JAY-Z settled a pervasive Twitter debate when he declared that he would choose an infusion of capital over a dinner featuring his own wisdom. The rapper-turned-mogul told Gayle King, “You’ve gotta take the money” if you’re presented with a choice between a meal with someone of his stature or a giant pile of cash. “You’ve got all that in the music for $10.99,” Hov explained.
The debate on taking $500,000 or dinner with JAY-Z has been floating around social media for years. Conventional wisdom seems to think that the gems Hov can provide are worth more than capital. His extensive accomplishments in and outside of the music industry have earned him hip hop GOAT status, countless awards, a New York City anthem, a major library exhibition, and more. His success has also centered him as a guru representing the power of hip hop’s cultural impact. Hov’s artistic prowess culminated in an enviable ability to shift perspectives and navigate changing landscapes.
“I wouldn’t tell you to cut a bad deal. Like, take the $500,000, go buy some albums, and listen to the albums,” he continued.
The living legend has laid out a game plan for dealing with naysayers, pursuing excellence, and checking one’s ego throughout his catalog. “It’s all there. If you piece it together and really listen to the music for the words, well… It’s all there,” added Hov.
On that note, check out some of the most motivating lyrics from his catalog below.
1. Can I Live: “I’d rather die enormous than live dormant/ That’s how we on it.”
This declaration of a desire to live out loud can motivate anyone. Here, the lyricist is expressing a commitment to experience all that life has to offer. JAY-Z does not want to play it safe. He wants to risk it all for the chance of having an elevated existence. That’s something that should inspire us all at a time when the status quo is just not cutting it.
2. 30 Something: “Yeah, we used to ball like that (like that)/ Now we own the ball team, holla back (Holla back)/ Now I got black cards, good credit and such/ Baby boy, ’cause I’m all grown up.”
Hov declares the importance of financial responsibility on several tracks throughout his career. “30 Something” is one of the earliest examples of that. Here, he disavows tossing money mindlessly in the club and celebrates how far he has come since his days of carelessly balling out. Long before the memes were declaring, “Your 30s are just your 20s with more money,” Hov saw the bigger picture.
3. Legacy: “We gon’ start a society within a society/ That’s major, just like the Negro League/ There was a time America wouldn’t let us ball/ Those times are now back, just now called Afro-tech/ Generational wealth, that’s the key/ My parents ain’t have s**t, so that shift started with me.”
While referencing the Negro Leagues, JAY-Z looks back at a time when Black people were forced to create spaces for themselves. He theorizes that it is worth it to return to those times by working together to build legacies of our own.
4. Show You How: “Look, think big, f**k getting your nails done/ Think cars, cribs, jewels, some s**t for your son/ Don’t let ’em give you hard d**k and bubble gum/ Make him cop the Lex’ bubble, 2001, hon’.”
Hov has always preached prioritizing the bag over the heart. Here, he speaks directly to the women bumping his bars, reminding them that one of the quickest paths to wealth is through hypergamy. He recommends they focus on acquiring long-term assets from admirers instead of being tempted by tawdry expressions of affection.
5. Moment of Clarity: “Since I know what I’m up against/ We as rappers must decide what’s most important/ And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them/ So I got rich and gave back, to me that’s the win-win.”
JAY-Z has been subject to ripe criticism of his capitalistic prowess in recent years. On “Moment of Clarity,” he explains his goal to leverage his power to help the disenfranchised. The entertainer has executed that sentiment with several charitable endeavors, including a robust sponsorship program via his Shawn Carter Foundation. Martyrdom can seem like the only way toward a path of respectability, but when the system is rigged, sometimes taking care of yourself first and figuring out the rest later is the only option, according to the winner of all winners.
6. On To The Next One: “I move onward, the only direction/ Can’t be scared to fail in search of perfection.”
The great can be the enemy of the good. Here, JAY-Z reminds us that the only way to achieve something meaningful is to risk failure. You can’t look back. You have to stay mission-aligned. He should know. The process of building his musical career involves several false starts and missteps he outlined in his book Decoded.
7. Izzo (H.O.V.A.): “Show ’em how to move in a room full of vultures/ Industry shady, it need to be taken over/ Label owners hate me, I’m raisin’ the status quo up/ I’m overcharging n**gas for what they did to the Cold Crush/ Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you h**d us/ We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks.”
This song deserves to be revisited at the height of the swelling creator economy. Here, Hov insists on his value. He is an industry disruptor, and he wants to be compensated fairly for that. He acknowledges that the people he is in business with are irked by his choice to overcharge, but that does not cause him to question his worth.
8. The Story of O.J.: “I coulda bought a place in DUMBO before it was DUMBO/ For like $2 million/ That same building today is worth $25 million/ Guess how I’m feelin’? Dumbo.”
In “The Story of O.J.,” Hov advises his listeners to consider allegiance to prosperity over hood politics. He then uses his own experience of fumbling as an opportunity to illustrate the importance of long-term thinking. He explains how he failed to pounce on an opportunity to acquire a valuable piece of real estate that more than tripled its worth. He admitted that he felt dumb.
9. Beach Chair: “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not trying/ Every day, hit every wave like I’m Hawaiian/ I don’t surf the net, no, I never been on MySpace/ Too busy letting my voice vibrate/ Carving out my space.”
Hov famously chooses to abstain from social media for fear of its addictive properties. Here, the business magnate details why he reclaims his time to make the most of himself. Instead of engaging with strangers for laughs, the respected emcee chooses carpe diem energy. Maybe we should all do a little less scrolling and be a bit more proactive.
10. Holy Grail: “Get the hell up off your high horse/ You got the s**t that n**gas die for, dry yours/ Why you mad? Take the good with the bad/ Or throw the baby out with that bath water.”
On his song “Boss,” Hov reminds us that pride always goes before the fall. Before that, he faced his own shortcomings on “Holy Grail” and committed to skipping the complaints about his lifestyle. You don’t have to be a billionaire to get this lesson. JAY-Z ends with a reminder that centering the bad in any situation is a sure-fire way to ensure a negative outcome.
11. A Dream: “Hov, remind yourself: Nobody built like you, you designed yourself!”
There is nothing that ramps you up like remembering that you are divinely created. This JAY-Z verse inspires the listener to tap into their unique gift.
12. Light Up: “And since no good deed go unpunished/ I’m not as cool with n**gas as I once was/ I once was cool as the Fonz was/ But these bright lights turned me to a monster/ Sorry, mama, I promised it wouldn’t change me/ But I would have went insane had I remained the same me/ F**k n**gas! B**ches, too!/ All I got is this money — this’ll do.”
One of the important factors in the journey of success is your circle. Here, Hov draws a line in the sand between him and his detractors. He is unapologetic about tuning out the drama, as you need to be if you want to level up.
13. Feelin’ it: “I’m ’bout to hit these n**gas with some s**t that’ll light ya life up/ If every n**ga in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged/ Nobody will fall ’cause everyone will be each other’s crutches.”
This verse motivates the listener to not only stay surrounded with a higher caliber of people but to work on themselves, so they can be there for those they care about. A stronger you means a stronger circle.