“…I bought some artwork for 1 million, 2 years later, that shit worth 2 million
Few years later, that shit worth 8 million, I can't wait to give this shit to my children…”
Jay-Z, Story of OJ
In his latest album, 4:44, Jay Z references in his second verse the significance and how building wealth is can be accomplished through purchasing of art. However, this is not the first time the 47 year old rapper has mentioned visual arts in his music. The second track on Magna Carta, Holy Grail is entitled Picasso, Baby. Throughout out the song, jay-Z references himself as the “New Jean Michel (Basquiat), surrounded by Warhols.” He mentions well know art affiliated institutions such as MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Christies (a prestigious auction house in New York), The Lourve, and Art Basel (Miami, FL). Furthermore, the video Picasso, Baby was shot at world renown art gallery were celebrities and patrons were allowed to show off their creativity and become works of art themselves. He was inspired by performance artist Marina Abramovic who performed for endless hours at the MoMA. Not only has Mr. Carter become inspired by visual and performing artist, he is becoming quite the collector. In 2013, he purchased Jean Michel Basquiat’s “Mecca” piece created in 1982. The painting is a rendition of city done in a limited palette of black, orange and white. Per a true Basquiat, words and a motif of the crown are often incorporated into his work. In this piece the word Empire is capitalized and hovers over the city wearing the crown. Jay Z purchased this piece anonymously for $4.5 million dollars at an auction at Sothebys.
Since hip hop music crossover in the late 1980s, early 1990s, we have seen a spectrum of narratives told be it black liberation, struggles of the hood, etc. Interestingly, the majority of the music is a reflection of money, getting rich, and all the glory of capitalism. Whether popping bottles of Cristal, hundreds of men and women dressed in the finest attire, luxury and foreign cars, yachts and mansions, we have watched hip hop acquire the material riches that many of us “desire.” However, more and more are understanding there is vast difference between being rich and being wealthy. As hip hop moguls continue to inspire with beats, concepts and lyrics, maybe they will inspire it is not just about inspiring the culture, but collecting and preserving a culture we help create.