aspect of society. What makes Hip Hop different is that it started as a movement to give a vehicle of expression to poor and oppressed communities. So, when you co-opt Hip Hop you are co-opting the voice of the people.

It must be noted that commercialism did not start with Shawn Carter, as the practice has plagued Hip Hop every since Adidas found out that they could make a dollar using RunDMC to promote their sneakers in the 80’s. One can also remember that infamous Nike commercial from the 90’s where KRS proudly proclaimed that the “revolution” was not about fighting for human rights but the revolution was merely, “basketball.”

In a capitalist society, nothing is sacred, not even social movements.

In his book “There’s a Riot Going On,” Peter Doggett traces the genesis of corporations jackin’ social movements back to a 1968 meeting of advertising agents and entertainment company bigwigs , “Selling the American Youth Market.” According to Doggett, attendees paid $300 dollars a head to find out ways to make money by exploiting the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements of the 60’s.

It must be noted that commercial exploitation is not just limited to music. Remember, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” has been used to sell cell phones and Malcolm X’s entire ideology has been reduced to the price of a postage stamp.

What is interesting about the Jigga scandal is the straw man argument where a conversation about the exploitation of a movement was quickly flipped into a debate over who he was gonna break off with some Benjamins.

Although entertainers have been known to give donations to social causes (Marlon Brando and other celebrities supported the Black Panther Party), for the most part, it’s strickly business.

As Herbert Haines wrote in “Black Radicals and the Civil Rights Mainstream 1954-1970,” “business support for pro-civil rights changes was brought about not by moral enlightenment but by recognition that racial trouble damaged business interests.” Historically, social unrest has been bad for business. And a business owner is more than happy to throw a couple of dollars at “radicals” if it means not having to worry about about a brick being thrown through his store window.
(Just look at how many hood dudes got sneaker franchises after the ’92 LA rebellions.)

So, when millionaire missionaries such as Shawn Carter and Russell Simmons support projects, it is more so to calm the restless natives then to aid the revolution. The reason why Simmons is given a hood pass is because he holds the golden microphone. Over the last decade Hip Hop activists such as Rev. Conrad Tillard (formerly Minister Conrad Muhammad), Rosa Clemente and Dr. Jared Ball have all pointed out how Simmons has used his star power to, allegedly, undermine legitimate grassroots movements.

The problem is that in the past we have placed symbol over substance.

In his book “An African Answer” Edgar Ridley, argues that “those who are victims of symbolism are, invariably, the ultimate losers in any dialogue or conflict.” So, we have to realize that the symbolic act of showing up at a protest or wearing a bootleg version of a movement’s slogan on a shirt does not mean that your favorite celebrity is getting ready to toss a Molotov cocktail.

However, the outrage generated by the Occupy All Streets T-shirts does signify a change in the collective consciousness of the people who are beginning to realize that everything is not for sell. Especially the economic future of our children. Finally, Hip Hop fans are beginning to demand accountability from those who exploit the art form.

But Jay Z is not the first person to exploit Hip Hop and he won’t be the last.

Unfortunately, there will always be those who are willing to sell their souls to the highest bidder.

And the culture.

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott represents the Militant Mind Militia. He can be reached at militantmindmilitia@gmail.com Website http://www.militantmindmilitia.com Follow on Twitter @truthminista

  • Ya’ll a couple days late on this one…sorry.

  • He can do what he wants because he is the MAN!

  • 7yoyo7

    Well I just ordered 13 of them on eBay….

    HUSTLE !!!

  • 117

    Who ever wrote this better check their facts Run Dmc ask for the deal. Adidas didnt even want to even do it at first . I’m happy Run Dmc got the deal . and this guy sounds like a Jay Hater. this is the same Jay z who help in ever event going back to 9-11 of the Quake in Haiti. bet hell feel like an ass when he finds out this money is being donated to the cause. don’t just think he’s all about making cash he’s one of the few who give back .  Eminem , Snoop ,Lupe, Trick Daddy the list goes on check your facts before you open you mouth that’s another thing you can add to whats missing up hip-hop people who don’t know their history

  • ladynamor

    The dude 7yoyo7 does not even get it obviously, or he is just the “class-clown”, SMH (its not time for games son) and the dude that said Jay-Z can do what he wants cuz he is the man I HOPE is just popping off rhetoric and did not think that out, or works for his company because WE ALL CAN DO WHAT WE WANT DUDE! Its a question of WHAT will you do for money? Exploit the Exploited? Making a mockery of something that is plaguing hip hop makes me wonder where you come from with that mentality. You should  “Stan” up on those lame articles about Alica Keyes DJ’ing or some shit, not here brothers. Great article although it will be downplayed by the robots


    • Boogie Down BX in Full Effect!
      Yeahhhhhhhh! BoyeEEEEEE!

  • How is this any different than Good Wood selling African pendants or Dangerous Negro Apparel selling Troy Davis tees? I guess every cause needs a villain.




  • Pingback: Hip Hop Occupies – CounterPunch | FlowAttic()

  • SDS_Overfiend

    Hip hop’s Con Man.. FOH!!

  • The power of commercialism.
    Selling out!

    Truth Minista Paul Scott delivers another one for AHH!

  • NexGin

    You damned if you do….damned if you don’t. smdh

  • Jay is exploiting Hip Hop no more than this website or this article is.  We don’t need this site to keep Hip Hop alive and we certainly don’t need the banner ads!  Point is, OWS isn’t a Hip Hop movement so the conclusion that Jay-Z is exploiting Hip Hop is misguided at best.

    • ladynamor

      that was plain old stupid right there

      • that’s it?  that’s all you got?

  • Red_Eye_Girl_4434

    @7yoyo7:disqus …….Тhis is сrаzу…Мy friеnd`s sistеr mакеs 78/hr оn thе intеrnеt.  Shе hаs bееn unеmрlоуеd fоr 11 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr incоmе wаs  7985$ јust wоrкing оn thе РС fоr а fеw hоurs. Gо tо this wеb sitе …….http://alturl.com/69vph

  • Brendget Jones

    Awesome article but the article itself is kind of a straw man fallacy isnt it (is that the intention), like others on here have already said OWS is not a hip hop movement and by comparing it to the overall commercialization of one paritcular genre of music is doing a major disservice to the movement. Its greater than one man trying to make some money, its about restoring a sense of financial equilibirum throughout the entire planet. If Jayz wants to make his ‘occupy all streets’ stuff let him, its not really that corrupt its more an efficient marketing strategy. If its one thing Jay is good at is reading the Zeitgeist and making money off it and who can blame him? Nobody in their right mind is gonna think they are contributing to any cause by buying a rocawear tee other than helping Jay buy a new Maybach.

    But essentially the question is… Does Jay Z represent hiphop as a whole and more importantly does he represent you as a hiphop fan. I think we all know he doesnt, yes the man is worth 400 million and extremely successful but he is still only one man and does not represent an entire culture on his own.

  • as if he NEEDS the money…c’mon son..