Sure hip-hop titans Nas and Jay-Z are known for being two of the best hip-hop artists of all time, but what many people don’t know is that the two kings of New York are also making major moves as venture capitalists; Nas with QueensBridge Venture Partners, while Jay-Z of course has the ever growing Roc Nation, and the recently launched ARRIVE.
Jay Z. Photo courtesy of Radio.com
While most hip-hop entrepreneurs are investing in the usual money makers like apparel and alcoholic beverages, both Nas and Jay-Z are setting precedent within the hip-hop community by investing in startups, focusing on technology, thinking outside of the box, and not being afraid to take calculated risks.
Although your pockets may not yet be as deep as Nasir Jones’s and Shawn Carter’s, here are three pointers to keep in mind once you are ready to start investing those big bucks that you’ve been working so hard at earning.
1. Invest in Startups
The National Venture Capital Association reports that almost $60 billion were deployed to startup companies in 2015. No wonder both Jay-Z and Nas are becoming two of music’s most lucrative angel investors. Using artificial intelligence and big data for music production, LANDR is one of Nas and QueensBridge Venture Partner’s latest investments. YUL Ventures, Warner Music Group, and a host of other firms are also investing in LANDR, which is used to help over 300,000 musicians master their music in the post-production phase.
As for Jay, he believes in startups so much that in March of this year his entertainment company Roc Nation launched ARRIVE, a venture capital firm that will offer a variety of services to early stage startup companies. According to a press release released by Roc Nation, the venture capital firm will help startups with everything from business development to brand services. “We’ve opened that diversified, global range of expertise to a new vertical: entrepreneurs and their early stage businesses,” said Neil Sirni, Roc Nation’s Head of New Ventures.
2. Technology Is The Way To Go
One visit to Nas’s QueensBridge Venture Partners website and it’s pretty clear to see that his firm is all about staying on the cutting edge of technology. The website reads: “Over 100 years of experience operating at the intersection of technology, financial markets and popular culture.”
According to reports by KPMG Enterprise and CB Insights, although there is a downturn in the market, now is the perfect time to invest in technology. In 2015 alone there was more than $128 billion invested in tech companies worldwide (CNBC). It makes perfect sense then that both Jay-Z and Nas would get in on some of these investments. Jay-Z was one of the early investors in the now multi-billion dollar company Uber when it was worth 300 million, and Nas’s QueensBridge Venture Partners has invested in Lyft and Dropbox among many other tech related companies.
Nas. Photo courtesy of All-American Entertainment
3. Think Outside of The Box and Take Risks
When Jay-Z couldn’t get a record label to sign him he partnered with two friends and created his own record label. While Nas’s rise to meteoric heights was a bit different, his ability to bet on himself and take risks throughout his career has been very similar. Nas has never been one to rely on a pop single to take his albums to the top of the charts. Throughout his career, the subject matter of his rhymes and his unwavering ability to be his authentic self in his music, have continued to place him in a class of his own. In short, he’s always chosen the road less traveled and has earned the respect of the hip-hop community and music world at large because of it. Not to mention, the Queensbridge rapper dropped out of school before reaching the 9th grade so that he could pursue a career in music.
Needless to say, when it comes to thinking outside of the box and taking risks, Jay and Nas have been doing it for the length of their careers, which have spanned more than two decades. In terms of their business investments, they are following a similar playbook by investing in everything from health care to private jets, and even socks.
Although Jay-Z’s investment in private jet company BlackJet proved to be unsuccessful, it didn’t stop him from investing in another Uber-like private jet service, JetSmarter just a few years later. But this hasn’t been his only risky business move. In 2011, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint invested in premium sock company, Stance. Never quite making it to household name status, Jay’s foray into the sock industry was definitely not a guaranteed come up. One year later he invested in Viddy, which was supposed to be the “Instagram of video”. The company was shut down in December of 2014, and sold to Fullscreen for $20 million. Even though Jay may have made some money off of that investment, it is not flaunted as one of his better business moves.
Then there’s Tidal. While some people may consider Jay-Z’s investment in the music streaming service as his biggest blunder, others see it as a testament to Mr. Carter’s confidence. Back in 2015, Jay partnered with a group of musicians to purchase Aspiro AB, Tidal’s parent company, for $56 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, that same year Aspiro AB reported a net loss of $28 million.
Sure his stake in Tidal with streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify already existing was a dangerous move, but as they often say in the streets where Jay and Nas were groomed, “scared money don’t make money.” Despite still lagging behind streaming services like Spotify, it seems as if Jay has no plans of slowing down with Tidal anytime soon. His latest album, “4:44”, which went platinum in a cool five days, is the fastest album to go platinum in 2017, and was released exclusively on Tidal. Not to mention Sprint recently purchased 33 percent of the music streaming service. However, the fact still remains, Tidal has around 3 M subscribers while Spotify has upwards of 40 M paying subscribers. But we’re sure Jay’s not worried about it. We’re pretty confident him and Nas are somewhere plotting on the next big thing to throw their millions into as we speak.
Nas and Jay Z. Photo courtesy of The Source
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."