Enlightened Self-Interest: Jay-Z Builds With Buffett…And More!

“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

– Lord Palmerston, Speech To The House of Commons; March 1, 1848

As I return to providing advisory services to artists – before taking them on as clients – one of the most important areas I like to get into are how one’s self-concept (how well a person knows and views themselves) impacts the kind of material they write; ‘sound’ they rhyme over; and the alignment of their brand-image-reputation. Because I believe the secret to how magnetic an artist becomes lies in those elements being properly married I am very selective about who I work with and I am extremely doubtful about the prospects for the long-term success of any artist who doesn’t have a team around them who can help guide them through these dynamics.

Knowing one’s ‘Self’ is the key to creative energy, marketing and leverage in business, and power in politics. If you don’t know who you are, you simply cannot build anything successfully – whether a career, a business or movement. And you cannot generate credibility and respect.

Too many of us when we use the phrase ‘Knowledge Of Self’ (KOS) are reducing the most powerful concept and reality to an ideology – a dogma where phrases and words are memorized but not understood. And anything you don’t understand, you can’t apply.

The two missing elements in many of the definitions of KOS I hear are: 1) a deep awareness of one’s emotional being, personality and moral character 2) how knowing who you are and what is in your best interests allows you to strategically pursue goals and objectives in the world of politics, without unnecessary dependence on others and their institutions.

In these two areas I think over the last 20 years the individual who has placed the most emphasis on broader aspects of KOS is the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan who frequently touches on these kind of dynamics with a phrase, ‘enlightened self-interest.’

Here is how Minister Farrakhan touched on these concepts in a widely read interview published in 1996 in George Magazine (bold emphasis is mine):

John F. Kennedy Jr. (JFK): Thank you very much. Minister, from the perspective of me and the magazine, what is interesting particularly is your development from a religious leader to one who is an active participant in politics. I want to start by exploring how that development occurred. I guess the 1984 election in which you got involved with Reverend (Jesse) Jackson’s campaign was somewhat of a watershed event for you and for the Nation of Islam and you got in politics, and I gather, broke with a long-standing tradition started by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to keep politics and religion separate. Why did you make that decision, and what was the preamble to that decision being made by you?

Minister Louis Farrakhan: First, everything that I am attempting to do is based on my understanding of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and what he wanted for his people. Of course he kept us out of politics during his time among us. But he left hints in his writings that would suggest what I am attempting to do today.

In his writings he began to tell us to elect our own candidates, meaning try to put your own people into positions of power that we might change the reality of our lives. He said that what we need is a Muslim politician; and when he said that, there were no Muslims running for any public office. And then he said put the Muslim Program before Congress. We couldn’t put it before Congress unless there were those in Congress who would favor it, or unless we ran people for public office who would become congresspersons. And lastly, when [Richard] Nixon was running [for president] the second time, [the Hon. Elijah Muhammad] wrote an article saying that if any presidential hopeful looked at his program and would back it, he would put the weight of the whole Nation of Islam behind that presidential candidate.

As I reflect on his words, I know that that could not happen unless we were registered to vote. He took us out of politics and his words were separation. Separation because we needed to heal from 400 years of injustice and alienation from self. And when he had instilled in us a knowledge of self, a love of self and an enlightened self- interest, then, I believe it would be the proper time for us to enter politics, not to be subservient but to go for that which is in our self-interests because it is necessary for us to become politically powerful in order for us to change the reality of our lives. That is in a nutshell where we have moved today.

*****

The Minister’s point about the journey and process that one goes through from learning who they are to being able to apply that knowledge effectively for their own benefit is relevant to all of us, regardless of creed, class or color.

Many missed an important point I made about Jay-Z in this regard in my now legendary two-part ‘Jay-Z, Rich, Righteous, Teacher.’ (Part 1: https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/06/15/22267392.aspx and Part 2: https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/06/22/22273991.aspx)

A major point I made which many missed was my conviction that Jay-Z is more Self-Aware than most political, conscious rappers who in many cases hide their personality behind ideology and book knowledge. He has a form of KOS but because of how loudly those of us who claim KOS are in limiting its definition to ‘quoting the Lessons’ – memorizing a series of Instructions, Questions and Answers; Word Problems; and Statements from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Master Fard Muhammad – we drown out a fuller discussion about basic and deeper aspects of those Lessons which pertain to our individual essence, character, and personalities.

What those Lessons drive us toward in addition to what They revealed about the Knowledge of God, the history of the World, and ‘secret’ knowledge pertaining to current events and the nature of the Universe, and so much more, is a deeper understanding of the nature of our own beings, which has been buried due to our miserable condition and oppression. In knowing ourselves we have to overcome a wealth of ignorance and rubbish – as Minister Farrakhan in a portion of a letter introducing his Study Guide # 10, “The God Within” describes:

“The knowledge of Self is the greatest of all knowledge. It is akin to the knowledge of Allah (God). Both of these knowledges, which is really one, is the key to our return to God, Self and Power.…We must know ourselves historically, biologically, genetically, but we must also go to the root of ourselves which is knowledge of the nature in which we are created, which is the Essence of Self-knowledge.”

This begins with self-awareness which expands into self-examination, then self-analysis, and finally results in self-correction and perfection.

An individual can be intellectually informed through academic instruction and intense study but still be irrational and emotionally immature because their true Self is buried under psychoses, neuroses, compulsions, and repressions. The only way these ‘multiple personalities,’ ‘demons,’ ‘spiritual diseases,’ or ‘habitual’ ways of thinking and behaving – whatever various schools of thought and ‘isms’ call them – can be overcome is by one becoming self-aware, and making a concerted effort to examine, correct, and improve themselves.

That is part of the untapped value of the Lessons received by Registered Members of the Nation of Islam and which the Nation Of Gods and Earths revere and study in their own way and Culture.

They develop our Spiritual Self which will allow us to build a progressive and high spiritual civilization.

The ability of artists to be developed and healed emotionally and spiritually will depend upon how honest they and those guiding them are allowed to be about the human condition. That artists too often are celebrated for the creativity they manifest while being ’sick,’ ‘addicted’ (usually to drugs), or imbalanced and even possibly because they are sick – is a problem society and industry must solve together.

I deal with the dynamics of how neuroses and catharsis – and suffering in general – pertain to creativity and entrepreneurship in Volume 3 of my book, subtitled ‘The Personal Struggle.’

It is a very heavy and deep subject.

The first step, though, for now, is getting in tune with who we are and what we are feeling and expressing it honestly.

In terms of self-awareness and introspection many artists can learn something from what Jay-Z expressed in his recent Forbes interview with Warren Buffett (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/1011/rich-list-10-omaha-warren-buffett-jay-z-steve-forbes-summit-interview.html?boxes=Homepagelighttop):

My first album didn’t come out until I was 26, so I had a bit more maturity. The album had all these emotions and complexities and layers that a typical hip-hop album didn’t have if you were making it at 16, 17 years old. That isn’t enough wealth of experience to share with the world. I had so much wealth to share with the world at that time, and I’ve never forgotten those things, like you say. You never forget those true things that you stick to, your basic things that make you successful.

And for me, it’s that truth, finding the truth of the moment, of where I am at the time, not trying to cater to a certain demographic or being something I’m not, not driving the truck over a 10,000-pound bridge. There are so many similarities in what he was just saying. So for me, it’s just having the discipline, and the confidence in who I am. If I go into a studio and find my truth of the moment, there are a number of people in the world who can relate to what I’m saying, and are going to buy into what I’m doing.

Not because it’s the new thing of the moment, but because it’s genuine emotion. It’s how I feel. This is how I articulate the world.

What Jay-Z is getting at is profound. That the music industry – where the Hip-Hop genre is concerned in particular – revolves around young artists making music for young consumers means that immaturity is actually bred into the culture of rap music.

I described this in detail, from the perspective marketing science in my AllHipHop editorial, “The 17-year Old: The God Of Rap” (https://allhiphop.com/stories/editorial/archive/2010/03/24/22153820.aspx)

My position is that it will take the self-aware and emotionally mature artist – not the ‘conscious’ rapper who can only quote and memorize ideology – to break through this prison house of immaturity and make music that is relevant to both a younger and older audience.

An emerging bright spot on the horizon in this area of self-enlightened interest is R.S. – an artist/producer whom I advised several years ago after he was introduced to me by BlackElectorate.com’s (http://blackelectorate.com/) News Editor, Andy Solages. R.S. actually was the first to trademark the concept and phrase, ‘Adult Contemporary Hip-Hop.’ Able to make music that would catch the ear of any teenager or 40-something, R.S. comfortably presents himself, in his bio – with humor and satire “Whenever you need a short break from murder and cocaine, come see me. The cocaine will still be there when you get back.” (http://www.adultcontemporaryhiphop.com/).

R.S., the too-rare artist unwilling to dumb down, is currently making waves in the influential world of financial media – yes, the same folks Jay-Z is trying to reach with his Forbes interview with Warren Buffett – by making a rap song dedicated to a new law known as the ‘Dodd-Frank’ bill which impacts many – for better or worse. President Obama signed the bill, with much criticism, this Summer (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/business/22regulate.html), and it is commonly referred to as ‘an overhaul of the financial system.’

Some say the ‘overhaul’ protects the poor and middle-class and others say, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that still benefits those responsible for the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008. R.S. sees the matter more personally because it apparently has the potential to cut into his cash flow, derived from profits he makes as a trader of foreign currencies. And he is not alone, I know of several Hip-Hop generation entrepreneurs making paper from gambling on the direction of the dollar, yen, euro and the galaxy of foreign currencies.

Fighting back in his self-interest and referring to the government as ‘babysitters,’ R.S. made a track “CFTC (Babysit Me)” to popularize his plight as an entrepreneur-trader. The CFTC is the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, created by Congress in 1974 to regulate commodity futures and option markets in the United States (http://www.cftc.gov/). The song is now taking off, with a cult following.

He told me the story of how it all came about over the weekend:

”Cedric, while I was working on music for my new album, 700 PLUS, my man L~Reece forwarded some articles and sparked a heated conversation about the possible consequences the Dodd-Frank Act could have for average Forex traders.

My friends and I are relatively new traders, but we’re doing well, getting pips, etc. But now the babysitters might knock us out of the game. Even though some things they proposed earlier, like the 10:1 leverage, aren’t happening, I resent that these guys can hide behind consumer protection, while potentially getting in the way of my money. I’m still worried about, and unclear about, the consequences this will have for average traders like me. I don’t want to switch to a broker in the US. I like the flexibility of the platform I use, etc. There are a lot of rumors and speculation, and I’m not sure how all this will ultimately play out.

Also, the story is getting insufficient coverage in the media. I heard about the new CFTC regulations for Forex, which affect me personally, later than I should have and I put several long-time traders up on it.

Anyway, I was angry, and Andy (Solages) suggested I write a song about the issue. I kept the music upbeat and catchy, to match with the rest of 700 PLUS, but L~Reece and I didn’t tone down the message in our lyrics.

And we got a sister named Erica singing the hook like there’s nothing wrong in the world. It’s an anthem for my fellow traders, it’s a catharsis for me, and hopefully we can use it to bring more attention to this mess. “

Foreign Exchange traders around the world have begun to claim the song as an anthem and rallying cry.

Here is one article from those circles: http://www.forexcrunch.com/cftc-babysitting-traders/.

And what makes the track even more powerful is that the synth pop beat and chorus will lead any pre-teen or early teen think or remember the part about babysitting. In one song R.S. has brought together two powerful constituencies – currency traders and adolescents who feel oppressed by their parents.

Is R.S. representing the best interests of the masses? Maybe and maybe not?

But how will we know if he’s the only one in our community willing and motivated enough to understand a 2,300 page bill?

For understanding reality, I’ll take an entrepreneur motivated by self-preservation over an intellectual weighed down by book knowledge and a bunch of memorized quotes and phrases, any day of the week.

Whether you support R.S. and his stand no one can accuse him of waiting on Democrats or Republicans, or CNN, MSNBC, or Fox to think about the issue. He understands it in terms of what it means to himself. Now he’s in a position to do business with his music and engage the political system on his own terms.

The result: he now has the attention of the powers that be and the entire world – even catching hate from folk upset he’s getting burn in Germany’s most respected newspaper, Der Spiegel (http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/0,1518,719517,00.html)

In Chapter 5 of Volume 1 my book The Entrepreneurial Secret and in Chapter 13 of Volume 3 I go deeper into these concepts of developing your enlightened self-interest politically and in how to find yourself ‘creatively.’

It’s a lesson among other Lessons too important to ignore.

I’m glad we have R.S. and Jay-Z giving guest lectures.

The rest of us need to catch up.

Class is in session!

Here are the complete lyrics to “CFTC (Babysit Me)” by R.S. featuring L~Reece:

[REFRAIN]

C F T C

Why you wanna babysit me?

Uh oh O-oh

[REFRAIN]

I’ll tell you how the end begun/ they talking leverage 10:1/

Now you don’t make a living for me/ how you make decisions for me?/

Weather stormy/ thunder to come/ used to leverage 200:1/

They praying for my self destruction/Dodd and Frank/I smell corruption/

It’s disgusting/ Old scam/

Fraud?/ Dog, I’m a grown man/ with my own plan/ Don’t babysit/

Proposal reeks of baby s**t/

I need some room to make me rich/ So 50:1 you make me quit/

You’re hiding behind consumer protection/ Kick us out/ you move the direction/

Shift the markets/ get your pockets/ fat as hell and rich from profits/

How you gonna tell me how to invest?/Obama, please get me outta this mess/

Now I’m stressed/ This one’s for ages/ bill is 2,300 pages/

Makes me want to get a lawyer/ Cuz I’ve got a question for the….

[REFRAIN]

C F T C

Why you wanna babysit me?

Uh oh Uh oh

[REFRAIN]

I see Big Brother is watching/ my every move like my mother/.

I’m going under fast/ Who controls it?/ makes me wonder/

Rules to consume the consumer/ I can’t move/ I’m the loser/

Dodd and Frank/ abuse us/ changed the odds/ No more rumors/

Leverage is 50:1/ Even 20 on some/

Now my money is done/ 9-to-5s here I come/

It makes me want to cry out/They’re trying to fry my account/

This world is crazy/Why they always push the little guys out?/

This bigger government/keep us poor/ they loving it/

Tell you more I love my pips/ Met-a-Trader?/ forward this/

Hate my job/ I’m bored with this/ I can go so long with this/

Take profits/ get all the chips/ We’ve got a new song for this/

[REFRAIN]

C F T C

Why you wanna babysit me?

Uh oh Uh oh

[REFRAIN]

Cedric Muhammad is a business consultant, political strategist, and monetary economist. He’s a former GM of Wu-Tang Management and currently a Member of the African Union’s First Congress of African Economists. Cedric’s the Founder of the economic information service Africa PreBrief (http://africaprebrief.com/) and author of ‘The Entrepreneurial Secret’ (http://theEsecret.com/) . His Facebook Fan page is: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cedric-Muhammad/57826974560?ref=ts and he can be contacted via e-mail at: cedric(at)cmcap.com.

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