A powerful example of the greatness of the American system.
Count me as a fan of the divergent brands of Fox News, hip-hop and Jay-Z. Growing up in the Bronx, New York in the 1980s and 1990s, a product of the New York City public school system, hip-hop is in my blood. It has changed my life for the better, as the hip-hop lifestyle teaches so many important American values. From the importance of rising up no matter what your circumstances, to constantly working hard and seeking more and more, to personal responsibility, there are so many hip-hop values that all Americans – including political conservatives – must appreciate.
As CEO of a leading New York PR agency, we have represented countless hip-hop artists, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Ice-Cube, Snoop Dogg and others -- and it’s been a great experience.
As readers of FrontPage Magazine know, I am a proud conservative – for many reasons. Foremost among those reasons is the fact that I shouldn’t be penalized tax-wise for my success. No one gave me anything. As a conservative, it is evident that the media are often liberally-biased and Fox News, the fair and balanced network, has eliminated liberal bias from at least one station. Yet, too often conservatives are out of touch with youth culture, and a perfect example of that is overlooking the countless ways that hip-hop has made America a better country.
Bill O’Reilly’s perpetual attacks upon the hip-hop industry are wrong and misguided. This week, O’Reilly confronted Valerie Jarret, a senior advisor to President Obama, on-air as they were discussing Obama’s new “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which seeks to help minorities find role models. O’Reilly said, “You’re gonna have to get people like Jay-Z, alright, Kanye West, all of these gangsta rappers to knock it off. That’s number one.” He continued, saying that young males idolize “these guys with the hats on backwards” and “terrible rap lyrics,” and that these “gangsta rappers” and “tattoo guys” need to speak to kids and tell them that they’ve “got to stop the disruptive behavior or you’re going to wind up in a morgue or in prison.”
O’Reilly continually speaks negatively about hip-hop, and inaccurately claimed that Jay-Z and Kanye West were “gangster rappers.” They aren’t. While Jay-Z made many mistakes growing up – as a drug dealer he undoubtedly hurt many people -- none of us are perfect. The man is tremendously influential and has shown so many of us how to overcome adversity and become successful. With sheer determination, Jay-Z has succeeded as a world-class entrepreneur, and demonstrated how self-confidence, passion and a strong work ethic can allow anyone in this great country to get anywhere.
At times, as an entertainer, Jay-Z curses and is inappropriate. "The Terminator" was inappropriate as well, as were other characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in countless movies. Indeed, there are PG-13 and R-rated movies and actors. But the real life of Jay-Z today is parental-encouraged, and worthy of being viewed by all. People should watch and learn from Jay-Z.
Neither Jay-Z nor Kanye West are “gangster rappers” and the fact that they may wear their hats backwards, and may have tattoos, doesn’t say anything more about them today than the clothing style of someone wearing a suit says about that person. Marc Zuckerberg, Jan Koum of Whats App and many others have non-traditional viewpoints on corporate rules and how to dress. Whether it’s a hoodie, or someone with a tattoo, people cannot be defined by how they dress or what they look like.
So often, hip-hop represents the greatness of America – opportunity, risk-taking, thinking outside of the box -- and Jay-Z is at the forefront of that movement. Hip-hop embraces entrepreneurship and a culture of self-sufficiency. As the American business icon Warren Buffett said:
“Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I’ll ever teach in. They’re going to learn from somebody. For a young person growing up he’s the guy to learn from.”
From becoming one of the world’s most recognizable artists, to investing in professional sports teams, cosmetics brands, restaurants and much more, Jay-Z shows first-hand the results and importance of hard-work, responsibility, and risk-taking. Jay-Z’s values today are of a family man who is the face of major American brands – married to one of the most beautiful, charismatic artists of our time. He has taught so many of us to strive for more, to work hard at what we love. Jay-Z is worth $475 million dollars according to Forbes Magazine and is still going. For so many Americans, myself included, Jay-Z is worthy of our immense respect. As a grown man, Jay-Z is a business role model for so many people. (His political viewpoints, on the other hand, leave a lot to be desired.)
Mr. O’Reilly: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As Jay-Z said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” Jay-Z’s business skills show so many Americans that even if we aren’t Ivy League graduates, we can still succeed in a major way.
P.S.: For those who will disagree with this article, I will offer this qualifier: As a marketer and a father, I agree with what NBA legend Charles Barkley said in his famous Nike commercial:
“I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model. Parents should be role models. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
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