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Jay-Z is the man who holds “the blueprint” for the successful hip-hop artist.  He started out his career as a young rapper with gangster appeal in the mid-90’s and gradually transformed into a respected artist by all (even political figures) with a multi-million dollar business.

Fans and the media fed off Hova’s street image for most of his career, and his music had widespread influence because of its harsh realities about living in poverty, and its glorifying of sex, drugs, and partying.  Jay-Z advertised his drug dealing past and was well aware that he was not a role model for kids.  When he spits on Young Jeezy’s “Go Crazy” track he even says, “don’t follow me young’n/follow my moves/I’m not a role model/my bad influence got the whole world drinkin’ gold bottles.”

Young Jeezy Featuring Jay-Z – Go Crazy

Jay-Z’s early songs about girls like “Big Pimpin’” and songs about life on the corner like “Hard Knock Life” set the standards for the rappers who were trying to make it big.  Rappers emulated Jay’Z’s style of wearing throwback jerseys and throwing 20-inch rims onto pimped out cars.  For the longest time, the media had associated rap with violence and excess, and Jay-Z’s self-made image fed the fire.

Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life

Starting with Jay-Z’s seventh studio album, The Blueprint 2:  The Gift and the Curse, the tones of his music began to change and so did his style.  Jay-Z’s albums in the past 8 years have shown increased maturity and sophistication.  He also has traded in his jerseys for suits and designer clothes, and his rims for less flashy rides. In Jay-Z’s opening song on his recent album, “The Blueprint 3,” he addresses everyone in “what [he’s] talkin’ ‘bout.”  In the song he raps to the media, fans, and other artists that he’s done talking about the glorifying of drugs and gang violence.  He says that there “ain’t nothing cool ‘bout carryin’ a strap/’bout worryin’ your moms and buryin’ your best cat/ talkin’ bout revenge while carryin’ his casket/all teary-eyed ‘bout to take it to a mattress.”  Jay-Z’s actions have once again started a movement in the hip-hop world, and more and more artists are starting to emulate his sound and style.

Jay-Z – What We Talkin’ About

Jay-Z is aware of the strong impact he has in the hip hop world, and he has used it to his advantage to influence the industry and convey a positive image to the public about hip hop music and what it stands for.  He hasn’t forgotten his Brooklyn roots, and where he comes from is still prevalent in his music; however Jay-Z chooses to talk about issues in an insightful and thought-provoking manner as opposed to a degrading and explicit one.

Taylor Collins