Benyamin BesalelJohnathan Schapiro American Music Cultures Impact of Jay-Z on Rap musicRapping is a musical technique that repeats beats and rhythm in a fixed pattern. Rap has creative lyrics, rhythmic flow and particular delivery notes.

Rap is a special type of hip hop music and enthralls listeners with its catchy beats. Rap music is mainly freestyle in nature and can be represented in several forms. (Elkouby)Several musicians have experimented with Rap but very few have managed to leave an impact. Rap music is very creative because it has no preset format.  Rap music has its roots in Africa. This is the reason why Rap musicians do not use a lot of instrumentation.

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The best feature about Rap is that this particular music style expresses different stories through music. The lyrics of Rap are funky and delightful.One musician who has done complete justice to Rap music is Jay-Z.  His original name is Shawn Corey Carter and he was born in 1969 in Brooklyn. His father had abandoned the family and the children did not have a privileged upbringing.  Jay-Z expressed his daily life through his song lyrics and brought out many incidents of his childhood in his songs. Jay-Z wrote about a particular incident in his childhood where he had shot his brother in the shoulder and released the song at the tender age of twelve.

Sensing that he had the capability to create music, his mother bought him a boom box for his birthday. Jay-Z started exploring different music techniques and developed an interest in freestyle music. Jay- Z’s music reached a wide group of listeners through the 1994 album Daddy’s Home. He gained popularity and thus, began working on new songs. However, he did not have enough funds to sponsor his music and sold CDs from his car. He began his entrepreneurship venture with the launch of Roc-A-Fella Records with his friends Damon Dash and Kareem Biggs.

His 1996 album Reasonable Doubt was a massive success. He followed this with successive albums like In My Lifetime vol. 1, vol.2 and vol. 3.

All these albums were massive hits and he gained widespread acclaim. He sold copies of his records “The Blueprint “, “The Blueprint 2” and the “Black Album.” In a span of four years from 2001 to 2005, around hundred million copies were sold. Jay-Z  then decided to take a break from music and focused on entrepreneurship.

However, he continued to perform at live concerts. In 2007, Jay- Z released his new album “American Gangster.”  This album sold one million copies in the USA.

Jay- Z also promoted a series of musical festivals like O2 Wireless festival, the Hove festival and the Roskilde festival. He also signed a pact with Live Nation and started his music publishing company named Roc Nation Watermark.Jay-Z released “The Blueprint 3” in 2009 and went on a tour that year. In 2010, he collaborated with Rihanna, Bono and The Edge to release the track “Stranded” and printed his memoir “Decoded.” Jay- Z married Beyonce and they both collaborated on several albums. Jay- Z created the song “Drunk in Love” for his wife’s album named “Beyonce.” The song expressed how they met and fell in love with each other.

 In 2017, Jay- Z released his album 4:44 and his songs are focused on topics like racism, love and family. (Empire) Each of Jay-Z’s albums has reflected his ingenious creativity. He has been bestowed with 17 Grammies, 6 BET Awards and the American Music Award. Jay-Z is also a successful entrepreneur and owns a clothing line, a sports club and several music labels. His work in other fields also contributed significantly to his fame and he is truly considered a pioneer in every sense.However, it cannot be denied that the most significant contribution of Jay-Z has been in the field of music. Jay-Z did not have a distinct style of his own.

He just followed his instinct and created freestyle music. Jay-Z is considered one of the greatest rappers for this reason. His music was inventive and did not conform to a particular notion. His rap style was completely unique. After the inception of his music company, he promoted Rap music on a large scale. Jay-Z did not confine the parameters of success to financial gain only.

He had a great passion for creating new styles of music and stretching the artistic boundaries of Rap style.  He produced some of the greatest albums of all times.Jay- Z did not come from a privileged background.

His childhood was smeared with drugs and violence. Yet, he successfully channelized this negative energy into creating music. Jay-Z learnt the hip-hop style by his own abilities and transformed his personal style into a worldwide rage. Jay-Z’s music was very personalized. His songs reflected his own life.

Jay- Z never forgot his humble beginnings and always paid tribute to his lineage in his songs. The fascinating part is that his financial condition was not exactly conducive for a musical career. Yet, he managed to start a career in music them together and the result was an astounding success. Jay- Z encouraged the use of freestyle in Rap just to merge his personal experiences in his songs. His music created a revolution because of his simple and honest approach.

Even though Jay-Z came from an African – American background, his music was not about the cultural differences between Blacks and Whites. Jay- Z’s music represented his humble  life. His family had been abandoned by his own father and thus, he had to adjust with little money. He succumbed to cocaine use because of neglect. He did not have enough money to sponsor his music and had to sell CDs from his car. Yet, he never gave up hope.

This very courage reflected in his music. It seemed as if his music was homage to these difficult times in his life.Jay-Zs’ music reflected the influence from his parents’ music collection. He was fond of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. Taking cue from these musicians, Jay Z tried to incorporate new themes in his songs. He even referred to Gaye and Hathaway’s music in his own creations.

Jay -Z was such a great pioneer in Rap because he tried to infuse his soul into his work. Jay-Z thought that as long as music was soulful, it would definitely attract people. His music was effortlessly beautiful.

 The American Dream is a sentiment where American people dream for equality. There is a general perception that everyone does not get the same respect, liberty and opportunities in the American society. A person’s financial stability is often a huge determinant of a person’s status in society. (Gallo) The deprived section of Americans often strives to gain equality.

The American Dream is the aspiration to gain an upward and developed social mobility for individuals and families.Jay-Z was also one of these millions of people, who aspired for the American Dream.  He was born in a poor family and did not have a comfortable lifestyle. Yet, he wanted fame and money. He was frustrated and often succumbed to violence in his teenage years. Music gave him a respite from his depression and he gradually improved his life. This was observed in his albums too.

His songs represented his aspiration to break away from his mundane life. Jay- Z expressed his quest for the American dream in his albums. He kept the songs peppy and light but the lyrics expressed the emotions of American Dream.

Jay-Z wanted liberty and equality for himself and other deprived people of the society. The album “Hard Knock Life” spoke about his life hardships and inspired people to achieve success.Jay- Z wanted his songs to represent the people who were not considered to be part of the traditional society. He wanted to be the representative of these deprived people, who could not speak up for themselves. Jay-Z’s music was a symbolism for the American Dream.

Yet, his albums were highly entertaining as well. Jay- Z kept the music peppy and foot-tapping for listeners to enjoy themselves.  His music was an amalgamation of light-hearted entertainment and deep-rooted reality. Jay-Z wanted his listeners to understand the harsh reality of the American Dream and yet, did not want his songs to appear boring. Jay-Z’s music is a perfect example of modern American music. He conducted concerts worldwide and enthralled millions of people. His CDs sold out in huge numbers.

Yet, his music was intrinsically simple and soulful.Jay-Z is truly one of the best musicians in America and has created a legacy in Rap music over the years. His music is a true representation of contemporary America. His music is entertaining and yet, deeply meaningful. Jay-Z managed to bring his point of view across and make his listeners understand the true reality of the American Dream through his music.

He never forgot his old life and remained honest to himself. This honesty reflected in his music. Jay-Z appeared to be the voice of the millions of American people, who aimed for equality and respect. This is why his music is considered to be the true example of the American Dream. Works Cited:


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