‘I don’t run rap no more, I run the map’ – Jay-Z
It is no secret how much I admire Jay-Z. Not only do I admire him, but most all pioneers of hip hop. I think there is a lot of similarities between hip hop and burlesque, the biggest being the control you have over your artistic product. The stars in hip hop, for the most part, are not fabricated. Their lyrics are real and their persona is exaggerated. There aren’t many other artistic careers where you can say this is true.
I am now reading the book Decoded by Jay-Z and I’m surprised at how much I relate to his stories. I’m not a hustler on the streets and I have never been, but the lessons are framed in a way that most people can relate to them. I think my favorite story in the book thus far is Jay-Z’s encounter with Bono and Quincy Jones. What a fun night that must have been! Jay was talking about how big of a star Bono is and how he was surprised that Bono still got nervous and just really wanted people to enjoy his music. In an interview, Jay-Z was saying that he wouldn’t want to be in Bono’s position of always having to be better than the last thing he did. It’s a lot of pressure. At the time, Bono was finishing up a new album when he read this interview. This urged him to go back to the studio and work harder and not stop till it was perfect.
I love this story because there is never a time when you can just rest on your laurels. You have to keep getting better and work to stay relevant. I have to admit that I feel these pressures myself. I always strive to make the next act I do, just as good or better than the last act I did. It was really reassuring to me that people who are at the top of their game also feel this way.
I’ve also come to realize that the more ambitious you are, the more you open yourself up to judgement. It’s a strange thing how that works, but it is very true. However, that is not going to stop me from pushing myself and trying new things, and it shouldn’t stop you.