The Real Influence Of Jay-Z by Russell Simmons

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Never again may we witness an MC like Jay-Z. His lyrical skills are unmatched by the rookies and the vets. His ability to make a club bounce is as powerful as ever. His authentic portrayal of his journey from Marcy to Madison Square or from Bed-Stuy to Barclays has been the inspiration for so many gifts he has given his fans, his family and his friends. I have been fortunate to go along for the ride and could not be more proud to see him on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Jay’s influence has expanded over the years. From the early days, his quest to be the “King of New York,” led him to lyrically wax his verses of poetry against some of the greatest of his era. Not only did he conquer the throne, he conquered the castle and got one incredible queen along the way (who made his 16 bars sound even hotter). As he matured, his influence went beyond the beats in his headphones into a much broader cultural space. From Roc-A-Wear to Ace of Spades to the 40/40 Club to the Brooklyn Nets, Jay mastered his ability to pave streets and sidewalks for his generation to walk upon, ultimately leading to the most innovative and creative demographic the history of this country has ever seen. Not only is he responsible for creating an American culture that influences the way young people in six continents (and probably Antarctica as well) live their daily lives, but Jay-Z also made a lot of money along the way. His visionary skills in business have allowed him to build an empire that is greater than a king’s throne.

But, most important than all of his life work in business and in art, Jay-Z has influenced an entire generation to be more compassionate, more tolerant and more generous.  When Jay went to Cuba with Beyonce, he had the whole world talking about it, even the White House! He was able to expose the hypocrisy of American foreign policy just by showing up on the island.  When Jay showed up for the Rockefeller Drug Laws rally in 2004 at City Hall in New York City, it mattered.  He helped bring home thousands and thousands of prisoners who were unjustly sentenced under those draconian laws.  When Jay did the PSA with me fighting antisemitism and racism, it played all throughout the world.  It mattered.  When Jay took the stage with the President of the United States, it inspired millions of young people to vote for the first time. Being named Time Magazine Influencer of the Year is nice, but his influence has just begun.  We look forward to seeing him use his celebrity for the greater good, more and more.

He knows that there is nothing greater that fame or celebrity can bring him except the ability to give back. At a certain point you become so rich, that nothing else matters than helping others. You realize that giving is much greater than getting. You can only drive your fancy car around the block so many times and realize that it drives around the block like every other car you drove, on four wheels. You can only put so many seats and expensive chairs in your house before you realize that you find yourself sitting in the same one every time you come home, because you can only sit in one seat at a time. All of these things, Jay-Z has learned throughout his career. All of these things, Jay-Z has understood will make him a better man, a better husband, a better father and a better artist. His influence will last beyond the days I am here on earth, for that I am sure. It is remarkable to witness his ability to shift the culture of the world in a very positive direction. Jay, keep giving and giving and giving. The world receives your gifts with the greatest amount of gratitude.

~Russell Simmons

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