Does Jay Z’s TIDAL support Black economics or not?
(Co-Written by Professor Jason Nichols)
This month, 4:44 was released on Tidal. Hova, Jigga, Jay Z, Shawn Carter. Over the years, his music has meant different things to different people. With Tidal on the come up, a great deal of us celebrated their milestones as achievements for the Black community at large.
Whether you’re a loyal fan or not, one thing is clear: Jay-Z has some of the most loyal African American fans in hip hop history. His largely African American base has held it down for him from his humble beginnings when he played second fiddle to Jaz-O. Black hip hop heads consumed his music through the 90s and 2000s. These same fans stuck around after he lost the historic battle to rival turned collaborator Nas. Many rappers get vanquished after a loss. Jigga’s loyal African American fans still lined up for his next release. The loyalty continued through Jay-Z’s trial after a nightclub stabbing. African American fans put Jay-Z in his Maybach, so you can imagine the surprise of some when he chastised his Black audience for not supporting Black businesses on his critically acclaimed new release 4:44.
This week, photos have surfaced of Jay-Z’s major venture, the music streaming service Tidal. The first thought for most African American fans?
Jay-Z’s Tidal staff is overwhelmingly white.
Jay-Z is not completely off base in many respects and his message is consistent with his earlier work. Black businesses require Black patronage. Our communities in turn need Black businesses to grow and employ Black workers. Black unemployment and employment discrimination are obstacles for Blacks at every level of education. Even when a Black college graduate seeks work, they face discrimination; Black college grads face unemployment at nearly double the rate of white college grads. Evidence show that the darker a person is, the harder they must work to attain the same privileges as their white counterparts. Black businesses are more likely to employ Blacks. The Institute for Research on Poverty noted that Black employers are more likely to hire Black employees because having a Black person in such a leadership role suggests substantially less discrimination in the workplace to potential staffers. Moreover, research shows that hiring practices are much more rigorous and strict at Black owned firms. Essentially, this means that Jay-Z’s decision to knowingly celebrate Tidal’s lack of diversity represents his abandonment of the very people he chose to criticize.
The picture was taken at an office in Norway where the Black population is less than 5% Black.
Jay-Z bailed out Ferguson activists in Baltimore.
Jay-Z started dating Beyoncé when she was 19 and he was 31. (This is true, though non-essential to the thesis of this argument.)
African American fans still feel betrayed Norway is one of the whitest places on earth. It’s not just about the lack of diversity. Seeing that photo had the same impact as Bill Cosby’s infamous line.
“With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail.”
Fans supported him for decades (well before we found out that self-hate was only one of many faults in his repertoire). Cosby still made the statement. Jay-Z hints at being conscious while tearing down the Black community for doing exactly what he has done. It is hypocritical at best.
Many American corporations hire American workers and relocate them overseas. Companies like Bain, Google, HBSC, and Texas Instruments all send Americans abroad. The location is no excuse for such an astounding lack of diversity.
The photo was a reminder that wealthy Black folks can sometimes be as neglectful to our community as non-Black folks. While some may need his advice, even more need the opportunities he can provide. Ambitious Black twenty somethings depend (in part) on their elders to pave the way. Though there is a dearth of Black computer programmers, they exist. Jay-Z is in a perfect position to highlight them and encourage more Black youth to consider careers in STEM.